Monday, June 27, 2011

Mr. Miyagi and the Painful Pedicure

It has been way too long, my Dear Readers. But I have a tale that is itching to be told this morning so I have returned to you for a brief visit. I say brief because I don't want to overwhelm myself with too much commitment, or I will quit before I even start the telling. I have discovered that I am a writing commitment-phobe. I am glad this affliction doesn't extend to my interpersonal relationships because I can see how frustrating it must be to always have the urge to walk away. Not because the relationship is bad; in fact, it can be quite fulfilling and wonderful. Just because staying is scary. Franklin D. Roosevelt said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. I have begun examining this theory to see if there is truth in it for me personally or not. Perhaps I shall delve into this in a later post...(or maybe not). See? Too much talk of future writing forces me to add parentheses to my sentences.


Each summer my family vacations in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina for two weeks. I have been fortunate enough to partake of this tradition since it began when I was two. Though we all overpack, we rarely do much more than go to the beach, the pool, and the local bar that serves the best burgers that you could ever taste. We are currently one week in on this year's sojourn, and my pregnant sister-in-law Lisa and I decided that we must find a place to get a pedicure. Lisa is unable to paint her toenails due to her bump* and I never turn down the opportunity to get this lovely treatment. I located a nail salon in the plaza down the street and we arrived just in time to get the last appointments of the day.

We decided that we'd also get manicures and were ushered by an older Asian gentleman to our luxury recliner massage chairs. These swiveling La-Z-boys** are perched above welcoming foot baths filled with swirling blue-ish water. We sat and I immediately grabbed the remote that activates all of the massage options to make sure it was turned off. Anyone who knows me well can testify that I detest the concept and the feeling of massage for the following reasons:

1. I don't like getting nakey and being told to get under a warm blanket by a stranger.
2. I don't like having said stranger put oil on me and lovingly knead my flesh.
3. I feel silly listening to a recording of waves crashing, birdsong, and gongs.
4. It hurts!

This aversion also extends to chair massagers, which always seem to feel like painful punches that one can direct to specific areas of the upper and lower body. No thank you.

My pedicurist turned out to be the older gentleman, and I was instantly chagrined. As a rule, I stay away from male pedicurists. For whatever reason, I feel uncomfortable, and the leg massages are usually too painful. As he began my treatment, I quickly determined that this pedicure was going to be more like a painful boot camp; my feet were going to get whipped into shape by a humorless drill sergeant. He smacked my foot or leg each time he wanted me to switch. He relentlessly tore at my cuticle and sandpapered my nails with his buffer. All of this was administered with the scary detachment of one who has done this task so many times that it's second nature. I began to see him as my personal Mr. Miyagi***. A firm teacher, with impressive results. At this point, I was fearful of the upcoming massage.

To distract myself, I began to pay attention to the goings on in the nail salon. Lisa also had a male technician, and there was one other female employee present. There was also a tiny, adorable little girl running around a little bit. I quickly determined that this was a family-run business; Mr. Miyagi was the father of Lisa's tech, who was married to the female employee.

As my torture continued, their little girl became antsy, and began to interrupt Lisa's pedicure by trying to climb on her father's lap. He successfully shooed her away but she quickly began fussing and trying to crawl under her mother's work station. Both of her parents were attempting to get her to behave in soothing dulcet tones. This was completely ineffective, of course, even in another language. As the little girl began fussing more earnestly, I noticed that Mr. Miyagi was getting irate. He didn't like the disruption. Seconds later he snapped. He twisted to face the little girl and reprimanded her in the exact same voice I have heard my own father use with my daughter, nieces, and nephew countless times. Sharp, authoritative, and final. The little girl immediately quieted, and began to behave herself.

At this point I realized that the watered down parenting that my generation is currently administering has permeated other cultures as well. No one wants to be firm anymore, in fact, it is looked down upon. But a firm tone can work wonders. Problem solved, Mr. Miyagi returned his attention to my wayward feet.

He drizzled cotton candy-pink lotion down both of my shins and began the dreaded massage. He snaked his fingers repeatedly up and down the sides of my shin bone, applying an incredible amount of pressure. It hurt like the dickens. Next he kneaded, kneaded, kneaded my calf muscle. This too, quite painful. But the piece de resistance was yet to come. Once all the kneading was finished, Miyagi picked up my foot and made eye contact with me for the first time. He then pressed into the middle of the ball of my foot. Hard. So hard in fact that I wondered if he was using a sharp object. As he continued to stare me down, he pushed deeper and harder into my foot. The white hot pain was almost unbearable and in my agony I began to wonder if he was trying to hit my reset button or exorcise a demon. I wondered if riding the wave of pain was going to take me to an unknown, utopian state.

I tried to maintain my dignity and a stiff upper lip but I had to shift in my chair and steel myself to bear it. He kept staring at me and I wondered if I was passing his test or if I was a weakling in his eyes. Probably the latter. He eventually released my foot and it throbbed as it resided on the foot rest for the remainder of the pedicure. Unfortunately, I knew that my poor left foot was now going to receive the same treatment. The pain began for lefty, and again culminated in the eye-contact ball push. Yikes.

Finally, it was time for polish, glittery gold as you can see. I figure it'll look good peeking out of the sand. Miyagi did an expert job on the polishing front, for which I was grateful. Once I got away from the suffering, I felt as if I had accomplished something by being able to endure the experience without whimpering. I've been told one feels the same after Bikram yoga. Opting to embrace this theory, I decided that the pedicure was my form of exercise for the day.

Lisa told me that her tech was too soft, and that her massage was ineffective. Much like his parenting technique, I suppose. If I had to choose between the two, I suppose I would go with Mr. Miyagi, because he definitely got the job done. However, methinks we will try a different place should we get the urge again in the future.

As of now, I have not experienced any utopia due to the ball press. I'm disappointed. My feet are sore, too, and I swear I'm receiving phantom pains even now from the middle of my foot-balls.

My luxury vehicle clearly rejects Mr. Miyagi's reflexology.

*Baby bump is a gross phrase.
**La-Z-Boy has the most ridiculous brand name and spelling ever.
***It should go without saying that no offense is meant by using the name Mr. Miyagi, yet I feel compelled to say I mean no offense. :)