When I lived in London, I think I could count on one hand (or should that be foot?) the number of times I went for a pedicure. It just didn't seem like a priority, and I only got my nails polished professionally when I was going to a wedding or some other smart event that required more than my own efforts at toenail painting.
But here it is a different story. While I wouldn't say that Long Island mommies are more glamorous than those in London, when it comes to the feet they are decidedly more high maintenance. In spring and summer, everyone sports perfect-looking painted toenails and sleek-looking feet, so if you have chipped nail polish and heels like leather you are definitely going to stand out. Going for a pedicure is also a fairly social activity; many women go with their girlfriends and have a catch-up while they sit there, and you also see mothers and daughters doing it together.
(This may be a sign of the times, but when I was growing up I don’t remember my Mum ever suggesting I went for a manicure or pedicure. Indeed, I'm fairly sure she never went herself; although she was always well-groomed, with nails she filed herself. But now it is quite normal to see mothers dropping off their teenage daughters at the salon – I’ve also seen little girls sitting alongside their mothers having their tiny toenails done.)
So yesterday I took myself off for the first pedicure of the season (no, I don’t do it year-round – what’s the point when your feet are encased in boots all winter?). I’m probably being a bit optimistic because it certainly isn’t sandal weather yet, but it felt like time and, having my first week off work since January and with the Littleboys esconsed in a sports class, I felt perhaps I deserved a touch of pampering.
The nail salon is also a great place for people watching. On a rainy Tuesday morning I was the sole customer (no pun intended), until Sweatpants lady walked in. In many ways she was so typical. Huge cup of Starbucks in one hand, iPhone in the other, dressed in her gym gear. She was midway through a phone conversation as she walked in, and proceeded to chat loudly for the first five minutes while the nice Chinese salon lady waited patiently to ask her what she wanted done. (Nail bars here are always run by Chinese or Koreans).
Sweatpants has a cursory look at the colours on offer and then asks ‘Don’t you do 'Minx'?”. The Salon lady looks blank. “It’s like, a sticker that you stick on. It lasts for two months. It’s so fabulous.” Salon lady shakes her head again. Sweatpants carries on about the wonders of Minx, although quite clearly it isn't on offer, until she runs out of steam. But then: drama! She can’t pick a nail colour. Cue long, long conversation over which colours will last longest. Eventually she picks two colours – plum and silver. “I can’t decide – I’ll decide while I’m sitting here.”
At long last, her pedi begins. But we aren't quite there yet. It’s nearly time for the colour to be applied. Then she looks up. “Did I see ALL the new colours?” she asks. The nail lady shrugs and gestures back to the shelf where she had spent at least 10 minutes. “Oh, I didn’t see those ones round there!” she exclaims. And she leaps up, mid foot-scrub, to take another look.
I left the salon at this point, so I’m afraid to say I can’t reveal what colour she went for in the end. But I did wonder if she made the right decision. And I'd also love to know what the salon staff (who have a habit of talking very fast in Chinese while glancing furtively at you, which convinces me they're sharing how appalled they are by the state of my feet) had to say about it......