Frivolous Massages and Contempt for Manicurists

I live in a suburb that has grown rapidly over the past decade. When we first moved here, there were two shopping areas within three miles of our home. Now there are at least eight. Where once there were trees, now there are stores and restaurants.

A lot of the development I can understand. Our community has a lot of residents and we were driving up to 15 miles to get to certain stores. Bringing the stores closer to us has made good business sense for the stores (such as our always busy Barnes & Noble) and for us.

Although a lot of the development does make sense, I began to notice a few years ago that every strip mall and shopping area that I passed seems to have a manicurist and a therapeutic massage parlor offering their respective services. More disconcertingly, despite our troubled economy those establishments seem to be doing a bang-up business. I just don’t understand why.

I drove by a therapeutic massage parlor the other day. A sign in the window advertised a thirty minute massage for $49.99. Several people appeared to be sitting inside waiting for their turn. I was aghast. So many of us are clipping coupons and cutting back, yet there are still people who are willing to spend frivolously on a massage?

My wife mentioned my disgust to an acquaintance – not a wealthy woman by any stretch of the definition of wealth. My wife’s acquaintance, in all seriousness, told my wife that of course the massage parlors are busy because with everyone worried about money, we need a good massage to calm our nerves. Imagine that — Because we are worried about money, we need to spend more money on a massage.

I feel the same amount of contempt for manicurists. I know I shall anger some of my readers for admitting this, but I really lose a lot of respect for women with long, polished, manicured nails. Although I am all in favor of proper hygiene, I do not see how anyone can be a productive member of society without well-trimmed finger nails. Work requires nimble dexterity and I have never known a person with long finger nails who has been able to work as well as a person with short nails. Indeed, it is the women with broken finger nails who always worked hardest and the broken nails were tribute to that.

Why then do countless women flood the manicurists’ salons in my community so that they can get manicures or, even worse, pedicures? Has vanity advanced to such a level in the USA that long nails are preferable to all of the security that might come from saving the money that is spent on manicures or to putting it toward purchases that a household really needs?

I realize that some people may have the money to both “enjoy” a massage and to buy manicures for themselves or their spouses. That is not the point. Is it truly appropriate for anyone to spend money so frivolously when there are so many that are in need in the USA and around the world? Wouldn’t it be better to at least save that money for the dark day when, perhaps, it will be needed for food or prescriptions?

Our spending patterns in the USA often remind me of the image of Nero fiddling while Rome burned. Do you share my view? Is it frivolous to waste one’s money on massages or manicures, or do you feel that those are legitimate ways to spend money? What kind of services do you consider to be frivolous expenditures? What services have you felt the need to forego in our current down economy? If you have given up something, does it bother you to see others who have not?

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17 Responses to Frivolous Massages and Contempt for Manicurists

  1. Deepa says:

    Hi David.
    Nice post! I’m from India where people are very cost conscious, but sadly, a lot of times, the cost consciousness is misplaced. People seldom forget the difference between essential and luxury. Sometimes they get so used to the luxuries that the luxuries become the essentials – and no amount of argument will make them see the dichotomy. When I was in college, a classmate would bargain to save 5% of his textbook cost. But the same guy would happily pay double the price for movie tickets bought in the black market! Housewives bargain hard on a kilo of tomatoes but loosen their purse strings on a new piece of platinum jewellery that they will wear twice in their lives! This used to bother me, the displaced cost consciousness; but now I can only laugh!

  2. Annie Jones says:

    I have migraines and would love a good massage now and then, but I’ve never spent money to get one. I’ve never spent money on a manicure or pedicure, either.

    Just yesterday I was in a restaurant for a soda (Dairy Queen) when two women came in. Both were dirty, with greasy hair and they literally smelled bad. One had on torn clothing. One had on cheap sandals (it was snowing outside), but it was obvious she’d recently had a professional pedicure and manicure, complete with artificial nails. If that’s not bad enough, they bought one of those expensive ice cream cakes.

    Their priorities seem completely out of line to me.

  3. Debra says:

    You are right – it’s all about priorities. Should anyone drink Starbucks coffee or drive a Hummer or an Expedition or live in a 3000+ square foot house or go to Barbados for Christmas in this economy? Well, one of the great things about America is that everyone gets to decide what fits into his/her budget and what doesn’t. It seems to me that if someone wants to get a manicure or a massage, that’s kind of her business. The only way I can see that it might be my business is if she is on some sort of public assistance or something but still shelling out for these things but the same would be true if she bought an IPod or something.

  4. Anonymous Person says:

    What’s kind of funny is I share the same contempt for beauty professionals as you, yet my significant other is an aesthetitian. I have the unique perspective of know the clients who, a good portion of, very obviously can not afford the services they are requesting.

    Now I’m all for getting your make-up done for your wedding, or having your nails done before you go on a trip. Waxing is arguably better than shaving and much less hassle when you have someone else do it for you. So I can kind of understand some services.

    Who in their right mind would spend 60 bucks every 2-3 weeks to have fake nails? That’s ridiculous.

  5. disneysteve says:

    I see both sides of this issue. While I agree that there are lots of things I see people doing that I think are wasteful and extravagant, I’m sure lots of others would look at me and my family and say the same thing about some of our habits.

    It comes down to priorities. For us, an annual trip to Disney World is a priority. Do we NEED to go? Of course not. It is something important to us, though. My wife, however, does not wear makeup, perfume or have her nails done. If she wants a massage, she gets it from me for free. She cuts her own hair. I cut my own hair, too. So we live frugally in those areas to help direct money toward our personal priorities.

    I learned long ago that you can’t judge someone’s financial picture by looking at outside appearances. Those folks waiting for a massage might be living frugally in other ways and that might be their one splurge item. Or maybe they got a gift certificate for the massage for their birthday.

    I will certainly agree, though, that if someone is struggling to make ends meet or has a bunch of credit card debt and they are still doing the splurge things, that makes no sense and just goes to show why they are in trouble financially.

  6. justme says:

    I own a small retail business and people think they can drop in on me all day long and try to sell their services to me, thinking since I am a captive audience and must have money (I hate this a send a pox on their home)
    the last lady who dropped in was selling massages out of her home office for 30 bucks each! dang very little equipment and 30 bucks a half hour if I was not so creeped out by touching others hairy bodies I would get in on this !

  7. Ann says:

    You just reminded me — I need to cut my nails! LOL

    The closest I’ve come to a manicure was while my left hand was healing from an accident that left me with 3 very short fingers. I had to have someone cut the nails on my right hand…once. I’ve just never gotten into that sort of thing and working with stone and wood and clay, long nails are a disadvantage.

    Massages? Hmmmm. They actually make more sense to me. It’s an indulgence that some people like to work into their budget.

    Some people periodically need the sense of being pampered and, if they can afford it, I don’t see anything wrong with it. I guess that could extend to massages, manicures, pedicures, hair styling, facials, spas, etc. It’s just not high on my list of priorities.

    I imagine that a lot of people would consider the landscaping I’ve had done or some of the tools I buy indulgences… or driving a 100 miles just to have suishi (not cheap!) with a friend. Some things are just worth it to me and I imagine that’s how those people getting manicures and massages feel.

    It all depends on circumstances and priorities, in the end.

  8. scfr says:

    David – First of all, I understand where you are coming from. I used to feel as you do about manicures, and I personally keep my nails short and unpainted.

    In particular I used to wonder why African American women seemed to spend so much money on hair and nail care. Then I heard this story on NPR while driving to work one morning and it was a huge eye-opener:

    If your cultural background is that back in the bad old days, a racist white store owner could take a pair of pliers and pluck out a black woman’s (real) fingernails just because she dared to put on nail polish, perhaps it became a badge of honor for African American women to have their nails done, a way of showing just how far they have come?

    Just something to think about.

    P.S. – The frugalite in me just cannot resist adding that if painted nails are a priority to you for whatever reason, there are frugal ways to go about it. For example, doing your own nails at home or having a “manicure party” with your girlfriends.

  9. Carol says:

    Thanks for the chuckle! As the commenters have said, everyone has their own priorities, their own luxuries. Some like to golf, or fish, or watch movies, or boat, or ski, or have a new car, or have in-home theaters or computer gadgets. Some like manicures and massages. And that’s what makes the world go ’round! (Out of all things I listed, I’d opt for the manicure and massage.)

  10. David G. Mitchell says:

    Fanny — As we have noted in a lot of articles (and their comments), medical needs always take precedence over saving money. You have every reason to get your massages and I hope your pain stays away for good!

  11. Heibi says:

    I have never understood why women pay for manicures and pedicures either. I got a gift card once for a manicure and never used it because I thought it a waste of time. I still remember a wife of a co-worker keeping her 9/11/01 manicure appointment… figuring that the downtown (not nyc) wouldn’t be very busy…so why not keep it? At the time I was thinking the world is coming to an end and she is getting her nails done?!

  12. Ann says:

    Heh, Heibi, don’t pick on those poor people! LOL Maybe they are either not very good at doing things like that (remember the kids who never could color within the lines ) or they hate doing it themselves.

    At one time, I had someone coming in to clean my house for me once a month for two reasons. I worked terribly long hours and valued every free minute too highly to waste it cleaning. And I HATE housecleaning! LOL Love a clean house, but… Actually, there was a third reason. I have bad knees and this lady was willing and able to get down on hers and clean the dust bunnies out of the hard to reach places.

    A lot of people would have considered that a worthless luxury. I considered it a relief.

  13. Si says:

    I live in Brazil, and even thought manicures and pedicures are extremely unexpensive around here (you can get them both done at a great place for 15 dollars TOPS), i hardly ever get my nails done. I usually do them myself at home. I never really understood why american women seem to need so much make up and accessories just for everyday life, especially people my age i’m 22). seems to me that my generation was just raised to be frivolous.

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  15. Persephone says:

    I don’t like to think of dark days, but I do like to save money and make responisble decisions. For me it’s a balance. It’s about personal priorities. I wouln’t have a manicure or a massage if it meant that my family would go without what they need (and that includes saving money for retirement and college). But if I have extra money, I decide what’s important to me. I prefer a trip to the hair salon or a massage over a dinner out anytime.

  16. catherine says:

    When I grew up my grandmother would have her hair and nails done every week. My grandfather was a middle class union trade worker and they owned their home and car outright. Their lifestyle was lost with the explosion of the housing market, the de-regulation of credit markets and the outsourcing of well paying factory and labor jobs to countries with more lax labor standards and corporate greed.

  17. Agreed! says:

    I am ashamed to admit that as a frugal person myself, I am a massage practitioner, esthetician AND nail tech. I NEVER get massages or manis/pedis because it’s a WASTE, and providing them for other vain, frivolous people is bothering my conscience. They’ll still get them somewhere, but it ain’t gonna be from me!

    I am now earning a master’s degree in accounting and hope to earn my CPA. I’ll feel better about offering high quality, NECESSARY services at affordable prices to the public…

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