May 28, 2006

Of pedicures and podiatry.

I've noticed that manicure and pedicure salons have spread like a foot fungus in Manhattan. Last Sunday my friend Kim said: "Let's go to Bobo's for a paraffin pedi." Translation: let's get our toes painted and overpay.

Also, the shops stay open until 10pm. So there's no excuse. A few years ago you could get away with naked toes and chalk it up to not having the time. But now, the only excuse for not having a mani-pedi is having no hands or feet.

In London, getting one's nails done is still a treat. In Manhattan, it's mandatory. The standards of grooming are so high that it's no longer considered hygienic to walk around without having had a manicure. The other day I was having lunch with someone and she kept staring at my dirty fingernails. I felt so self-conscious I was compelled to explain: "I've been on a deadline." But she didn't seem impressed. So I added: "Writing about global warming and the ozone." Nothing. I could have told her I'd been building mud huts for orphans and she'd respond: "There are 'express' manis, you know."

So I made an appointment. But as soon as I got there I sensed a disease waiting to happen. The "cleaning" job that took place between customers was essentially a quick rinse of the basin with a spray of water and a nasty-looking rag. That didn't do much to reassure me that I wouldn't be _soaking in someone else's leftover callus shavings. Politely, I asked the pedicurist if she wouldn't mind using a disinfectant. She looked insulted and shouted back: "Don't worry!" I took that as a no. I looked around. Row after row of vibrating chairs filled with men. And they weren't gay, either. These were men who looked like they'd sent their wives off to do the food shopping and walk the baby while they took a little "me" time. The most striking thing was that there was no shame. I remember when a straight man wouldn't be caught dead getting a pedicure. Now they hog all the good chairs.

A few weeks ago my friend Liza was set up on a blind date and called the guy on his mobile to make a plan. When he answered he said he'd have to call her back, he was in the middle of getting his nails done. She wondered: "Do I even want to go through with this?" A man not being able to talk is one thing; a man not being able to talk because he's getting a manicure is a deal-breaker. If a man goes to Bobo's, you don't want to know about it.
Back to my pedicure. I was busy contemplating all the diseases I could get from the nail utensils when I was asked if I wanted the "spa" option.

I tried to figure out the difference between that and a "regular", and from what I could tell, for $30 more I could have my feet wrapped in a lukewarm washcloth. The word "spa" shouldn't be connected to something you can do at home for free.

After my toes were done, I felt obligated to show them off. So even though it was 9C, I wore sandals to dinner. But I didn't get very far.

By the time I'd got to the end of the block I was limping; my feet were a wreck - blistered and bloody. So not only had I undone all the benefits of the pedicure, now I needed a podiatrist to heal the damage.