Friday, March 15, 2013

People Paid to Touch Us

I like getting my every-two-month pedicures. (I'm a late bloomer; didn't get my first pedi until I lived in NYC, when I was over 40. Until then, I'd always done my toenails myself, scrunching over them, becoming angst-ridden when the polish didn't go on evenly or got on skin, and just having the patience for one coat, which still, to me, took forever to dry and then started wearing off in a couple of weeks.)

So today I had my first pedi since mid-January. The last one in honor of the Cat Power concert I was about to attend the next week (not that anyone was going to see my toes in winter, but just that a pedi made me feel good and "put together." Like a fresh haircut, I suppose, except a secret one). And this one today in honor of it being Spring at last! The trees here in Austin just bloomed last week, and now it really is sandal-weather at last and people WILL see my toes. And I am prepared!

Aside from the aesthetics of having nice toenails to show off in warm weather, I also appreciate my pedi appointments because a part of them---the scrubbing-off-of-callouses part---feels like I'm going to the doctor! i.e., the sensation kind of HURTS, but it's all for a good cause and afterward I feel like I've accomplished something useful.

And then there's a third thing (but the first part of the process): The kinda sexual aspect of it. Before anyone starts clipping and buffing and scrubbing you painfully, and before the polish---the result you're there for---is applied, there're about 10 minutes of pure physical pleasure: The foot-whirlpool and then the lotion they apply by hand and the foot/calf massage they give you. I've been going to this place for a couple of years now, and every time during this first stage, I'm thinking, "Oh, this is nice. I think I need to start going to a masseuse every couple of months, too." And then, "Wow. This (the pure physical sensation) must be why men go to hookers. Should I think about going to a hooker? Well, no, that would probably get too psychologically weird. But...this is nice..."

My pedis are done in an old-school place run by Asian ladies. $20 for about an hour's worth of attention. The ladies (usually 5 or so, ranging in age from maybe 25 to 50) say hello with a smile at the beginning and after that, barely speak, to either you or each other. There are 2 TV screens in the place, and some stereo speakers, but I've never seen anything on a screen or heard any music. There's just dead silence. I always forget to bring a magazine, and so spend my hour staring into space, trying not to stare at my neighbors getting their pedis or at my own pedi-lady (don't want to make her feel self-conscious). Nothing to do but concentrate on all physical sensations, harsh or soothing...and notice the faded plastic flowers and 1980s "glamour-nails shots" decorating the walls...

I wonder what more high-end nail places are like. I'm guessing like my mid-end hair salon: White stylists hooting-and-hollering amongst themselves, chatting non-stop amid loud, trendy music to distract from the intimacy of the physical service they're performing for strangers.

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