Gweipor Anecdote: Accidental Comedy during Mani/Pedi

My dear Stiletto-istas, I must ask you a question that’s been incessantly bugging me for some time now: who died and laid down the commandment that manicures and pedicures must now be mandatory?

Now don’t get me wrong, babes – I love, absolutely love going for mani/pedis, especially when enhanced with unlimited mojitos and a gabfest with gal pals! – but wasn’t there a time when these excursions were considered an indulgence? A treat?

These days, when I’m out and about in flipflops, peeptoes or open-toed sandals, if I haven’t been to my manicurist in a few weeks and my pedicure is showing slight signs of chipping, I feel so self-conscious I might as well be showing visible coloured panty lines to the world! No, mani-pedis have become routine, to be regularly scheduled, just like visits to the dentist, with mojitos substituting for Novocaine.

This week, a particularly virulent bug of unknown origin infested us and we were down with a nasty bout of the sniffles. Deprived of our torture bootcamp sessions, as well as running, tennis and yoga, we made valiant attempts at working – but the bloody colds medicine was putting us straight to sleep in front of the computer – so after a couple of futile attempts, we gave up and decided instead to go for a manicure and pedicure.

In the expat ghetto where we live in Guangzhou, the “beauty salon” is run by a Cantonese husband and wife team; he does hair while she does hands and feet. They are immensely popular and on weekends, it is necessary to make appointments well in advance. Having operated their salon in the compound for several years, they’ve seen countless expats come and go, and feel it is their responsibility to vet any newcomer who ventures into their shop. I was casually peppered with several questions as to where my husband and I were from, where did he work, what did he do, etc. I was then asked where I work, what do I do, etc.

Not feeling brave enough to tackle Cantonese and anxious to please with my Mandarin, I replied (with a fair amount of confidence): ” Wo shi tai tai.” (I am a wife / I am a housewife).

My manicurist shot an incredulous look at me…then glanced quickly at hairdresser husband, followed by rapid-fire Cantonese where the only word I understood was “tai tai”. I was given another once-over (head to toe) then…they both burst out in loud, hearty guffaws of laughter. They laughed so hard that the wife, my manicurist, had to stop buffing my nails for a few minutes.

Eager to join in the hilarity, I wiggled in my seat and asked (in English):” Why? What’s so funny?”

Quickly composing herself, my manicurist assumed a straight face and returned to buffing my nails, stating:
“No…no funny. No funny.”

I was confounded. When I pressed her again, she just kept repeating the same words:”No funny.”

I inadvertently glanced at myself in the mirror and remembered their head-to-toe once-over. I had absolutely no lick of make-up on, my hair carelessly pulled back in a topknot ponytail, and I was dressed in a scruffy t-shirt and shorts combo that had definitely seen better days. Honestly, I could have easily been mistaken for an ayi (housemaid). Except that even ayis (especially recalling the ones we had in Shanghai) were better dressed and groomed.

And – looking like this trainwreck! – I had introduced myself to them as a “tai tai”. Aiya! No wonder they had gone into hysterics!!!

Note to self: when calling oneself a “tai tai”, remember to look and dress the part next time. 🙂

If she had said, “Wo shi tai tai”, I bet no one would have reacted with hysterics. Haaay! (photo courtesy of the 2006 film “Gweipo”)


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