Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Would You Put Your Feet In Another Woman's Face?

Meltingpot Readers,

I have a confession to make. It took me 20 years before I felt comfortable enough to get a pedicure. Not because I have issues with people touching me, but because I felt too uncomfortable putting my dirty feet in someone else's face. It just felt degrading and disrespectful. And then add to that, the vast majority of the women providing these services wherever I lived, were Asian immigrants who don't speak very much English, which I think compounds the feeling of exploitation.

In the last ten years I've gotten over this conflict of mine. Sort of. I can now get a pedicure, I just feel guilty while it's happening. Suffice it to say I tip really well and I say 'thank you' way too much. And truth be told, I average about one pedicure a year.

So, I've never really met anyone else who feels the same way as I do. As evidenced by the bustling pedicure business and the myriad of women with pretty painted toes. But, I recently shared my feelings with el esposo and guess what he said. "That's the same reason you'll never see me getting my shoes shined. I will never put my feet in another man's face and ask him to clean my shoes. I'll do it myself." And he was quite adamant about it.

So I guess that's why el esposo and I are kindred spirits. We think alike about the things that matter.

So, people. Anybody else out there get a little uncomfortable getting a pedicure? Or a shoe shine? Is this a legitimate concern or are we layering unnecessary emotion on top of a service economy? What do you think? I really want to hear some other opinions.

I'm listening.



erinmichelle said...


Wow, this is a great post, and that's exactly why I follow your blog.

I have to be honest, I love pedicures. And because I'm back in my "poor college years" again, I'm currently budgeting for my next one as we speak. But yes, I too feel guilty about this whole "nail shop" phenomenon. I find it dehumanizing because I believe that the ultimate act of submission is for a person to wash another person's feet. So, like you, I say my fair share of 'thank you's' and 'pleases' to the man or woman painting my toenails. But I still feel a little embarrassed that I like getting pedicures.

Thanks for starting this conversation!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Very interesting post. Reminds of a scene in SATC when Miranda chided Charlotte for saying class does exist. They were having this conversion while getting pedicures.

Living on the East coast I didn't get mani/pedi often but in L.A. and in Rome where the weather is warmer and we wear open toe shoes a lot, it's a must.

The manicurist I went to in L.A. owned a home and charged $65 for a mani/pedi.

My manicurist here lives on my street. I'm the one with the language issue, not her.

I don't see their jobs as degrading.

I think if someone is going to one of those super cheap places where no one speaks English, yes maybe then they are taking advantage of someone in a different social economic situation.

A person who does mani/pedi is no different from a hairdresser or a tailor. Some charge a little, some charge a lot.

Just as I wouldn't roll up at the tailor with B.O., my feet are in pretty good shape (even with all the working out) before I go.

Regarding shining shoes, maybe that's a guy thing? I take my shoes to the cobbler. I used to see shoeshine guys at Grand Central but not really in L.A.

Christian Art and Design said...

totally, I thought I was the only one. I never patronize those places because I always feel like it's something bad going on like these men are taking these women's money. it felt to "massage" parlorish to me. I don't like the vibe and still don't please tell me something different, i will only go to salons in my community where i know people are not being abused and are doing this to make ends me. Sorry you have to school me. it feels like oppression sorry.

LT said...

Thanks. I don't think you should be embarrassed. I think the fact that you think about the other person's perspective is the key.

I totally see your points and agree. When i pay someone more than $50 to paint my toenails, I think I'm the one being taken advantage of!!!! Ha! Just kidding. Sort of.

See it's nice to know we're not alone with our thoughts and beliefs.

The Golden Papaya said...

I feel weird about it too. I don't know if it's about the feet in the face thing. I kind of feel the same way about manicures, too. Not sure why.
I've gotten them once in a while, like once a year or so (they were really cheap in Brazil--even worse, right?).
And it doesn't help that I've heard you can contract hepatitis C from them.

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

Shoe shine experiences, both!

First August 1996, on vacation in New York City, never have been exposed to a shoe shine situation, as we are walking thru Battery Park, an elderly gentleman carrying a wooden box gestures downward and asks quietly if he could help me. I was astounded and mortified to think that someone would do that service for me. I shook my head no and later thought about my instantaneous reaction. Probably the wrong reaction, he for sure could have used the money, and my leather Birkenstocks were dirty and scuffed. After I thought it over I wish I had let him and that would have been better for both of us.

Second experience: 1999 Denver Airport, my connecting flight is delayed so I am killing time in the terminal. There's a shoe shine stand with four of five seats. I look at those same Birkies which probably have not been polished since before the man asked me in NYC three years earlier. So I figure, what the heck? As I am sitting there watching this young woman blow my shoes with a propane torch, another tech says, "Oh how cute, she's wearing her husband's shoes!" OK, yes, they are big feet: women's size 12s but hey, they are Mine!

Since then I have polished my own shoes--lots less fraught!! Thanks for listening...

Regina said...

I was at first... I used to dance and my feet were horrible. But now its a luxury that I love. I'm thinking teal nail polish next time I get one!

Anonymous said...

" but because I felt too uncomfortable putting my dirty feet in someone else's face"

Maybe you feel that way because you get a pedicure once a year. I get one done every month so my feet and nail are in very good shape and I have no embarrassment in getting a pedicure.

The pedicurist is dong his/her job and your embarrassment is actually taking away the dignity of their labor. Your feelings that what you are making them do is dehumanizing is what makes their job degrading.

Please do not feel embarrassed just go get a pedicure and let them earn an honest living.