Friday, January 20, 2006

Walking for Miles in My Pedicure

T writes:
i got a manicure today to prepare for [my interview] and after the lady finished, she turned on ricky martin and started hula hooping with a rainbow hoop 'for exercise' which was the only thing she said to me other than 'cut cuticle?' (no) 'you pay now?' (yes) and 'one coat or two?' (two) all the while jabbering away to her buddy."

I'm giving both my feet a rest from the
subtly progressive cruelty of salon pedicures, and letting them run wild for as long as it takes to get them back to square one -- oh yes, indeed!

pictures from the Chitresh Das Company(above)
and from (below)

Years ago, I used to learn Kathak Dance. Over one summer in particular, I learned, among other things, that continually spinning twenty-seven times in one spot on Venetian Red Portland Cement floors while wearing as many kilos of brass bells (ankle weights) as your Kathak Master and his art require can make your feet get defensive and try to turn into hooves.

Some time before then, my father had brought me my first Credo planer from Germany, just like the one above. That summer, I started to use it - timidly at first, then growing bolder. My mother maintained that I had the feet of a football player, which I couldn't qute visualize, functionally speaking. Would that actually have been a barefoot soccer player, I wondered, and if so, why would the design of my toes in particular be more useful, say, than her own? Was it that I had my father's feet, and ought to be playing soccer instead? That didn't seem to suit. Being primed in two ways, and having the tool close to hand, I quickly saw that the solution lay in planing down my feet into something more balletic -- so I became an adept.

pictures from

During the ascendancy of the callus planer in New York City over the ensuing decades, I believed myself to be very much ahead of the curve. No matter how many dire warnings I saw posted in the nail salons, I insisted on handling the planer myself, to the tittering astonishment of some pedicurists and the respectful understanding of others. Entire salons accepted my privileged, off-the-record relationship with the most threatening item among their paraphernalia. Then, I let things get out of hand. I started allowing people I hardly knew to cut my cuticles. Now, a cuticle lies over the nailplate for a reason-- it protects the matrix from infection and small animals. See for yourself in the diagram above. Pushing it back to make the nail bed look longer separates the cuticle from the nail plate, Should this occur without any help from a pedicurist, it would be cause for alarm. Adding injury to insult, nibbling at the edges with clippers leaves very little and very ragged cover for the matrix at all.

The problem with letting strangers approach your somewhat roughened and desensitized skin with sharp objects, while you bury you nose in a magazine and turn on the electric massager of the Comfy Chair, is that you really don't know what's going down. It took me a while to realize that people had been chipping away at the tops of my other toes with cuticle clippers and progressively digging into my nail folds (and by these means producing an onycholisis on each side with toe nail nippers -- a precondition to paronychia) for aesthetic reasons best known to themselves. Since it was all covered up by the polish of my choice afterwards, and I never watched when the polish got removed the next time around, the existing damage that was uncovered each time must have been a clear and cheerful invitation to even more of the same type of assault.

Podiatrists and Chiropodists hardly ever venture into the art of pedicure, unless glossy magazines interview them about extreme pedicures, otherwise known as surgery, but your garden variety pedicurist will seldom hesitate to rush right in -- is the sad fact. Sadder still, most pedicurists don't see any purpose to the bits that stand in the way of the ideal look they have in mind. Plus, like waiters at many restaurants, they are supposed to sell up their services ("Cut cuticle? No? Awwww.....just push back? Tsk-tsk-tsk-tsk....").

Eighteen months ago, I visited a salon that ran babbling fountains and humidifiers in soothing, dimly rainbow-lighted semi-darkness, while New Age music played softly, and downlights, luxuriously restricted to the foot area of the reclining chairs, made the proceedings invisible to all but the pedicurists. Not to blame it entirely on atmosphere, I confess that by this time my toes were veering slightly inwards in pre-bunion displacement. I don't blame myself too much for this. Except for the spate of square-toed shoes a few years ago, there aren't many shoes that are actually made to accomodate feet. I mean, how many women-- and this is not true of men's shoes-- have their longest toes in the middle?

Photo by Paula Gramlich

So okay, my big toes were getting skewed because which woman can get by without ever wearing even thesimplest pumps once in a while? That day, I had worn sandals with a peeping toes arrangement at the front. When I was all done and merrily stepping out into the afternoon sun, I saw, to my great amazement and dismay, that the nail beds of my big toes had been turned on the diagonal by the simple expedient of gouging back and and slicing off only the inside (arch side) corners of the cuticles and cutting the nails on the diagonal as well, parallel to the reformed cuticle line. Peeking through the cut out bit at the top of my sandals, the nails apeared to compensate for my peri-bunion situation and grow straight ahead, at least in terms of my sandals. Of course, as soon as I took them off, this gave the lie to the illusion, and it ws clear that I now had more or less diamond-shaped toenails, relative to the orientation of my toes. I confess I struggled for a year to get other and different pedicurists to correct my outrageous misfortune, under my own stern micro-management and steady complaint, before I saw a lot of other terrible things also going on with my feet. Then, I decided to learn to love salicylic acid and pumice stones, and went On Vacation From Pedicures Altogether...

hulahoopgirl from


Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home