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My girlfriend, Gaywynn, and I arrived at Victoria Nails, located in a strip mall, on a Friday morning. The place was nearly full. The clients were all women, getting pedicures, except for a solitary male nestled in amongst them. As we were led to our chairs, we passed by him. He beamed at us from his chair and said, merrily, “It’s my second time!”
It was my first.
I was not entirely comfortable with that.
For months, I’d watched Gaywynn go off to get a pedicure. Every once in a while, she’d ask me to come along with her. I always said no. A pedicure seemed…well, I mean, look, hey, I know it’s nothing to be scared of, but I always thought there was something strictly girly about it. I mean a guy having his toes tended to? Even the name, pedicure, seems effete.
Really, it just seemed frivolous. However, I checked out an article in—what else?—Men’s Journal titled, “Do real men get manicures and pedicures?” The answer, I was relieved to find, was yes.
In the end, really, what the hell? Why not? I was curious. So, I said yes.
We were led to two big lounge chairs. They were like those hefty relaxing numbers you see at airports. We installed ourselves. At the foot of the chair was a small, plastic-lined bin full of water. A woman came by and told me to put my feet in the water. I took off my shoes and socks and did. The water was hot. I winced.
“Too hot?” she said.
I nodded feebly. She adjusted the temperature.
Getting a pedicure. It was my first in seventy-eight years of living on this planet.
Another woman came and sat down in front of my feet and began to have a go at them. She was masked. I wished I could see her face. I said hello, and she said it back. I asked her a question about something and, by her answer, realized she didn’t speak English very well. She was from Vietnam, she said.
So, there I was seated in Victoria Nails with my naked feet in someone else’s hands.
I looked around. The lighting was harsh, bright. Two wall-mounted wide-screen TVs were playing at low volume. One was showing “The Price Is Right” with Drew Carey, who had long hair and a beard and looked like he’d just emerged from “Survivor.” I was lamenting what he’d been reduced to until I discovered he makes $12.5 million a year.
The woman began the pedicure. First, she clipped my nails. With an ordinary clipper. I could’ve done that at home! Ok, be patient. (Gaywynn is always telling me to be patient.) Then she took some sort of small garden clipper-like device and went at my cuticles, probing and snipping and edging. Very surgical. Precise. Next, she took out a grater. Yes, the kind you use for food. She started grating my feet. That tickled me and even hurt a bit. I cried out. None of the other women were complaining.
“That gets rid of any dead skin you might have,” Gaywynn, who was sitting next to me, said.
“Or produces some,” I replied, still smarting.
Ok, so why am I so threatened about getting a pedicure? I guess the idea of being groomed, seems, as I said, unmanly. But what, you ask, about a haircut? Isn’t that the same thing? Clearly, I don’t think so. Why not?
Significantly, this is going to put me out of my comfort zone. If I do that, by definition, I will feel uncomfortable. Why is it, I had to ask myself, that, for the most part, I have stayed inside my comfort zone. “To avoid feeling uncomfortable,” you might answer. True, but the result of that has been large swaths of unexperienced experiences. It has finally come to my attention that experiences are what life is all about. Good and bad. What’s stopped me? Fear? I take a look within myself and see that fear has dominated my behavior far too much and far too often. Fear of what? What possibly could happen to me as a result of getting a pedicure, for example? Public mockery? What public? No one gives a damn about me, except for a few people who love me, or at least who tolerate me.
Hey, wait a minute, this is just a pedicure, not a philosophical inquiry about my fate as a human based on the Socratic method! Still, you often come face to face with yourself at the most unexpected moments and situations, don’t you?
Next, the woman filed my nails with arching, swoping gestures that reminded me of someone playing a tricky piece on the violin. Up, over, around, down. Why is it so satisfying to have the rough spots of your nails sanded smooth?
After a few final touches, she was finished.
I looked at my ten transformed toes. They looked smart. Very smart indeed. A small touch of vanity made itself known. “How,” I wondered, “will anyone see these beautiful new toes of mine? I have to put on my socks and shoes now. Who’s going to know how great they look? Maybe we could go to the beach. Walk around barefoot near a lot of people. Until someone notices and compliments me lavishly.
This was not the reaction I expected myself to have. What about my threatened masculinity? Well, I suppose there’s nothing more masculine than vanity.
“I feel proud of you,” Gaywynn said when we got outside, “for doing something that made you feel uncomfortable.”
“Thank you,” I said. It was sweet what she said. It’s wonderful to have someone who wants to help make you a stronger person. Who never trivializes those efforts. “It seems crazy to be so worried about something like a pedicure,” I said.
“I know,” she said.
“I took some pictures,” I said, as we headed to the car, “just in case.”