"At that point I wanted to tell you to leave because I could tell you truly were disturbed by my feet." -- Shonali B. on J.L. Sirisuk witnessing her pedicure
It was on the eve of my Bollywood music video debut that I started to have thoughts about my feet, which was strange. I rarely think about them. In fact, I am guilty of neglect. I use a long handled scrub brush to reach my feet in the shower and the very thought of coming into contact with my feet for more than a few seconds, makes me want to run aimlessly. "What about clipping your toenails?" I was asked this past weekend. I explained that it's like going to the bathroom -- you just do what you have to do without much emotional consideration and then get on with your life.
Anyway, it was the eve of my Bollywood music video debut. To prepare, I watched YouTube videos of professionals and noticed something that gave me pause. Having focused so hard on the subtle art of shoulder shakes, I had failed to appreciate the technically impressive footwork. Those feet, so bare and vulnerable! I had to stop mid-spin to reflect. "Can I do this?" I asked myself. That night, I went to my friend Shonali's apartment to try on outfits for her music video. "I need to get a pedicure for tomorrow. Wanna come?" she asked, and I felt my throat tighten. As we entered the salon, I was asked if I wanted a pedicure. "Maybe later," I said, and sat near Shonali as she proceeded to have her feet touched. During our banter, I observed how calmly she sat there, carrying on without a break in conversation while her toes were being rubbed.
I thought I mainly held a disdain towards my own feet, but I was wrong. On the day of the music video shoot, I saw feet of all shapes and sizes and they all unnerved me equally. During breaks, as people sat barefoot or in sandals, I put on my socks and boots. I focused on my hand moves and tried not to look down, even when I forgot what direction to move my feet in. As a child, fire ants once attacked my feet and I started to jump up and down. "I thought you were just doing a dance to make me laugh," my mother later explained. But I am straying from what happened next.
Weeks after the music video shoot, something came to me in the night. I tend to make my best decisions in the middle of the night after a bottle of wine or some Glenmorangie. I decided to do something incredibly brave. I decided to get a pedicure. I did not trust myself to follow through with this act of bravery and needed someone to join me in case I tried to run. I needed moral support. I needed a trainer, like the one in Rocky. "Nick used to box, he has that fighting spirit," I thought, and he agreed to come and get a pedicure as well. If Nick was Mickey Goldmill then I had to accept that this made me Rocky. After all, Rocky and I do share similar attributes including courage and a fondness for red headbands. On the big day, there was no drinking of raw eggs, but there was some drinking of whiskey. "Fall," I said aloud as I walked over metal cellar doors on the sidewalk. Nick reminded me that falling wasn't going to get me out of this. When we arrived, I was immediately asked to choose a nail polish color. "Transparent," I said, as if this would make the ordeal go by quicker.
I put my feet in the warm blue water, which felt relaxing. "Maybe this isn't so bad," I smugly told myself. But then the massage chair started to push me forward quite aggressively while Isabelle the pedicurist proceeded to touch my feet. Such a sensation! I squirmed and turned my body to the right and saw Nick's inquisitive expression as he stared at my feet and watched the unfolding discomfort. "Don't look," I said, shielding his eyes while I looked away from my own feet and awful sock tan. "But you need to look,'" he reminded me. "You have to see this." So I did, and I saw the disturbing image of my big toenail being clipped while Isabelle the pedicurist laughed. When it was time for the cuticles, I nearly fell over in my chair and looked over at a girl with bright pink toenails who seemed entirely confused. Nick aka Mickey Goldmill, on the other hand, was slouched in his chair, smiling with his eyes closed. Isabelle the pedicurist was touching my feet in ways that I could never touch my own flesh, reaching corners where I had never known sensations to exist. These new feelings were terrifying and brought about an irrational discomfort. "Don't touch the remote," I was told as I tried to ease the punching sensation, feeling overheated as the chair thrust me forward. "Relax your feet," I was continuously told. Even my feet had anxiety! The godforsaken pumice stone -- this was the moment when I nearly kicked up my feet and ran. I turned to my right and held onto the arm of the chair as if preventing myself from being blown away, shielding Nick's eyes from the terror. "Don't look," I repeated, but he could see between my fingers. I then turned to my left, where a girl drying her mint green nails asked concernedly what was happening, to which I replied very quietly, "Just getting a pedicure."
The women were staring as if witnessing shock therapy, but they also smiled ever so slightly. "I'm here for emotional support," I suddenly overheard Nick aka Mickey Goldmill say to the girl next to him and my eyelids began to itch. I turned to Nick and found him slouched down even further in his massage chair, his glasses starting to slip down the bridge of his nose while he smiled widely like a man on a beach with sunshine on his face and a margarita in his hand. I wanted to kick up my feet and run aimlessly into the street and into the night, with or without transparent colored toenails. I felt slightly dehydrated after my act of bravery and, although I remain confident that I will never put myself through this again, I did experience a certain odd sensation of camaraderie, a strange feeling of connection. Through my observation of everyone in the salon as their expressions changed from confusion to amusement, I felt them recognize vulnerability in my irrational discomfort while I simultaneously laughed and broke out into a sweat.
It is the middle of the night as I complete my pedicure reflections and yet again the hour of making new decisions, even ones that seem ridiculous or uncomfortable. It was La Rochefoucauld who wrote that "Behind many acts that are thought ridiculous there lie wise and weighty motives" and yes, I do sometimes fancy myself a reincarnated French philosopher, but that's another story.
*Please note that everyone at the music video shoot had lovely feet -- exquisitely gorgeous feet. In fact, they still possess remarkable feet.