My nail technician is the sassiest Vietnamese woman I’ve ever met. It took us a little while to figure each other out.

The thing is, my fingernails are my greatest vanity. I’d say I’m not proud of it, but the truth is I kind of am, hence the word vanity. I’ve had my nails perpetually painted for more than two decades, with the rare exception of food-related jobs that required no polish. But I assure you: I quit those as soon as possible. I mean, priorities.

I like to keep a long-term relationship with a nail technician. I left my last place with a feeling of resentment and displacement, when they expanded their services to include eyelash extensions and gave all their appointments to women willing to pay for luscious lashes. For the love, who authorized that? After yet another cancelled time slot, I was scrambling for a new option. Miss Vickie came highly recommended from a friend of mine who has seen her for seventeen years. That’s the kind of longevity I can wrap my mind around.

I like red. Red as much as possible and as often as possible. (I keep trying to decorate my house in classy shades of ecru and earth tones, but everything ends up red again before long. I love red.)

But Miss Vickie gets tired of red. So she set boundaries and told me she’d let me know when I can wear it again.

“No more red until holiday,” she said. “You wear red in December. I pick better color for you. Your toes shine from across the room.” And she gave me a pedicure with a turquoise sparkle for the ages.

She bosses me around. She tells me what will work and what won’t, what she will do and what she won’t. We have mostly found a compromise: she picks three colors, and I choose the one I want from her top three. It’s a win-win.

Miss Vickie loves Peter. (Because who doesn’t?) She looked at his picture, and she said, “He kind man. Funny man. I see that. He love you. He love your children?”

“Oh, yes. He loves my children very well,” I tell her.

“Then he really love you. A man who no love your children? He no love you. He only love himself. But a man who love your children, he really love you.”

Miss Vickie speaks some serious truth.

She’s pretty sure Robb brought us together. She said, “Your dead husband. He bring new husband to you.”

I laughed out loud, only because it’s funny to hear someone classify each of them that way. But then she raises a solid point: “How else he find you? He go into Starbuck for coffee, he find wife? How that happen? Your dead husband help him.”

“You might be right,” I said.

“Or you put marijuana in his coffee. Also that make a man come back.”

See what I mean? She bosses me around to the moon and back, but she’s hilarious and adorable with an addictive ingredient of her own.

In October, she tried to sneakily decorate my ring finger with a spider web design. (I’m not so much of a spider web kind of a gal.) I was so startled to see her almost painting white webbing on my purple manicure, that I jumped back, pulled my hand away, and shouted, “Vickie! No!”

That was not our best moment.

She closed the white bottle, and she said, “You boring.”

“Who’s boring?”

“You are. You.”

“Vickie, I just don’t want a spider web.”

“You no let me show my skills.”

Something about that last statement stayed with me. She’s trained and skilled. She likes a challenge. She gets tired of pinks and purples and, my favorite standby, all the reds.

So a few weeks ago, I decided to set her free with my landscape. I looked up a few suggestions on Pinterest, and I said, “Vickie, do anything you’d like.”

You guys, her face lit up. “A challenge? For me?”

“A challenge. Go.”

She painted a lovely French manicure with a poinsettia on each ring finger. The following appointment, she gave me a sparkle red (!!) with hand-painted Christmas packages on the ring fingers. This week, a fine silver stripe over ten nails with plum passion.

And the thing is, she doesn’t charge me extra for her art. She’s just excited to show her skills.

Miss Vickie is full of sass and surprises. Sometimes you have to open your hands and let the artist shine.

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