a european pedicure
This past summer, after weeks traveling and feeding my soul, and neglecting my feet, I decided to go for a pedicure. A European pedicure, a cultural experience.
Ludmila, was her name. A common name for a Russian woman, but this Ludmila did not look like what the name usually conjures up for me: a big, stern creature, wrapped in nondescript, ill-fitting clothes, with a tattered scarf on her head. Such are our stereotypes, quite pitiful.
There was a slight, ever so slight, but nevertheless palpable social distance between Ludmila and me, because there is a social difference between Latvians and Russians in Latvia. And it was augmented, of course, by the fact that I was not a “local.”
The distances and differences between the pedicure giver class, and the pedicure receiver class, are not quite the same as they are in the U.S.
In Latvia, the chaffing between a group that is still often characterized as the “invader,” and the privileged, and legitimate, citizens, is long-standing, complex, difficult to explain, thoroughly entrenched, and resistant to change.
Is receiving a pedicure a cultural experience?
It can be, if you view it that way, yes. Oh, and although Latvian and Russian, Ludmila and I both look Polish.
So there I am, up in my bed/throne, and believe me that’s what it was, more like a deluxe dental chair than the unsatisfactorily vibrating, plastic monstrosities we have. My feet were at such a height that Ludmila did not have to bend down to work on them, and that was cool, I thought, rationalizing the sometimes questionable luxury of having someone cater to your feet. Here’s an older post about the hidden cost of customer service.
From the moment Ludmila touches my feet, I know they’re in the hands of an expert. No blood will be shed today.
My feet are wearing what I call my “Birkenstock tan,” two wide stripes of white, inelegantly crossing my tan. The feet at the bottom of the table are battered, but I know Ludmila has probably seen it all. I even imagine that she has worked on the feet of Latvian ballerinas. It’s a small country after all, it’s possible.
The one big, notable difference between my typical pedicure, here in my neighborhood in New York, and this one, was that it never involved immersing my feet in water! Rather than the sometimes perfunctory “soak” I get in the U.S., Ludmila would occasionally,