Dianne had a certain look in her eye. She’d been shepherding and essentially babysitting our group around Tibet for two weeks, and as a result we had effectively managed to fray her last nerve. Our location at the time was Kangding, a surprisingly large city located in a valley of the Tibetan Plateau.
Dianne put her hands on her hips. “I need a pedicure. Who wants to go with me to see if such a thing exists in this city?” The other three women in our group declined, so Dianne’s gaze turned to me. I smiled sheepishly. “Sure, I’ll go with you. But in full disclosure I need to tell you that I’ve never had a pedicure before.”
The women in the room fell silent for a moment. Apparently they were deciding which rock I had recently climbed from beneath. Dianne broke the spell. “What do you mean you’ve never had a pedicure?”
“Well, I just… haven’t. I guess I feel like I need to earn it or something.” More silent gaping from the women.
Dianne cocked her head a bit. “Are you a woman who lives on the face of this earth?”
“Yeeeesss,” I responded slowly. Where was she going with this?
“Then you deserve pedicures, manicures, and massages. It’s part of existing as a woman.”
I absorbed that ideology, and tucked it away for future reflection.
While we wandered around the city Dianne shared with me that on a previous trip through Kangding she ventured into a salon and asked to have her hair dyed. Normally she’s a brunet, but the language thing went awry and she emerged as a flaming red head. Tears did little to wash out the fire reflected in her tresses. I admired her spirit and willingness to test pedicure possibilities after that fiasco.
Alas, Dianne and I were not able to find a pedicure on that day, but I have happy memories of her waggling her bottle of nail polish at potential pedicurists while attempting to break the language barrier. Mostly we were met with laughter as she pointed at the polish, then at her toes, and then at the salon employees. It quickly became obvious they wanted no part of painting toes.
Fast forward one year. I still hadn’t taken the “woman of the world” plunge and claimed my right to a pedicure…or manicure. (And now that I think about it, massages have been as scarce as truth in an election year too. Humph.) On a whim I called a local shop last Friday and asked to schedule a pedicure. The gentleman I spoke with was gifted with a thick Asian accent. “What time you want?” he said.
“Um, 10 a.m.?” I said, having no clue what their hours were.
“We see you then.”
“But wait! Don’t you want my name or phone number?” There was an almost audible sigh.
“Gail,” I said.
“We see you then.” Click.
I arrived at five minutes before ten and the shop was still locked and dark inside. A few women began milling around the door, looking impatient and checking watches. A van pulled up. Two men and four women exited and unlocked the shop door. The other women and I entered the building like a herd of colorless beige beings. Now what? I needed guidance.
I told a worker that I had an appointment for a pedicure, my first ever. Somehow I’d hoped that would garner a hand-holding experience. It didn’t happen. I stood awkwardly waiting to be claimed by one of the workers as the other clients happily descended into chairs.
I heard a voice say, “Pick a shade.” Looking around I noted a woman nodding at the display of nail polish. Obediently I made my selection and once again felt foolishly alone. After a few minutes a female worker said, “Sit.” I shrugged my confusion. “Sit where?” She pointed at a chair in the corner with a wash basin-type thing in front. I liked the chair. It had a massager built in and once my pedicurist punched a few buttons, I jiggled in multiple places.
For the most part the conversation between me and my pedicurist was limited. Her accent was thick, and my translation skills were thin. I told my husband before I left home I hoped I wouldn’t nod “yes” during a moment of misunderstanding and find I’d agreed to a Brazilian body wax. I suspect I came close because somehow I ended up with decorations on my big toes for ten dollars extra. Which smile and nod was that?
The pedicure was an experience. I didn’t feel pampered so much as tugged through the process, but maybe next time I’ll be a better customer because now I have a clue as to what goes on. In the meantime my toes look pretty and I smile when I wear sandals.
Perhaps Dianne was on to something when she said pedicures are a woman’s right in this world. Maybe I am worth a dollop of pampering now and then. However, getting a Brazilian, miscommunication or not, may take a bit more convincing on my part.