Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Feel Pretty, Oh So Pretty

When the night began, the plan had been to enjoy an Italian meal and some wine while the boys watched a movie at Kindercare during the center’s monthly Parents’ Night Out. If asked the odds of agreeing to a professional, spa-style pedicure that night, I’d have answered, “HA! Zero chance, no way.” And yet there I was, my pasty white feet a blur beneath the bubbles, and an Asian woman kneeling before me quietly preparing a bucket of lotions, balms, towels and strange clipping tools.

Warm water bubbled up between my toes. My chair vibrated and hummed as a mechanical roller rearranged my vertebrae. A calming heat rose from my lower back and radiated outward like the morning sun crossing the lawn. One would think sitting in that massage chair with my feet submerged would have been relaxing; but, in fact, I was not relaxed at all. Whether it was the full moon, the cheap Chianti, or my recent lack of sleep, my wife had somehow convinced me to join her for my first pedicure.

The food next door had been awful. The Kalmata olives were mushy, the olive oil bland and runny, the fresh mozzarella had the consistency of a wet eraser, the Chianti was overpriced, the gnocchi was chewy, and the pepperonis were nothing more than salty islands floating in a sea of greasy orange globules.

The conversation had been nearly as bad. After a full work week and less than an ideal amount of sleep, the two of us had trudged past exhaustion into the realm of zombies. We struggled to make eye contact, our red-rimmed eyes lazily settling on such exciting things as the back of a spoon or a crust of bread. Sentences were started with hopes of finishing them, but most trailed off into unintelligible mumbles. After 45 minutes of forced pseudo-socializing, we paid the bill and, to the obvious surprise of our waitress, declined boxes for our leftovers. I’m not sure Half-Tail, my backyard squirrel, would have accepted such noxious faire had I offered it.

So it was in this weakened state of mind that my wife asked if I’d be up for a pedicure. “Come on, it’ll be fun!” she had promised. Not wanting to squander what little adult time we had been allotted, I reluctantly said yes and entered the salon.

Angie made the arrangements as I helped myself to the bowl of candy on the counter, plopped down onto an overstuffed chair, and began thumbing through some headlines on my iPhone. A minute later, I was being ushered over to a brown, vinyl chair, similar to a barber’s, but with a bubbling cauldron beneath the foot rest.

The blinding overhead lights and the mirrored walls were disorienting, and I didn’t know where to store my shoes and socks. Was I to take them off, or the attendant? I followed Angie’s lead and set my footwear next to the chair and climbed into the seat. Sensing my discomfort, she slipped me a copy of Washingtonian magazine and gave me a reassuring smile. Seventy-five top bars were featured in the cover story. Sweet.

It occurred to me that watching a barber cut hair in the mirror was far less intimate and more removed. I felt uncomfortable watching the woman work, so I kept my face buried in the magazine and read about lounges, hotel bars and classic dives. My left foot slipped through the woman’s muscular grip like a bar of soap in the shower. Her thumbs pressed into the deepest flesh on my calf. I was beginning to melt into my chair like a pat of butter spread on a steaming ear of corn.

Alternating between right and left legs, she nearly scrubbed the hair off with an orange-scented exfoliating balm. It burned like hot sand and I liked it. With the skin rubbed red raw, she wrapped each leg in a towel moistened in cold water. I peeked over the magazine as she clipped my toenails with the adroitness of a surgeon. She employed a shoeshine boy’s circular wrist action as she filed and buffed the nails, and her block sander smoothed out heels calloused from many miles walked.

Finally, she applied lotion from my knees to my ankles and wrapped my legs with a hot towel. Moments later my legs felt cold and stinging hot at the same, not unlike the sensation of chewing strong peppermint gum. As I reclined in that humming chair, my legs tingling like a fiery snowball beneath the hot towel, my exfoliated feet red and pruned, I realized that this wouldn’t be my last pedicure. Who knows, maybe next time I’ll get talked into one of those creepy, green face masks - and love it, too.


  1. what are the top bars on the DC areaa?

  2. Wow - Matt this brings back memories. I used to go out with a masseuse and in that time was subjected to heaven knows how many procedures, treatments and what felt like experiments. Some involving hot stones, wraps and fast congealing waxy substances. Problem is I could never stay still and it became an endurance exercise not a healing, recharging experience. Bear in mind this is coming from a guy who can't read more than one page of a book without getting up for a couple of laps of the room. FML

  3. next time get a couples brazilian wax. tant.

  4. Yaroo got his first pedicure this summer with me on my birthday. He also liked it. :)

  5. Must be something in the air because Clint is going to a couple's yoga class with me next week.