Spring’s Afoot.

I had my annual pedicure this week. Pedicures are not a comfortable experience for me, for several reasons. However, having ugly feet is not fun during sandal season, so I grit my teeth once a year and get it done. I could just have winter-callused feet and hope no one notices, but I notice other people’s feet. They’ll be looking at mine. Call it vanity. I still don’t like getting pedicures.

First of all, I am paying someone to touch my feet. I do not like feet. It’s not a phobia, but they are gross, stinky, utilitarian parts of us. They can be calloused, blistered, warty, and grubby. Why would I make someone do this? Someone who is often an immigrant, at that. How much are they getting paid to touch my feet? Is it a living wage? A pedicure makes me feel uncomfortably classist.

Then there’s the issue of what to do. It’s not really a relaxing treatment like a massage. Do I make small talk? Do I flip through magazines? Hum along to Enya? What do I say or not say? “Gosh, could you dremel the heels a little more?” It makes me uncomfortable.

Third, I have very ticklish feet. A pedicure inevitably has me shrieking and giggling, when she is removing dead skin. Then I am apologetic-probably too apologetic, but it really is embarrassing. I jerk around like a fish on a line, dug in with my hands and head, trying not to move. It makes me feel like a big old freak. Sure, the pedicurist may have seen worse, but I still feel bad for her.

I also end up tipping probably over-generously. I end up wondering if the pedicurist survives on tips like waitresses, or if she is sending money back home. And then I feel like even more of a classist chump, because what if all my assumptions are false?

On the other hand, my feet look great.

7 Comments to “Spring’s Afoot.”

  1. By Stephanie, May 16, 2010 @ 10:04 am

    All of this and more, but I do love to get pedicures. I feel totally classist sitting in there, leafing through a stupid magazine, but in the end, my feet look and feel brand new and that is a good feeling. I always tip well. That makes me feel better.

  2. By liz, May 16, 2010 @ 10:16 am

    That’s why I tip well as well. It’s still uncomfortable, though.

  3. By Beth, May 16, 2010 @ 9:48 pm

    Manicurists/pedicurists have to take some training. I suppose they get paid less than hair dressers and the amount they’re paid would depend on the salon. If you’re paying high end prices for the work, they probably earn more. They also get tipped better. I always tip my hair dresser, I tip for maicures and pedicures too, usually 20%.

    I understand the discomfort and problem feeling classist. Sometimes I soothe myself about it all by considering that I am helping to provide a living.

    I have recently been having long conversations with a friend who is one of those who has money. She certainly earned her high salary, working 18 hour days and never taking time off. She has two Masters degrees which she worked hard to get and which she had to pay for. They helped her get that job.
    However, she is white, North American, and comes from an educated family. She certainly had advantages that those manicurists will never know.
    She is also continually feeling guilty for having, and ends up being used by others who know how to manipulate her guilt.
    What is the answer to the unfairness of those who have and those who have not? I’ve considered this question for years and years. I think that your pedicure is just the tip of a much bigger question.

  4. By Liz, May 16, 2010 @ 11:30 pm

    The White Middle Class Guilt. Is it the New Black?

    I’m only kidding a little bit. It seems pervasive. Why feel guilty for the set of circumstances I had no control over? I was born into a middle class family in the middle-end of the 20th Century, in a First World country, where I have had the agency to get (an often superfluous) education, have my concerns heard, choose my religion, political and sexual orientation, and career. And yet, I am uncomfortable with the unfairness. There’s a lot to ponder there.

    Also, I go to the high end salons. They are the ones who take the time to use a power tool on my feet. Again with the gross conundrum.

  5. By clara, May 17, 2010 @ 1:58 pm

    Look at dental hygienists. Jesus! What a job! They don’t get tips.

    I don’t think of it as white middle class guilt as much as an awareness that not everyone grows up with the same set of circumstances, not everyone is as fortunate as you in some respects. You have empathy for people. It doesn’t stop you from paying someone to apply a power tool to your feet – nor should it, I don’t think. But you are at least aware that that person may or may not be enjoying herself.

    There are hundreds of people to whom that just would not occur.

    You could probably also buy a power tool of your own and do your own feet? (sounds fun, actually)

  6. By clara, May 17, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

    Oh and also? I don’t have the same foot issues or anything like guilt but I don’t have nearly as many body-service-type things done because of the small talk. I feel obliged to make it but I hate it.

    I would get my hair cut 8x as often if it wasn’t for the small talk.

  7. By Liz, May 17, 2010 @ 10:01 pm

    You could pretend to be a nun under a vow of silence?

    I like my empathy, even if it makes things uncomfortable for me.

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