I don’t like strangers touching me. It took me years to learn how to enjoy a haircut.
“You are going to love it,” the wife said in a way we both knew was a lie.
Her kids were done — 9 weeks of summer break before she has to break in a new group in August. (Yeah they start school in August in Arizona… dumb asses).
It’s her time to take on all the projects she has put off all year. Apparently, my toes topped the list.
“Lots of men get pedicures,” she said. I didn’t believe her. But working from home with no meetings that day, it was impossible to resist the immovable force of her will.
Like a kidnapping victim, I should never have gotten in the car. There was no escape. As we pulled into the parking lot, I could smell it. It was not quite the burning rubber I remember from the tire factories in Akron, but there’s definitely a sensation in the nose that tells you this shit is toxic.
There were row and rows of tables. White women sitting on the west side being tended by asian women on the east. It’s a Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. Don’t these women work?
I could see one row of “high chairs” as these adult toddlers climbed up to get their feet done. A few women in the chairs; a few immigrants at their feet.
I surveyed from the small waiting room. I’m the only man I see in the building. But I know there’s one other here.
“Henry has been doing my feet for years,” the wife said as she walked out of sight.
Henry is from Vietnam or Thailand or the Philippines… I didn’t pay attention. An accountant by training who found out his girlfriend made more money clipping nails than he did counting accounts receivable. That’s all I know about him.
The wife was one of his first “regulars.” He knows everything about me.
After a few minutes that felt like months, they walked me into a “secret room” behind the fish tank wall.
They set me in the chair next to the wife. Henry is smiling, telling her that he does not “do men.” No matter the first language, we all get the double entendre.
I’m not sure why, but like a massage, it just feels wrong to have a some dude rub your feet for pleasure.
A woman dressed like a manager, sticks my feet in the watery tank. She unravels a set of tools like a civil war surgeon. I’m looking around for my shot of whiskey. I’m guessing none of the other staff would touch me. Middle management always gets stuck with the shit jobs.
Henry is scolding the wife that she is not using the anti-fungal stuff. “It’s really bad,” he repeats over and over. “You have to use it everyday. It will take months to get better.”
The wife sighs. Looks at me with accusing eyes.
I survived the physical cuts. Manager lady dug out the ingrown pieces, shaped the two toes thickened by my own fungus. I’m thinking the wife gave it to me rather than the other way round, but her accusation is probably correct.
There’s way more washing, and rubbing and touching than I anticipated. My calves were glistening.
The workers are talking, laughing in their home language. Suddenly, it was a Seinfeld episode. They are holding up colors — baby blue and pink and pointing at me. I don’t have a Costanza to interpret, but I’m pretty sure they are picking a polish for me.
We went with the clear lacquer or whatever we call that toxic goo that has no color.
Out came the cheese graders. “Very bad,” she said, as she reached for metal planks with smaller and smaller holes. There’s a lumpy pile of dead-skin flakes in her lap the size of two fists. I pretty sure I can make out two middle fingers staring back up at me.
Physically it’s fine. But sitting in my high chair and surveying the field of workers toiling at our feet, the mind wonders. Is this what Thomas Jefferson felt like during tobacco-picking time at Montecelio?
My feet are dried. The bill is paid. The wife picked it up with all her teacher money.
But I probably won’t be coming back. It’s not the cost. It’s not the icky feelings driven by my fragile hetero-male ego. It’s the guilt of potential oppression.
I can’t sit on high, looking down at the workers and feel like I deserve this kind of bullshit. Maybe when I’m 80 and can’t reach my feet anymore, I’ll join the modern aristocracy and pay someone to wash them.
Till then, I’ll cut my own toes and fuck with my own fungus like the middle-class plebeian I was raised to be.