Putting your best foot forward

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Back in the day, my heels were ashy. My big toe was calloused. My toenails didn't just have ridges, those were buttes.

Then, one day, prompted by my cheap nature combined with a Christmas gift certificate, I entered my first nail salon and a new world of foot beauty.

Even though, when I asked her how long it would take to get my feet in shape, the nail technician said, "Honey, Rome wasn't built in a day," I kept coming back.

These days, I go to an Asian-owned nail salon near my apartment. A language barrier prevents hateful comments about my feet, or at least ones I can understand.

I'm in there once or twice a month, picking out my winter reds or summer pinks, enjoying my mechanical back massage while a small but wiry person feeds my will to wear open-toed shoes.

The people are very friendly and the pedicures are great, but I'm beginning to notice subtle differences in my treatment versus the pretty young things who make up the rest of the clientele.

First of all, the staff is all female except for one studious-looking (i.e. nerdy) young man and one extremely hot young man. He's the Jet Li of acrylic nails, only taller and without killing anyone -- at least, not in the salon. The way he slides that white lab coat over his bronzed, rippling biceps ...

... but I digress.

The nail salon process is you walk in, put your name on a list and then sit in the waiting area until your name is called. The next staff member freed up looks at the list and calls the next person on it.

I swear to you, if I'm next on the list, a skinny blonde is sitting next to me and Mr. Hot Nail Tech is available, he skips me to get to the skinny blonde. I'm not sure how he knows my name. Perhaps he instinctively realizes that I couldn't possibly be "Brittani" or "Chelsi." Inevitably, after a short debate in Vietnamese, an older woman fixes on her nicest grin, walks over and says, "You ready for pedicure?"

I've also noticed that I'm the only one who gets the heel shave. (Or, as my nail tech always puts it, "You want shave skin?") This device literally shaves off layers of dead skin like lemon zest.

But the worst humiliation was Sunday, when my feet were so horrible that the staff tag-teamed me. Right after the older woman vigorously shaved my heels, she wiped her sweaty brow and called over another staff member, shared a good laugh and handed me off.

Sure, I'm suspicious about my treatment and what's being said in there, but I tipped $5 anyway.

Hey, once you've had shaved heels, you can't go back.

Heidi Hall is a former managing editor of the Southeast Missourian who now lives in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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