It was bound to happen. The toes were in danger of puncturing soccer balls with their sharp edges. They have gone too many years and too many miles without a proper tune-up. You can't call a simple rip and tear by my own fingers a true act of landscaping. The cuticles too had edges not seen by the Asian girl who would work them over, probably ever. Around these parts a nail salon is a dime a dozen. Down the main drag is one every three to four storefronts. Every time I walk past one I mumble to myself "I should really get the caveman paws looked at." But I never do. Can't find the nerve to walk in with grubby, dirty feet and say "Wash 'em!". Contrary to what my inner self thinks and believes I am fearful of what the two Asian girls will think and subsequently chatter about to their colleagues. Chinese of Thai or Korean is not like Spanish where I can pick out a few words here and there and piece together what I think would be their reaction. So I never walk in. My flip-flopped feet and toes with the typical flip-flop tan lines live another day with dirt under the nails and cuticles from hell.
Let's face it, most man toes are beasts. They are big and grungy and the toes mis-shapen and well, manly. That's okay but at times I see a man toe that looks refined and polished and cut just right and think "That guy is either gay, or he frequents a mani-pedi-massage parlor, uhh, shop." I have yet to realize that men do get mani-pedis. Without question I have a big heap of metrosexual in me, but going to get the boys looked after has never been on my short list. And so it went. Walking past the nail places. Often. Not pulling me in.
Then one day it happened. Passing by a nail place around the time of my birthday recently, I bee-lined into the door of a woman-wonderland. I have never been in one before. What was I getting myself into. To the right was a counter with an older Asian man giving me the once-over. In in his real broke English he asked me what I wanted today. "Uhh, a, uhh, pedicure, I think, err, and mani, err, manicure?" Sure no problem, we have this special and that one and this type and that type, etc. I was in a blur of broken English. I am not alone. My lady and my son Luke and baby Hope are in tow. Hope's asleep and Luke has no idea where he's at, so my lady is the only one I can look to for guidance. Like a professional she steps up for the lame caveman (me) and sets things straight. Soon I am whisked away into a 1980s wonderland full of creme, light blue and peach. Where am I? Is this safe? What are these monster chairs with monster arms and a pool thingamajig at the feet? I sit down, flop the flips off and assume the position. I look to my left and my lady is knee-deep in a People magazine. Nearest my left is another woman about three monster chairs down. She looks like she's asleep, blissful, unaware of the soccer mom duties that consume her daily life. That is why ladies come here. Yep to get the nails done, but also to grab a sliver of time that is lost to changing diapers, making PB&J's and Trader Joe's. It's not a secret society, but for an hour it very well could be an escape.
This is going to be awesome. I sense it. I feel it. Shit, I hope it doesn't go sideways. The Asian ladies haven't even seen my toes yet. This could go horribly wrong. These toes are rare. They may have soil samples from 1995 in there, and gnarled cuticles that haven't been seen, well, ever. Asian girl Number 1 sits down, puts my feet in the pool thing. It feels good but when my feet get pruned the toes take on a different appearance. Now they are angry toes that look like an old-grizzled man. She doesn't bat an eye. This is ground zero for her. She may have worked on an old woman named Edith who has massive corns and bent nails that are as thick as plywood. Mine, it seems, are basic man toes. A little grungy but nothing to make her flinch. She digs in, literally, and plows out things. I can't watch. I sink into an US Weekly. Thanks Britany!
The cleaning and scouring continues and then Asian woman Number 2 steps in and goes about my finger nails. Some muttering, giggling and a fair bit of chatter ensues. They are talking about my toes I can sense it! More US Weekly. What's up with Rachel Zoe? A couple digs hurt. I know which part of the big toe she was visiting. It had yesterday's yard work in it and she didn't give a rats ass how it felt. She needed that stuff out. This is her job. Imagine Paul Pierce not going full gas to the basket? You get my point. After work she may talk about her day and the nails she buffed with her significant other. Similar to a financial analyst who may rattle on about saving a company or beating the system. She dug and it hurt. I flinched. Some mutter between 1 and 2. A quick pause. Onward.
The nail session went well. Number 2 was older and more compassionate it seemed. She realized she was working on a newbie and a man no-less. She was however, completely broken in her English. She was, in fact, beyond broken. It was unrepairable. She muttered something to me about something. I said yes. I said yes again, And then sure, and then just a nod in agreement along with a smile. I may have bowed for all I know.
In the end my nails were buffed, and had a slight shiny polish to them. Not pimping, but enough to make me wary of my manhood. Perhaps the most uncomfortable moment, aside from Number 1 digging for gold in my big toe, was when Number 1 buffed the bottom of my feet. While it seems like a soothing and relaxing affair it just caused me to giggle and hold my breathe, clinch my fist and do anything to keep me from bursting out in either tears of wild laughter. It was awful. It shouldn't have been, but it was. My son Luke laughed too. I had a partner. Phew. My lady just mouthed from across the room what appeared to be "What is it????"
Now I have done it. I get up. My nails looked fabulous as did my tired old toes. Basically the pigs had lipstick put on them and lipstick is temporary. But I could see the toes stand up taller. They were proud. No longer was one hiding under the other. At this moment they were real toes sans soil and edges. They were buffed and clean, trimmed and shaped. For a moment, a day, maybe 72 hours they were admired by the family. "Look at daddy's toes!" Luke says. "Wow honey, they really look good," says mama. A successful trip to the place I dreaded. The woman-filled grotto with snickering Asian girls was what I imagined but not the reality. Will I go back again? I may try another place. I need to shop around. Number 1 really dug into big papa on the end and Number 2 was solid, but I couldn't understand a word she was saying. I need Asian girls who will treat the pigs with more respect and who will not continue to ask me if I want a buff or shine or whatever. We'll see what happens.
For now, the toes are back to the pre-pedi-state. Too many flip-flop days in the garden, but I sense the old boys wouldn't want it any other way. This is their life. They are utilitarian extensions meant to grind in soil and walk on hot cement, and get hard, and run and jump and all that. At the same time, they want love. All the work they do should be rewarded and I suppose a pedi is the right thing to do. Just keep the Loofah away from my soles Number 1!