Saturday, May 5, 2007

To Ped or Not to Ped

I have of late discovered the luxury of the manicure-pedicure combination. I also have found a good salon nearby — a deadly combination.

Until a few years ago, I thought pedicures were the ultimate pampering, nothing I myself would try. I mean, I could cut my own toenails. So what if they look like they were hacked with a dull butter knife and could shred even steel-toe boots? No one really looked at toes, anyway, right? They were necessities I could maintain.

The same for manicures. Thankfully, my fingernails didn’t suffer the same benign neglect as my toenails, but that was because I saw my toes as one of my least attractive assets and my hands as one of my most. My fingernails always have grown quickly, usually stay long and can be attractive. However, I could cut and shape my own fingernails, and polishing was a cakewalk. I did not need salon assistance.

I had my first manicure in 1986. It was very nice. Okay, it was bliss. Nothing smudged and I was able to sit still for about an hour. I really liked it. It was as good as donating platelets, which required two hours of relaxation, only without massively huge needles.

Despite this favorable review, it took me the better part of a decade to return to the manicurist’s chair. I was young, poor and in graduate school. I stopped perming my hair for the same reason (and was not in the least affected by the disastrous poodle perm of 1983 or the expensive non-perm of 1992). And I could cut my own toenails, remember? Just don’t get to close, and keep small children and domesticated animals away from my feet.

My first pedicure was on New Year’s Eve 2003, and it was very nice. I could see how people could get hooked. I wouldn’t fall prey to that, despite the fact I could afford it in my adult years. But I didn’t make it a habit. (See the “I can do it myself” reference above.) Not to mention my mom’s story of the toenail debacle that practically gave her gangrene, or something painful (but ultimately not limb-threatening). It was a pedicure horror story, and that’s all I needed.

Then I lost a toenail. It wasn’t my first, but I managed its re-growth poorly. My feet hurt every minute.

So I turned to a professional, someone who would cut through the pain. Me, when it hurt, I stopped. Fat lot of good that did me. So I decided (in my haze of pain) to give it a shot and I went to the salon my neighbor Kathy recommended.

The young woman wielding the nail scissors there was merciless. It didn’t hurt her, so she didn’t stop until the job was done. She apologized, but I bravely waved her off. “I’m glad, really,” I tried to say with grace and good humor. I suppose I could have gone to a podiatrist, but I never think of these things at a good time — not to mention I’d have felt a bit silly, like going to a doctor to remove a sliver. (See the “I can do it myself” reference above.) Not to mention the added bonus of nail polish at the salon.

Now I tell myself my pedicures are maintenance, that if I don’t go, I’ll be in the same painful boat. (Rationalization: another interesting habit, usually not without its own polish.) And heck, while I’m there, why not let the professional shape my fingernails as well?

I suppose it is an indulgence. I suppose I can do it myself. However, I can afford it — and if I need rationalization, I remind myself that I am saving hundreds of dollars a month by skipping Starbucks and carrying a bag lunch to work. (We won’t talk about the book purchases — but I have begun shopping for those at thrift stores for less than a buck each, so again, thrift pays off in pedicures.)

In the end, I guess, it’s my choice: to ped or not to ped. I choose to ped, and my feet thank me. So do my shoes and socks and the poor unfortunates who would otherwise have to suffer the view of my feet in warm weather. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Even if I can do it myself.

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