Thursday, October 10, 2013


I was ready to find out.
Last Sunday morning, I was sitting on the couch minding my own business when my wife ambled over and said, "Let me see your toes." I didn't know what the sudden attraction was, but being married 21 years this week, I've long become inured to doing as ordered. I stuck up my feet,  allowing her to ruminate for a moment. No explanation, of course. That would ruin the mystery. Nodding her satisfaction, she allowed me to resume my previous position. Exiting to the bedroom for a few minutes, she returned and said, "Change your shorts. We're going for a mani-pedi." 

I was currently wearing my running shorts, which were dotted with Clorox bleach spots and a tiny hole in the rear. If someone was going to be looking at my nails, I didn't know why a change of shorts was necessary, until I realized that my wife didn't want to be seen with me in public wearing those. In fact, she doesn't want to be seen with me in private wearing them. 

Maybe if I had this thing
I'd clip them more often.
My wife had been hinting for a while that I should go for a mani-pedi. Actually, she was more focused on the pedi part of the procedure. Unlike the fingernails, my toes are usually hidden away most of the time, so I'm not  aware when it's time to get out the clipper  until taking off my sock to see a toe covered in blood from the adjoining nail digging into it. "I thought it was hurting all day," I always mutter sagely.

Not one to waste a good thing,
Mr. Bux grilled burgers after the
But my toenails are the least of it. Sections of the soles of my feet resemble a relief map of the moon. My daughter finds them hideous, and screams whenever I place them on her leg. My wife doesn't have such an extreme reaction, but she, too, is appalled. My usual defense -- "This is what a real man's feet look like!" -- doesn't fly with her. Just going by my feet, the real man I resemble is a failed of student of the self-styled Indian mystic Kuda Bux, who pioneered the stunt of walking on hot coals in the 1930s. 

After resisting my wife's entreaties for years, I now mutely nodded and did as I was told. The mani-pedi place being a block and a half away, we were there before you could say "paraffin wax."  I was rather proud of myself, really, for going along with this without putting up a fight or even asking what the rush was. I guess I've been worn down to the point where, like all good husbands, I just do as I'm told. It was interesting, truth be told, being 57 and walking into a particular storefront business for the first time. The only thing I have left to experience is a brothel, but that seems to be out of the question, unless my wife is really generous for my next birthday. From her perspective, treating me to the mani-pedi is more than enough.

Accurate representation of how they saw me.
My wife is regular customer at the salon, so her presence was no surprise. But the manicurists gave me a look that read something along the lines of, "What the hell is this oaf doing here?" My wife must have read their minds, because she said, "This is my husband -- it's his first mani-pedi." The manicurists, all Asian, mumbled something to each other. Being uni-lingual, I couldn't understand them, but I think they were deciding who was going to pull the short straw and handle my ugly paws. 

Maybe it's my keen sensitivity to others, but I've always considered pedicurists as something of slaves. There's something very 15th-century about young women on their knees clipping and filing toenails -- and, in my case, filing down the soles of my feet. But all that was forgotten when I stuck my feet into the warm mini-jacuzzi on the floor in front of my chair. Ahhh... What the hell, she'll get a tip at the end of this. Still, I don't know about you ladies, but I find getting my nails filed akin to running them down a blackboard. I twitched and turned as if getting electric shocks, while my wife, enjoying the same treatment, calmly sat there reading a month-old copy of People magazine. She's not as sensitive as me.

I'm not sure if  "The dainty little cake" refers to the product
or the guy on the left.
The pedicurist had to take out the heavy artillery when pushing back my cuticles and doing whatever else had to be done down there for the first time in my life. Such a novice was I that I had no idea what to say when I was asked, "Clear polish?" I thought maybe it was some kind of anti-infectious coating. I mutely turned to my wife for assistance. "No polish," she helpfully replied on my behalf, thus averting another Kevin-inspired disaster. The manicurist, on the other hand, didn't have to ask about polish when it came to my fingernails -- unlike my wife, she knew a real man when she saw one.

By the time the whole routine was finished, all 20 of my nails were shorter than they've been since I was three months old. My cuticles were invisible. My feet felt like they were resting on clouds. Best of all, I didn't have to walk home with tiny pieces of Kleenex between my toes. There was something to this mani-pedi stuff, I admitted, but I wasn't ready to commit to a monthly go-round like my wife. The closest to pampering I indulge in is the very occasional professional shave from my barber. Too much cuticle-pushing, I believe, can be a dangerous thing. I recall comedian Bernie Mac positively boasting that he allowed himself a mani-pedi every week. He died at the age of 51. They say it was pneumonia. I think it was one mani too many. Getting shaved with a long razor twice a year is the closest I want to get to pampering with danger.



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