I’m pretty sure there is a zoning ordinance in my area – possibly in the whole state, and possibly in parts beyond – that if you are building a strip mall with more than three store fronts in it, you have to have at least one nail salon and one martial arts studio. You wouldn’t think there were enough finger and toe nails and budding ninjas to support these businesses, but wherever you go there are crowds of people.
I don’t get my nails done that often, probably less than I should. Being a lawyer, my image matters, and if I have raggedy nails I feel like people will think my work is raggedy. If I am going to wear open toed shoes, I have to have neat, polished toenails.
Pedicures are weird things. Don’t get me wrong – I like getting them, and I like the way my toes look without all the funky stuff, and with a neat, clean shape and color. But I can’t help but feel funny paying a perfect stranger to sit beneath me as I perch on a giant massaging throne and intimately touch parts of me that my very own children are often too skeeved to be within three feet of. (No pun intended.) I also want to know who exactly came up with the concept that our vestigial claws should be painted bright colors. I mean, at what point between hunting and gathering and our soft, first world lives did we say, “I will not look good without red fingernails!”?
Like nearly every other interaction with strangers that isn’t scripted, I never know what to do or say while getting a pedicure. Am I supposed to chit chat with the pedicurist? I’m not there to make friends. I’m there to get the crud scraped out from underneath my toenails and buff my callouses to a nifty sheen. Frankly, I’d rather either close my eyes or read my book. In my experience, most pedicurists don’t speak English very well, and although they are always very nice and polite, it seems like they’d rather talk to each other in Korean or Vietnamese, languages which sound to me like bouncing rubber balls tuned to different pitches. I love the sounds. I could listen to it all day. Truly, I don’t care if they are telling each other about my fat ankles or nasty stuck-in-a-conservative-pump-all-day foot stank. Let them laugh at my lumps and bumps. I don’t care. I’m getting my feet rubbed for a reasonable price.
I feel badly sometimes not being able to understand what they are asking me, or not making myself understood. Last week, when I got this done, I wanted to be fancier than normal for my son’s Bar Mitzvah. As no detail was left un-obsessed over, I had decided via a committee of friends to get “French’ toes with silver tips. I tried to explain this, but didn’t get my point across. I got regular ‘French’ toes with some silver glitter underneath. I decided to make the best of it and got rhinestones across my big toes. The rhinestones were fun for a few days, but now make me feel like a big idiot. Now that I’m not wearing a big, fancy dress and forty eight pounds of makeup, it just seems like I’m trying to dress up like a four year old. I don’t take them off, though. I had fun when I was four.
The one thing I don’t like is that whenever I get my nails done, the technician seems to be hardwired to want to rip my eyebrows off. Eyebrow maintenance is, I will grant you, something I don’t do often enough, given my natural proclivity to have a single, giant creeping caterpillar across my forehead. But shaped and separated is all I ever want, and what I pay my hairstylist to do. They’re still pretty substantial, even after grooming. There’s only so much you should fight nature, in my humble opinion. That said, even if I’ve had them groomed the day before, the nail techs always want to do my eyebrows. I have only let them do it twice before in my life, and both times I ended uplooking extremely surprised for a few weeks. No thank you. I prefer to look all knowing. I like my eyebrows wise.
It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if we could all start out days with a good rub down, with all extraneous dead skin removed and the feeling that we are all royalty capable of ruling the world? Still, we can’t all do that – someone has to actually do the rubbing and the scraping and the pampering. That makes me feel guilty. So I tip well. I think I should pay people well to do the jobs I don’t want to do.
And so, if you get nothing else useful from this installment, I hope you at least get this message: the lovely ladies and gentlemen who groom you and hundreds of others every week without making faces or gagging at some of the nasty things they see (and smell) deserve to be well compensated for their time, talent, and discretion. Please, leave a generous tip, look them in the eye, and thank them for making you feel like a star – for a few minutes, anyway. It’s the least we can do.
Lori B. Duff is the author of the Amazon ‘Hot New Release’ Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza, a collection of autobiographical humor essays. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/loribduffauthor.