“The Recovering Alcoholic & the Nail Competition”
Candy was a good hearted ‘biker chick’ kind of a woman, in her thirties, with a good figure & a short blonde bob when I first started doing her nails. She was the type of person that people, especially men, would take advantage of because she had the need to please everybody & a heart of gold. Alcoholism was unfamiliar to me at that time & I’d never actually thought much about it before then. One night Candy came in to get her nails done & by the way she was slurring her words, it soon was evident that she had been drinking.
After her nails were finished, she stumbled around the salon looking at polish & other boutique items. By the look in my eyes the 2 owners could tell that I didn’t know how to handle the situation, so they both stepped in & directed her out the door. It was done in a friendly, but forceful, manner & since she wasn’t a mean drunk she happily went out into the night. A short while later I discovered that a bottle of polish was missing from the display case & we all knew where it went. The owners said they’d handle it & that was that.
About 2 weeks later when Candy came in (thankfully sober) the owners took her aside after her nails were done & told her what had transpired on her last visit. She was embarrassed & was more than willing to make restitution, so all was good. Many months went by & I didn’t think any more about it. Whenever Candy came in we always talked, laughed & had a good time at her appointments. Then I decided to enter into a nail art competition at the Midwest Beauty Show (now called America’s Beauty Show aka ABS), which would require much practice & the need for a hand model. Candy had great nails so I asked her if she’d like to be my model for that day & she was more than happy to do it.
On the day of the competition I picked Candy up in front of the salon & we drove out to where the show was held. It’s a pretty big show, with thousands of licensed beauty attendees & professional hair, skin & nail companies holding classes & demos going on at the hundreds of booths. Every beauty professional who’s worth anything goes to this show at least once in their career. It’s a place to see & be seen, plus make new business contacts, so you want to be at your best.
The competition went forward & it took several hours to complete. Models have to sit patiently & quietly while competitors work on their nails….which means, no eating, drinking or smoking, too. This category I’d entered was for flat nail art, which meant I had to paint tiny little scenes with acrylic paint on each of Candy’s 10 fingernails. Our models could only leave when the judges were totalling up the scorecards, so at that point Candy went out into the lobby to have a smoke (yes, they allowed smoking in the lobbies back in early 90’s) while I remained inside the competition room.
It took another half hour or so to finish all the judging & I didn’t win or place, which was disappointing. When I walked out into the lobby, the first thing I saw was Candy sitting on the edge of a big easy chair with her feet propped up on the coffee table. Since she was wearing a black leather mini skirt, sitting in this position made it possible for EVERYONE in the room to see her white panties! There was a grouping of 3 other easy chairs surrounding this glass coffee table, the kind of arrangement you’d see in a hotel lobby, & I was MORTIFIED to see all the surrounding chairs were taken by other beauty professionals……all of whom were seemingly enthralled by the scene that was unfolding!
Some stylists were even sitting on the arms of the chairs while Candy held court with a cigarette in one hand & a cocktail in the other. Unbeknownst to me, there was a cash bar at the end of the lobby & Candy had been drinking the entire time I was inside for the judging process! Inside my mind was screaming “OH, NOOOO!” as I rushed up to Candy to try to hustle her out of the building, fearful of what she’d already said to my peers.
The story she was telling was every bit as trashy as I’d feared. I walked in on the part where she was telling everyone how some guy she knew pulled a gun on her & she was waving her hand around as if she were holding a gun & pointing it at people, while ashes were spilling onto the carpeted floor from her lit cigarette. I can’t recall the rest of the story because my mind blanked out, but she insisted on telling it even though I tried repeatedly to get her to leave. I just wanted the floor to open up & swallow me at that point; I could’ve just died!
I still remember the look on the other professionals faces though. One guy looked away, as if to find a quick exit. Some of the other women had looks of “you poor creature” or “thank God I’m not you” on their faces. One girl’s expression was akin to the look you’d have if you just stepped in dog poo while wearing your best shoes. I felt like crawling out of there; I was so beyond embarrassed.
I finally managed to get Candy out of the building & back to the car, but then on the drive home she began freaking out about how her boyfriend was going to be mad at her for falling off the wagon. She would not let me drop her off at her car until she had some coffee, so we drove through a fast food place & she slowly started to sober up. Very slowly. Too slowly for me. We got back to the salon, but she still insisted I drive her around until she was completely sober, so around & around the block we drove for the better part of an hour.
Finally I got her out of my car & sped off, not looking back. At the time I was so upset I really didn’t care if her boyfriend beat her butt because that’s what I felt like doing to her myself! I could not get away from her fast enough. The more I thought about it, the more pissed off I was. All I could say at the time was thank heavens none of those beauty professionals knew me! After that incident, I didn’t see her for a long time, which was fine by me. The sooner I forgot the whole sordid mess, the better.
Several months passed & Candy finally showed up to get her nails done. I acted as if nothing happened, but knew I’d never go out in public with her again. She had gotten back into AA, gotten rid of her abusive boyfriend & seemed to be doing better. She was trying to keep away from all of her bad influence friends & that was hard on her. Finally she met a decent man who was also in AA recovery & they started seeing each other. She said he treated her really nice & I was genuinely happy for her. We took up doing her nails just like old times where we laughed & had fun conversations.
Months later Candy & her boyfriend got into an argument & they didn’t speak for a few days. She was determined that he would make the first phone call to apologize. After about 4 days she got word that the police found him dead in his apartment. He’d died of a massive heart attack on Mother’s Day & laid there until his work reported him missing. Candy was emotionally devastated & fell off the wagon. Some people it seems just never catch a break.
A short while later I moved out of state & never saw her again. I think about Candy from time to time, especially around Mother’s Day & I hope that she’s okay. It’s like an ongoing mystery, which could either have a good ending or a bad ending. I prefer not to know for certain, but I like to think in positive terms.