A Manly Pedi

Stay Civilized, Fellas

I AM NOT AN UNCIVILIZED MAN. Sure, it’s possibly you might find me tinged in auto grease on any given weekend, tinkering with parts of my classic automobile. I like to let my hair grow out a bit past acceptable lengths (by my wife, family and co-workers’ standards). And so on. However, I drink espresso drinks (over plain “coffee”). I go to a salon, not a barber. I’ve even had the occasional pair of denim jeans tailored.

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But until recently, I drew the line at plunking down in a chair and having someone else cut and shape my nails. It seemed gratuitous; not entirely unmanly, but unnecessary.

Men’s magazines (GQ and Esquire come to mind) have pontificated for quite some time on the virtues of “real men” who do partake. Since it’s been fairly commonplace for quite some time, I assumed some consolations had been made to make men feel more at ease with a clip and buff.

I quickly learned that preconceived notions for this grooming adventure would be best left at home. Because in truth-in Hawai’i, anyway-the nail grooming process is unequivocally female oriented. There are no special back rooms with football on a big screen and Coronas in a bucket. But perhaps cleaning up my cuticles would be the gateway into understanding more of the emotions that remain a mystery to the likes of men like me-civilized, yet not without the occasional Big Lebowski-asthe-dude-like qualities.

The buzz around our office was that Nails La Vie in Kahala was “the place” where social-savvy ladies went for “freshening up.” There was even a technician to ask for by name, much like a salon. I was feeling good about having “the in.”

Hearing the Muzak version of Wind Beneath My Wings upon crossing the literal threshold into Nails La Vie wasn’t the most promising start to my manly “pedi.”

In fact, it nearly sent me running for the hills. But Sue approached with a warm “You must be Brian” and led me swiftly past the leering eyes of curious Kahala ladies directly to a comfy looking chair that had steamy water gurgling in a nifty little pool at the base. Within a few moments, I was shoe-and-sockless, hot water leeching the stress out of my feet, while Sue arranged a surgeon’s table of tools within her reach.

Any nerves I had about what was to come next were released as she began massaging my legs (up to the knees). I, for one, subscribe to the notion that anyone willing to rub my over-worked feet deserves a gold star. Thus far, I was enjoying the experience.

Soon after, she removed one foot from its mini-jacuzzi, and set to work. After some initial inspecting-of which I considered all the terrible things my feet have endured over the last few months of beach-going, weed whacking, rock climbing and general manly (or so I kept telling myself) stuff-she began “sanding” my pads with what could only be described as a lemon zester or microplaner, in kitchen-speak. Did I mention I like to cook?

With dead skin removed, it was onto the nails. She manipulated her cuticle scissors and accompanying tools with grace and ease, making harsh edges round, curvy nails flat and so on.

At a few points she did ask (more stated), “Doesn’t hurt, right?” in such a way that, even if it did, I would have been inclined to say “Of course not.” I mean, how manly would it be to respond-we’re within earshot of the whole salon, mind you- that my nail technician “take it easy” on me. Out of the question.

The oddity of someone else plucking and cleaning my nails aside, it was a very pleasurable experience. The conversation was light and enjoyable. Nearly everything she did felt good. Even the barrage of cuticle cleaning I was forewarned about felt like a load was being lifted from my otherwise burdened toes and fingertips.

While attending an event that evening, although I wasn’t expecting the ubiquitous “Oh, you look dapper,” comments that often follow a fresh haircut or particularly close shave, I did notice a refinement in my movements. I felt refreshed. Polished. A tad more refined.

Even though I was (thankfully) able to repress repeating Midler’s crooning, “I can fly higher than an eagle,” I did feel one step closer to understanding what she was getting at.

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