During our annual visit to family to Santiago, Chile at Christmastime, my niece Luciana, my sister-in-law, Haydee, and I treated ourselves to mani-pedis. Being spring/summer in the southern hemisphere, their feet were already used to showing themselves off in sandals. My feet, on the other hand, had been hiding out in boots in an unusually rainy autumn/winter in California and were grateful for the soaking, exfoliation, and massaging they were getting.
When it was time for the polish, I asked for blue. I had never tried it, thought it would be fun, and would elicit comments of admiration. “Wow! Blue polish. How cool!” People would say.
“Yes,” I would beam, “isn’t it outrageously fun?”
The pedicurist looked at me as though she didn’t understand my Spanish. “Que color?” she asked.
“Azul,” I replied.
She said nothing but turning away disappeared behind a curtain. She came back with a color chart which she handed to me. There wasn’t a single shade of blue. I was disappointed. “No blue?” I asked.
“Lo siento. No hay azul, señora, she said emphasizing the señora to make sure I understood that she disapproved of my request. “Hay solamente estes colores,” she continued.
“I see. What about orange?”
“I want orange toooooo,” interrupted a giggling Luciana who held onto the ‘ooooo’ to make her point.
Together, we scanned the selection. There were pinks, reds, and corals, but no real orange. In the end we chose something called watermelon, an orangey-red color. Once applied it looked bright and clean on our freshly pampered toes. We smiled and thanked the pedicurists. But inside I was thinking, if only they were blue, and Luciana was thinking, if only they were real orange.
Back in the northern hemisphere, for months I secretly longed for blue toes, but who would see them in winter boots? When spring officially arrived I was ready, but the weather wasn’t. All spring long I hid my feet in closed-toed shoes. I couldn’t believe it but even in May in California I was still wearing boots. But, finally the rain stopped, the wind died down, and the sun came out of hiding. On the first sunny day, I made a dash for the nail salon. “I’d like a mani-pedi,” I said. “What time can I do it?”
“Right now, if you like.”
“Yes, I’d like that.”
The enormous polish selection took up a large swathe of the wall beside the reception desk. To my delight there were many shades of blue. I chose one, but the girl helping me said, “That’s really a blue-tinted natural.”
“Really, it doesn’t look like it in the bottle.”
“Yeh, I know. It’s deceiving,” she said as she applied some to her thumb nail to show me. “See?”
I did and she was right. On her fingernail it looked washed-out, similar to water-color applied with too much water. No, that wasn’t the effect I was looking for.
“How about this one?”
“Wow that’s bright.”
“Yeh, it is. I would wear this one now in the summer. In the winter I’d go for this really dark blue.”
I looked at both. The girl was probably right, but the dark velvety blue looked so luscious. “Even though it’s summer, I’ll go with the wintery one,” I said.
Once in the chair, as the pedicurist trimmed and smoothed my toe nails and scrubbed and massaged my feet, instead of relaxing, I began to fret. I was having doubts about my choice. Should I really do blue toes? Polish should be neutral, pink, coral or red, right? Who says? asked the little voice in my head. Those colors are so twentieth century, so old-fashioned. Well, in Santiago they didn’t offer a single shade of blue polish. Who cares? Go ahead, try the blue. Right again, I had to agree with myself.
The pedicurist applied the polish. “I like it,” she announced. “It looks good on you.”
I looked, too. My toe nails were cut nice and short and even. The deep velvety blue blocks of color glistened. I was delighted and ready for summer.
The next morning, however, dawned dark and cloudy. As I ran the Dish it started raining. I started thinking about my feet. They were soaked through. My running shoes were acting like giant sponges sopping up the water. My blue toes were cold and wet.
The sun didn’t shine for the several more days. Finally when it poked its head out long enough for me to put on sandals, my blue toes still glistened. I loved the blue look. My friends weren’t so sure.
“Teenagers wear blue polish,” said one disapprovingly.
I didn’t respond but inside I laughed and said yes to blue toes.
All original content copyright 2010 Mary E. Slocum