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Me, My Feet and I

Freshly Painted Toes, Ottawa, June 2012

I don’t have a foot fetish. Quite the opposite, actually: I have never liked my feet much. For a start, I have big feet: I’m a size 10 in Canada. Sure, I’m also 5’7 so it’s quite unlikely I would be comfortable walking around with size 6 feet but still, I’ve always wanted to have cute little feet.

And not only my feet aren’t supermodel size, they aren’t molded to fit in stilettos or whatever expensive fancy shoes women are supposed to like. Honestly, I have no idea how other women manage to slide their feet into these pointy shoes. Don’t they have toes that get hopelessly squished? Don’t they feel pain?

I like wearing comfortable shoes, and that’s my downfall. A long long time ago, back when I was a teen, a snotty salesperson stared at the scattered shoeboxes around me and sighed: “If you keep on wearing shoes made for walking, you will never fit into real women’s shoes later on. Your feet will expand,” she added, tsk-tsking all she could, “and your toes will be used to way too much wiggle room.”

I glanced at her feet, squeezed into what seemed to be size 3 stilettos. “I’ll take this pair of Doc Marten’s shoes, thanks.”

Sometimes you just have to decide what it is worth to be self-conscious about. My feet? Not so much.

So yes, maybe my toes were given too much freedom, and maybe my feet are too large for fancy “Sex in the City” pairs of shoes. But hey, at least I don’t spend a week’s salary on Manolo Blahnik designer shoes. And I can actually walk around without being in pain.

Since I started to appreciate my feet, I figured they deserved something nice. Like a pedicure.

I had never heard of pedicure services when I lived in France. I might have read about it in Cosmopolitan or Biba, but I thought such luxuries were only offered in fancy beauty salons in Paris.

When I came to Canada, I realized a lot of women were actually getting pedicures. When I was a French teacher, most of my female students celebrated spring and summer with a fresh coat of polish professionally applied. “You should try it!” they encouraged me. “Pedicures are great!”

The only thing that was holding me back was the price. My students were going to one of the many spa places on Bank Street, and apparently a pedicure was about $60 plus the goddam compulsory tip.

So I waited, saved and eventually booked my pedicure appointment.

The experience? Not that great actually. My toes looked great and everything but I found the whole process awkward. It’s hard not to make conversation when you are lying on a table and someone is cutting your nails—unlike when you get a massage (where silence is expected for a relaxing experience) or a haircut (where the loud hairdryer saves you from too much conversation), you have no excuse to avoid the obligatory small talk.

At the end of the hour-long experience, my feet looked good but it really wasn’t worth the money spent. I chalked it up to experience and moved on.

That is, until I discovered nail bars a few years later.

See, getting a pedicure in a spa is a bit of a waste, when you can have your feet (and hands) done for much cheaper at a nail bar.

A nail bar is usually a small room with a row of pedicure chairs and a row of manicure tables. Such places are always busy with walk-in customers in need of some pampering—these are informal places, no need to make an appointment. The staff is typically Asian, often Vietnamese in Ottawa. Best of all: they charge much less than so-called “Spa pedicures”, usually around $28.

As soon as you step in, you pick a nail polish (on display on the wall) and sit in one of the pedicure massage chairs, feet in warm bubbly water. You can grab a stack of silly magazines—People or other gossip rags—the talking will be minimal. At most, the staff say will say “feet in water”, “feet out of water” or “colour okay?”

And you sit there for an hour or so, while your nails are cut, cuticles are gently pushed, dead skin is rubbed off, feet are exfoliated, legs are massaged and a fresh coat of nail polish is applied. Then you have to let it dry—an exercise in patience.

I love getting pedicures in this kind of informal environment, and I treat myself to one every month or so. Best pampering for the price.

And it made me appreciate my feet, so that’s therapy… right?

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