by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse
On Tuesday, I walked half a block from my office to get a manicure/pedicure. I had a gift certificate that I figured that I’d put to good use, especially considering that my nails were chewed down from a combination of stress resulting from the month-end close and my anticipation regarding delegate count announcements on CNN. That and my cuticles looked more like razed cornfields than supportive flesh thanks to my having recently moved to a new apartment. I was a hot mess, and I needed help instantly.
When I arrived at the spa, I thanked my lucky stars for the opportunity to have some time away from my corporate sweatshop, but felt that I might have stepped into another one—though this time, the roles were reversed. I was in charge. In some weird S&M-like twist of fate, the spa had transported me into another world, where dozens of women were present to meet my every need if I just asked, even if they could barely understand a word I said. My vocabulary for the hour was restricted solely to beautification terms, and little else could be said without getting lost in translation. My spa break had given me yet another reason to bite my nails.
On the one hand, I love being pampered, but on the other, I’m the type who would be likely to clean my house from top to bottom before the maid came, if you know what I mean. I say only possess what you could properly take care of on your own. It’s a personal philosophy I try to live by—one that inevitably haunts me whenever I walk into a spa. A terrible disease I have called OverThink takes over, making it hard for me to enjoy myself at time because I am constantly thinking that I should have run the blade a little closer to the skin on my left leg as to not annoy the masseuse or that I should have scrubbed my right heel a little harder in the shower this morning so that the pedicurist wouldn’t end up with huge biceps on account of all the elbow grease she had to apply to my feet.
But when I returned to work that day, with Essie-adorned fingers and toes, I realized I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Other co-workers expressed feeling a similar anxiety when going for spa treatments, and just like me, the pedicure was sometimes the hardest part to endure. There was just something odd about having a woman nearly beneath you in a hunched position treating your toes as if they were solid gold, staring at you in feigned adoration as you massaged lotion in your calves, your conversations limited to “hard?” or “soft?” and “same color for your manicure?” At the epicenter of comfort, something placed us in a state of unease. Though being pleased, we felt a discomfort based on class, race, age, and/or language barriers, when applicable, that placed us in a position of power we hadn’t earned. Though in our discussions, my workmates and I agreed that it was the physical positioning of a pedicure that bothered us, we knew it went deeper than that, we just weren’t sure exactly how to say it.
i know this sounds weird, but something just doesn’t sit well with me having someone black give me a pedicure. as far as portland goes, i haven’t seen any other pedicure salons with black people actually doing the pedicures . it would just make me feel weird and i’m not sure exactly why. something about it seeming like servant type work makes it seem awkward for someone black to be serving me like that. like i’m being a house negro or something . . . i wonder if anyone else feels this way or if i’m just cookoo.
In several of the comments, readers complained that the author was being overly analytical about the situation or that she was too focused on race, but in my response, I attempted to expand the author’s thoughts by incorporating history: Read the Post Pampered Guilt: With Spa Treatments, Is There More Than What Meets the Eye?