On a recent cleaning jag I discovered a gift card with a healthy balance on it to Habitude, a luxurious local spa. Woo hoo, free pampering! I decide to treat my feet to a pedicure, which you may be amazed to hear, I have never experienced. At the ripening age of 54 I was a pedi-virgin.
Two days before my appointment I’m idly running my fingertips over the tops of my toenails as I read a book, and notice a sharp, uneven nail. Momentarily forgetting pending pedicure I grab onto it and tear it off. I’m left with a ragged, obviously torn, nail, and immediately fear judgment from the pedicurist. They’ll lift an eyebrow, purse their lips, and silently reproach me for my reckless move, wondering how I made it to my age taking care of my feet this way. They’ll pet the hair on my two biggest toes, my little furry friends, and tsk, lifting the other eyebrow. (Am I supposed to shave them, pluck or wax? These things just weren’t covered back in the 70’s when I learned these types of grooming rites from my visiting adult sister; thank you, by the way.) They’ll notice the slight green tinge on the very tip of those same two nails that I was never able to remove entirely since the summer when I painted them a bright, neon green, constantly flashing up at me like M&M’s producing a smile and a sudden craving for crunchy chocolate.
Then they’ll notice the scar swooping across one of those big toes. I was six, wading in the shallows of the Spokane River, with sneakers on as was required under matriarchal law, but nonetheless managed to find the one broken beer bottle in the area and sliced my toe open and we had to go rushing to the nearest military hospital clear on the other side and outskirts of Spokane. Multiple tears where shed, multiple stiches were sewn. These toes have been places.
Today I walked my adventurous toes into the sanctuary of self-indulgence – all dark mauve walls, dim lighting and aromatic scents – the spa. When asked to select a color for my nails while my chair was being readied, I was left alone with a shining array of shades, in such a poorly lit display I considered pulling out my iPhone and using the flashlight, but it felt like such an old-lady move, I just put my reading glasses on and held the bottles up to the nearest soft beam, twisting and turning until I chose a sparkly teal named Out Loud.
The last time I was here, I was in for a foot massage, stripped down, fluffy-robed and slippered in a private room. When having my feet washed, I mentioned/fessed up to having a wart on my foot, and the masseuse got up to get some prophylactic gloves, making me feel dirty, tainted. I was hoping for an organic skin on skin experience, not one hampered by slippery latex. It was like the back seat in high school all over again! And yet, the job was done regardless, and it was a lovely, satisfying experience, and safe for all involved.
Today for my Ultimate Pedicure the pedicurist wore gloves, too, but since it was half massage and half procedure that involved shiny metal tools lined up neatly on a tray by her stool, it seemed appropriate. Her touch was so soft I hardly felt her hands as she lifted the top of my foot from the warm, soapy tub under my chair and began her magic. As she clipped and filed my toenails she told me they looked nice and I did a good job. I glowed with the praise, like the teacher’s pet I once was, admiring my creamy, elf-like feet, the only dainty part of my entire body. Then she lifted my heel out of the water, turned to look at it and gasped. Gasped like I had another set of digits growing out the back of my foot, with little tiny mouths on each toe filled with blood-drooling fangs snapping at her purple-gloved hands. I could have feigned surprise – I was successfully pretending to like the vile herbal tea, after all (I would be sure to ask only for the refreshing cucumber and lemon water next time). But I knew with that sharp intake of breath that I would have to rush to explain that I really did try to take care of those heels, the Hobbit-as-compared-to-the-Elf portion of my feet, but nothing seemed to work. Been that way all my life. The thick calloused heels look like they’ve walked from the Shire to Mordor and back again, vertical fissures filled with mud and twigs, or at least black wooly sock-fuzzies needing to be extracted with tweezers. My little Asian weaver of foot-healing spells, kept asking me with wide, beautiful and compassionate Anime eyes if they were hot, until I finally figured out she was saying ‘hurt,’ which they weren’t. Hurt, nor hot. She gently sanded and tutored me on heel care, using one new cheese grater-like file for each foot (not standard, I was told, and I am sure I will be used as a horrifying example for future pedicure clients for months), and after a soothing seaweed wrap (disappointingly not actual strips of seaweed like you find on the beach slithering around my ankles and feet, but a thick green concoction she brewed up and painted on with a giant paint brush and actually smelled pleasant), doubled the amount of hot paraffin usually used in the bag-and-wrap portion of my treatment, which rolled off cleanly in such a satisfying way (what sorcery is this?!), leaving behind a foot fresh and pink as a newborn baby’s – but not as wrinkly. Every competently conjured step she reassured me that it would “feel good, make soft” and the incantation worked.
After a light, but lovely, massage from calves to toes (highlighted by her asking me if I worked out, no doubt because of my taut calf muscles even when relaxed, while pressing the good tip-reassurance acupressure point on my sole), she painted my toes Out Loud. (I quite enjoyed typing that…) While the polish was drying between coats she moisturized my hands, briefly massaged them, then moved on to my shoulders and neck, perched on the arm of my chair so she could use all of her whopping 80 pounds of torque, resulting in relaxed release and a total drop of tension with each breath. I’ll have what she’s having.
When she led me to the after-room for water, nuts, dried berries and for some more drying time, she grabbed my comfortable-yet-kinda-crap shoes I had hidden under my purse when I took them off. As I followed in the spa-provided flat, white flip-flops (in my naiveté I hadn’t even thought to bring sandals), shuffling slowly with my freshly sparkling toes, I saw one of the sweat-stained inserts from my shoes on the floor and snatched it up before she could see, at least one embarrassment avoided. Since I didn’t have the patience, even in my near-catatonic state, to wait for the 40-minute total dry time before I could wear my shoes that are not sandals, I slipped out after paying and scooted around the building in the cheap flip flops, tissue still wedged between my toes to the car. I drove home barefoot, because against the law or not, I was not going to ruin these Elfen toes.