Monday, August 25, 2003

pretty sparkly toes

In contrast to the weekend prior, I was a bit more femme this past weekend. I always love nourishing both the yang and yin parts of me. This weekend is yin.

Had my 10th year high school reunion on Saturday at the Claremont Hotel. I had heard about other people's experiences at reunions and didn't know what to expect. I went to a small Catholic school, you knew everyone in the class.

Anyway, it's a nice opportunity to dress up and have some fun. We couldn't find a place to find get a makeover, but I did live down the street from a nail parlor, "Oriental Nails." As with many nail salons, it was Vietnamese owned and operated. In the same way, many of the African American beauty product stores are owned and operated by Koreans.

I've never had a manicure before, much less a pedicure. So I sit at the foot soaking machine: a chair dangling over a vat of water with bubble jets. The manicurist sits on a stool in front, filing and shaping my toes on one foot while the other soaks. I've known many women who go and get manicures every couple of weeks. The others getting their nails done look like regulars as well. There was also a back room for waxing services. Ouch!

Being a tomboy growing up, I never got into dresses, fashion, makeup, and the like. I don't really know how to "do" any of that stuff. Eventually I picked up a style for myself and now I know what kind of dresses I would look really good in, but I only put on a touch of makeup, have no idea what kind of foundation to pick, but do know the shade of lip color that works well for me.

I got into fingernail polish a few years ago and have several bottles of that along with polish remover, but stopped doing that after my boyfriend, who knows a lot about biology, discussed the kinds of toxins in nail polish and remover. What women do to look beautiful!

One friend recently suggested I might pluck or wax my eyebrows. ouch! I can endure pain, but I don't endure that kind of pain.

In many ways, Filipinos are obsessed with beauty, we love beauty pageants, and gowns. Parents want their children to have more pointed noses and fair fair skin (thank you esquinol). I've for the most part been a rebel to this level of beauty. In high school, I would have liked to been noticed by the guys, but had problems with how much work it took to get that notice so I stayed out of the socializing fray. We all know it's in high school that most girls really learn and obsess over this stuff.

But I think there's a line between pampering oneself to feel good and another to do it cuz well, that's who I think people want me to be. I know women who do the nails, do the plucking, exercise, cover all the bases in terms of getting ready for the guy, yet wonder why they don't have a guy. Sure, women do this to create this illusion the way Hollywood stars do, but we ourselves can't get entranced by it as well. These are not guaranteed means to an end. Yet the world tells us this is so.

So, I'm here, sitting on a chair, my feet soaking in stirring bubbles in a bath below thinking about issues of beauty while the Essence magazine cover implies they know why "he won't marry you" followed by hair and makeup tips for the upcoming season. I must say, soaking tootsies in a warm vat is rather relaxing. Hits all the right pressure points.

The manicurist files away to shape my nails and round them out. She follows with small short clippers tugging away at the dead skin around them. Dead skin is not pretty. The sensation reminded me of the tiny cold water fish in Camiguin that nibbled on your skin if you sat still enough.

A lot of people think toes are ugly, yet they are essential to our being. How do we hate parts of ourselves that are us? I like my toes. I like walking barefoot. Even hiked for two miles on a trail barefoot. It's nice to feel the earth between your toes. There is a gentleman in the chair next to me getting a pedicure. I learn later he's 45, has a son at Tuskeegee and is a nurse. He certainly deserves a pedicure in his line of work being on his feet all day.

Over the bubbling water, she asks, "what race you from?" I ask her to repeat the question having slightly fallen into my own thoughts. "oh," I answer, "Philippines. I'm Filipino."

"ah, yes. Vietnamese and Filipino look lot the same." "yes, we do. We look the same."

She finishes by rubbing oil into my toes, exfoliating my soles (so ticklish), and a bit of a foot massage. The feet are said to contain pressure points for much of the body: organs, lungs, heart, etc. I can feel the rest of my body relax. She puts the foam separators in my toes. I ask her to paint my toes purple. They end up a bright pinkish purple with a shiny coat.

When she's done, I move to another table to get my hands done in the same fashion, while my toes cool in a fan breeze.

I look at my hands and think, "I'm never going to be a hand model." There are rough spots on my knuckles, slightly callused from hitting stuff, lighter colored knife knicks and scars, the vein on the top of my hand raising ever so slightly to show it's shape. My mother told me, it's a sign of tired hands. My fingernails are of uneven length. A hangnail still sits on my thumb. I tend to let them grow until they break. I always wondered if jamming my fingers in basketball ever made them shorter. But I've been told I have fingers the shape of candles, "parang candila" they say. My toes too are long, like my mother's pinching toes that can kurot you as quickly as picking up a fallen napkin from the floor.

I ask the manicurist to paint them red to match my outfit for that night. She finishes by brushing the edges of cuticle with acetone to wipe up the spill over, then leaving me to hold my fingers in the fan.

They're really pretty. All bright and shiny. They don't look like my hands or feet anymore. I try to not touch anything while the nailpolish dries. I feel like I've been pampered. No wonder women do it every 2 weeks or so. I don't think I could afford that, but I can understand why they might want to.

My boyfriend waits for me while reading "Reader's Digest." We have dinner reservations at the Claremont at 6:30p. We figure, might as well enjoy a lovely meal before the reunion just in case, it's boring. You can't go wrong.

Even while typing this blog, I watch my nails dance in and around the black keys. It's funny how fascinated I am by them. I wiggle my toes, watch the light change and sparkle. It's silly really, but fun from something so small.

The next day, my nails survive kali class. I head over to a girlfriend's house that evening, drama with the boyfriend and she needs help packing. We both know that she'll survive this, but its the moment that is hard. While she showers, I tape boxes. The packing tape gets stuck to my nails. I wonder if it'll pull the color right off. dang! When she gets out of the shower, I joke to her and say, "I must really like you, cuz I'm about to ruin my brand new manicure taping up boxes." She's like, "I'm sorry, Girl!" I just smile and laugh, "Just kidding! I can always get another manicure."

I can't get another friend.

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