Mani/Pedi

Ahhhhhhhh…pedicures…where to begin? How about a cold winters day with a good friend?

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Tara: You know what? We need some ME time. Do you like pedicures?
Me: Sure
Tara: Want to go next week?
Me: Sure

Now I wasn’t lying, I DO like pedicures. I usually splurge and go once or twice a year during the summer when my feet come out to play. I enjoy them about as much as I find them incredibly uncomfortable.

I know I’m paying to have my feet rubbed and painted, so obviously I want it done, but I never seem to go to the same place twice. This means a stranger and I are about to get uncomfortably close for at LEAST a half hour. During this time, said stranger will be washing my feet, clipping my toenails, and rubbing lotion on my legs. Perhaps it’s better to always have a stranger. Then I can mentally trick myself into thinking that I never have to see this person again, like an impromptu drunk make-out session that you regret in the morning with a vehemence equal to that in which you participated in it the night before. If you see the person at work the next afternoon it compounds the discomfort.

(“Hello Tanya! I’m here for my monthly wash-my-grubby-feet-and-message-my-hairy-legs session.” (Okay, I did shave the night before, and I am a regular bather. I’m talking worst case scenario.))

Everyone has hobbies. One of mine is to make everyday social situations awkward. We show up at the place and walk in. A bunch of women smile at us and say, “Yes?”

“Mani Pedi,” Tara says, whipping her coat off with a self confident flourish. Then turns to me.

My eyes widen and I whisper. “What do I do?”

She cocks her head. “Tell em what you want.”

I look like a doe in the headlights for a moment then blurt out too loudly “Mani Pedi?” They’ve already moved to the pedicure station to run the water. I guess they read minds.

Time to pick out nail polish. I decide to jump out of my box and pick neon yellow for my toes and black for my fingernails. Tara tells me I’m going to be a bumblebee. I cock my head then laugh two minutes later.

I walk towards the chair. The stranger about to rub my feet turns to me and smiles. She has a pleasant pretty face, so why is my stomach turning? I realize it’s not her face that matters, if she looked like Quasimodo I would be just as apprehensive. I peal off my shoes and socks, feeling like I’m beginning a striptease. I can barely remember how to climb into the chair. I can almost hear her asking, “Is this your first time? I’ll take it slow.”

She dips my feet into the water. It’s warm. I tell myself to relax.

“The seat massages.” Tara says.

“Oh yeah?” I reach for the doohickey in the pocket. The loose arm of the chair drops down like a guillotine, blocking any plans I had for escape. The remote falls to the floor with a clatter about as subtle as opening a cough drop in church. I manage to draw it up by its tail and look at the buttons.

I pick one at random and lean back. Preprogramed mechanical hands with ball baring knuckles try to push me out of my seat. They start just above my head and roll down towards my shoulders. WRENCH WRENCH WRENCH I’m sliding down the leather chair. My date pauses mid-toenail clip to share a laugh with the woman beside her.

Okay, maybe they aren’t laughing at me while I fumble with the remote, desperate to avoid any further nerve impingement to my neck and spine, but how should I know? They spoke perfect english, both of them, but they also spoke perfect Spanish. I would love to be bilingual. I envy anyone who is. But it’s disconcerting when they turn to each other and chatter away. Is it egotistical to think they’re talking about me? I prefer the term “Self-conscious”. I had a boyfriend who once told me that I have freakishly long toes. I’ve never forgotten that. (How do you say, “would you look at her freakishly long toes” in Spanish?)

She brings out a holster thing and places my ankle inside it. Then, with a loud sigh, she vigorously files the bottom of my feet. This part is almost as bad as when they run that little picker thing under your toenails to clean them. One makes me feel like I’m a grubby little street urchin, the other makes me feel like a scullery maid being cleaned up to dance with prince charming. I love going barefoot so my feet are…tough? Call em tough. She rubs with abandon, not as long as most of them do, perhaps she saw it was futile and gave up quicker than the rest. She dropped my hobbit foot back into the water.

I tried to relax during the massage. This feels good, I told myself. My mind wandered. I lost my mantra and began to wonder if I had missed any spots when I shaved.

The foot ordeal ended. The manicure followed. These are relatively painless, except I find it difficult to stare into the eyes of the person who just seconds earlier massaged my feet. Plus there’s the whole hand holding thing and…meh maybe I’m overthinking this. Just like when I get my hair washed at the hairdressers. (If I close my eyes does it look like I’m enjoying this TOO much? Should I leave them open? Okay I’ll open them. Oh GOSH! Armpit!)

I paid before she painted my nails. Good system. Then you don’t have to screw up the new paint job digging through your purse. I sat down with my nails under the dryer and realized I didn’t tip the woman. I tapped my freshly blackened nails, contemplating how to accomplish this. In the end, I gingerly unzipped my bag, nuzzled the mouth open with my nose, then extricated my wallet with my teeth. I’m sure they’ve had plenty of freaks like me in there. I was nothing o write home about.

I hope.

The next morning I hopped out of the shower and noticed I missed a spot on my knee when I shaved the night before. I yelled aloud, “Oh Crap! Did she notice?”

I’ll bet she did. That’s probably why she never called.

© Rachel Svendsen 2015

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