Column Classic: Clipped

By Lisa Scottoline

If you raise your daughter right, eventually she will know more than you.

Which is the good and bad news.

We begin when Daughter Francesca comes home for a visit and finds me engaged in one of my more adorable habits, which is clipping my fingernails over the trashcan in the kitchen.

This would be one of the benefits of being an empty nester. You can do what you want, wherever you want. The house is all yours.


In my case, this means that everything that I should properly do in my bathroom, I do in my kitchen.

Except one thing.


I keep it classy.

Bottom line, I wash my face and brush my teeth in the kitchen. I’m writing on my laptop in the kitchen, right now. My game plan is to live no more than three steps from the refrigerator at any time, which gives you an idea of my priorities.

Anyway, Francesca eyes me with daughterly concern. “What are you doing?”

“Making sure the clippings don’t go all over the floor,” I tell her, clipping away.  Each snip produces a satisfying clik.

“It’s not good for your nails, to clip them that way. You might want to use an emery board.”

I know she learned that from Mother Mary, who carries an emery board everywhere, like a concealed weapon. “I don’t have one.”

“I do, and you can use it.”

“No, thanks.  It’s too much trouble.” I keep clipping. Clik, clik. Hard little half-moons of fingernail fly into the trash. My aim is perfect, and wait’ll I get to my toenails. Then I prop my foot up on the trash can and shoot the clippings into the air. Now that’s entertainment.

She adds, gently, “You clip them kind of short.”

“I know.  So I don’t have to do it so often.”

“But your nails would look so pretty if you let them grow longer.”

“I don’t care enough.”

Francesca looks a little sad. “I could do them for you, Mom. Shape them, polish them. Give you a nice manicure. Look at mine. I do it myself.”

So I look up, and her hands are lovely, with each fingernail nicely shaped and lacquered with a hip, dark polish. It reminds me that I used to do my nails when I was her age. I used to care about my nails, but now I don’t, and I’m not sure why I stopped. Either I’m mature, or slovenly.

“Thanks, but no,” I tell her.

She seems disappointed. It is a known fact that parents will occasionally let their children down, and this will most often occur in the area of personal grooming or bad puns. I’m guilty of only one of these. All of my puns are good.

But to make a long story short, later we decide to go out to dinner, and since it’s a nice night, I put on a pair of peep-toe shoes, which are shoes that reveal what’s now known as toe cleavage, a term I dislike.

If your toe has cleavage, ask your plastic surgeon for a refund.

Anyway, both Francesca and I looked down at unvarnished toenails, newly clipped though they were. I had to acknowledge that it wasn’t a good look.

“I can polish them for you,” she offered, with hope. “I think it they would look better, with these shoes.”

“But we’re late,” I said, and we were.

“It won’t take long.” Francesca reached for the nail polish, and I kicked off the shoes.

“I have an idea. Just do the ones that show.”

“What?” Francesca turned around in surprise, nail polish in hand.

“Do the first three toenails.”

Look, it made sense at the time. The other two toenails didn’t matter, and no one can find my pinky toenail, which has withered away to a sliver, evidently on a diet more successful than mine.

But Francesca eventually prevailed, and did all five toenails.

Like I said, I raised her right.

Copyright © Lisa Scottoline