My wife gave me a couple of holiday gift certificates, and we went together to use one of them.
It was for a pedicure at one of those little shops you find in the mall.
This will probably surprise you, but I had never had a pedicure before. It’s not a masculine/feminine thing for me. It’s just I’d always figured I could take care of my own feet, thank you very much.
Beverly assured me it was a relaxing, even therapeutic, experience, and that my feet could use a tune-up, or words to that effect. (I’m thinking I’d speared her with a jagged toenail one too many times while we were sleeping.) For the uninitiated, the place looked like a contemporary hair-styling salon. Other than one of the employees, I was the only other male in the place during the time we visited — which, by the way, took well over an hour because my wife got her toenails painted and that takes time. (No, not ready for polish myself.)
The people who run the nail place are all Asians. Some of them speak only a little English. I didn’t find that particularly daunting. It’s not like there are a lot of different services to choose from, I figured, or that you have to communicate extensively with them.
Turned out I was a little off there.
We chose adjoining chairs so that Beverly could keep me from doing something stupid, though I still managed to plunge my right foot into a tub of warm water without first rolling up my pant leg. (I know, I know, some things shouldn’t need explaining.) The young woman who was to give me my pedicure thought it was very funny and giggled. I thought, “Well, she has a nice sense of humor. This is going to be just fine.”
I wanted a basic pedicure but I pointed out there was a callus on the side of my foot that needed a little attention. She nodded and pulled out what looked like a cheese grater. Despite my apprehension, it seemed to do the job without producing too much wincing and whining from me.
Now it was time to get serious. She pulled out more little instruments — tweezers, Ginsu knives? — and began pulling skin off the perimeter of my toenails. I responded with “Ow ... Ow ... Ow ... Ow,” each eliciting a smile or giggle from my torturer. Soon we had settled into a pattern. She’d pluck a piece of skin off and I would respond in pain. She would smile or laugh and move on.
I wondered if she thought I was enjoying this?
Between different phases of the pedicure, my feet would go back in the lukewarm water or be bathed in some kind of fragrant oil or massaged or pummeled. It was supposed to be relaxing and soothing. But I was too keyed up now for what she had in store for me next that it wasn’t having that kind of salubrious effect.
She decided — I’m still not sure why — that my toe knuckles needed a lot of work and she attacked them with a vengeance, scraping the skin off them with yet another instrument.
We settled into our routine. I would wince or say “Ow!” and she would smile or giggle and forge on.
It’s been about a month now. My toe knuckles are still bright red.
The other day my wife needed to have something done at the nail place, and I sat in the shop reading a magazine while I waited for her. My ex-torturer — I call her the Ninja — walked through a few times and seemed to try to catch my eye. I simply slunk behind the magazine.
No Stockholm Syndrome here.
Still ahead is my other gift certificate. I can use it for “eyebrow threading,” a service I’m unfamiliar with but assume could lead to the accidental loss of an eye.
Or it’s good for a henna tattoo. I’ll keep you posted.
Irv Dean is the Gazette’s city editor. His opinions are his own and do not reflect those of the newspaper. Reach him at P.O. Box 1090, Schenectady, N.Y. 12301 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.