Confession time: I can be kind of a jerk. I don’t mean to be, but sometimes I just blurt out something stupid and then realize it was mean and that I shouldn’t have said it, and then I obsess about it for days afterwards. I wish the embarrassment I felt after the fact prevented me from saying the dumb thing in the first place, but it never does.
Summer of 2010 was a very stressful time for us. It was the third summer trying to sell our house in Ohio after we moved to Utah. Our renter had moved out, so the house sat empty and we were trying to take care of it from miles away and keep up with two house payments. We were pretty much at the end of our rope, financially and emotionally. That’s not an excuse for me being a jerk, but it does explain where my mind was almost all of the time.
I was at an event at our church and was making small talk with the other women at my table. One of my neighbors said, “Hey, if you’re interested, there’s a really great deal this month on glitter toes!” I asked her what glitter toes were and she explained it was a new kind of pedicure. Since I was already feeling emotionally frayed, I responded with a very bitey “Oh. That is soooooo not a priority for me right now.” See? I am a total jerk.
Of course I felt terrible about it later and the more I obsessed about it, I realized the worst part wasn’t just what I said and how I said it, but it was that I seemed to think I was somehow above pedicures. As I told a friend later, I don’t have any room to judge how someone else wants to splurge. Just because glitter toes wouldn’t be my preference if I had an extra 20 bucks, that doesn’t mean that my plate of Spaghetti Factory’s Manager’s Favorite with meat sauce and browned butter and mizithra is any more noble. We all have our own little ways to treat ourselves. Mine centers around feeding my face instead of making myself look prettier. Do I really think that’s so much better than others’ choices?
I’m not really into gussying up. It seems like a whole lot of work to me, and I often delay showering because I dread having to do my hair again. I think that to say I’m low maintenance would be misleading. More like sub-maintenance or below-average maintenance. I’ve always loved Marmie’s advice in Little Women because it has given me a more elevated justification for my aversion to primping:
If you feel your value lies in being merely decorative, I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that’s all that you really are. Time erodes all such beauty, but what it cannot diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind: Your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage.
Whenever I read that, I could tell myself, “See, I’m not ponytailing it again today because I’m lazy, it’s just that I don’t want to be a shallow person.” And when I heard Julie B. Beck in her 2008 BYU Women’s Conference talk say, “…our pioneer grandmothers did not make the sacrifices they made and come across the plains for us to have better shopping malls, for us to have nicer pedicures, for us to have bigger wardrobes,” I agreed wholeheartedly. But I wonder – if she had been urging me to control my appetite or limit my BBC drama intake – in other words, if she had asked me to give up something I actually enjoyed, would I have been so quick to agree? Probably not. I could just as easily insert “…for us to have online streaming of our favorite shows, for us to have all-you-can-eat Brazilian Barbecue…” It’s obvious that the time I don’t spend in front of the mirror doesn’t translate into time I do spend on the wonderful workings of my mind. I have plenty of my own shallow pursuits.
So this week I went to get a pedicure with my husband’s mom and aunt. It was very relaxing, and I appreciated that the woman doing the pedicure (pedicurist? pedicurate?) didn’t mock me for having gross feet (even if she was thinking it) and didn’t try to make small talk (I hate feeling pressure to chat with strangers when I get my hair cut.) It was fun to hang out with some of my favorite ladies and my feet do look and feel nicer than they did before. (We weren’t quite sure how long we were supposed to stay under these dryer things, though. We were waiting for someone to tell us we could go and I think they were waiting for us to just leave already.)
When I was inspecting my feet afterwards, I noticed two things: 1) I just don’t have attractive feet, and no amount of polish will change that, and 2) I started thinking, “If I had nicer shoes, my feet would look even better,” so it’s a slippery slope…
My preschooler tagged along, and afterwards he requested that I paint his toenails – but blue, you know, since he’s a boy. He had to settle for my sloppy 30-second painting skills and we didn’t even soak his grubby feet first, but he was quite pleased with the result and couldn’t wait to show everyone his sparkly toes.
Would I get a pedicure again? Sure, if a friend wanted to go together, or if I had some very special occasion that called for pretty feet, but am I hooked? No – they’re nice, but not my weakness of choice. I could buy like seven pints of Ben & Jerry’s for what that pedicure cost me.