MANDY

“In America, you need an English name.”

Mandy is the owner of Sunnyside Nail Spa on 43rd Avenue, where I sometimes get my fingernails done. When I first moved to Sunnyside, I was thrilled to have finally found a manicurist sensitive and polite enough to not comment on my nervous nail picking habits.

Mandy immigrated from China in 2000. She first took some English classes in Boston, but Boston, she says laughing, was far too boring. Chinese newspapers, restaurants and friends were hard to find. When she was told that New York was far more exciting, Mandy didn’t hesitate and moved. She worked at several nail salons in Manhattan before opening up her own spa five years ago. Her friend, who owns the dry cleaner next door, recommended Sunnyside to her as a good place for business.

Mandy’s customers are from Rumania, Turkey, England and Latin America. They are like family to her. Many have been with her from the very beginning and talk to her about their children and their hobbies. She likes those customers the best who are polite and patient when she is busy, but understands that some people don’t have much time to wait.

In the wee hours of the morning Mandy often gets up and goes online. Sometimes she tries to find cures for nail fungus and other problems she encounters on the job; at other times she researches new products. One of her latest discoveries is a nail polish that manicurists can use even on their own nails. It doesn’t chip or dissolve when it comes in touch with nail files or polish remover. A manicure with this special polish costs $10, as opposed to one with the regular polish, which costs $6.

Mandy lives on Long Island but spends more time in Sunnyside than at home. She sometimes buys lunch at the Natural Tofu Restaurant on Queens Boulevard, where she knows what to order. She doesn’t like to go to other restaurants in Sunnyside because she can’t read the menu and is too embarrassed to ask for help.

Although she is 52 years old and has a 26-year-old daughter, Mandy looks like she is in her late thirties. When I voice surprise about her age, she tells me that she has many wrinkles, often feels old and sleeps poorly at night. Why she has problems sleeping, she doesn’t know. She never worries about or plans for the future. She trusts strangers easily – her friends say too easily – and just lives life from one day to the next.

In the audio piece Mandy tells us that a German friend who thought her original name – Mou Manrong – was too hard to pronounce, chose an American name for her.

Listen to Mandy’s interview