By Hardy Jackson

Old folks have ugly feet.

I am old.

It follows logically that I have ugly feet.

Toes especially.

Toenails specifically.

Although I gave up socks and ties long before I retired, when I gave up my full-time day job I also gave up shoes for sandals – weather permitting.

This exposed my toes and spurred my sensitive-to-my-feelings wife to action.

First, she attempted to rectify the situation by clipping my toenails, but to accomplish this she felt it was necessary to jerk my big toe into a position that was roughly (and I do mean roughly) 90 degrees from the other toes.

If I protested (squealed like a girl) she told me to “quit being a baby.”

Not enjoying the process any more than I did, when she finished she told me that what I really needed was a pedicure.

A what!!!!!

Now I have always considered myself secure in my masculinity. I have had my hair cut by a woman in a salon where nary a copy of Field & Stream is to be found.

But the idea of someone I did not know making my feet presentable to the general public gave me chills.

“Oh, you will love it,” my help-mate assured me.

Then she described the process – cuticle care, nail clipping, foot rubbing, heel scraping and leg massaging – all of which sounded, well, personal. Would they take me into a back room so no one else would see?

“And you don’t have to get your nails painted.”

That had not crossed my mind until my wife assured me I didn’t. Sorta like when the dentist says “this isn’t going to hurt” and you know that hurt is on the way.

What else might happen to me in that back room?

I looked at wife’s toes. Colors that never appeared in nature.

“You can get a clear varnish if you like.”

If I like!!!

I’d never show my toes in public again.

So I resisted.

Made excuses.

Found other things that needed to be done.

Until, finally, I had done those things that I ought to have done and there was no excuse left in me.

So off we went.

And in we walked.

I wasn’t the only man there, just the only male customer.

About half of the pedicurists were also men.

Which unnerved me a bit. It was one thing to have a woman mess with my feet, but a guy?

My doubts soon faded.

It was a family operation – brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, and maybe a parent or two.

They were Asian – I guessed Vietnamese since the young lady assigned to me was named Monique.

She seated me in a comfortable chair. It would vibrate at the push of a button, but when she put my bare feet in a tub of warm water, I figured I had better pass on the vibration.

Then she offered me my choice of wine or beer.

I considered beer, but not wanting to appear overly macho, I settled for a nice merlot. I was beginning to like the place.

While my feet soaked, my wife, seated next to me, told Monique “be gentle, it’s his first time.” At that Monique’s husband, who was in charge of a chair nearby, joked that if his wife hurt me, he would hurt her. Not wanting to be the cause of a domestic altercation, I resolved to be quiet no matter the pain.

There was no cause for concern.

Over the next 45 or so minutes I was lotioned, rubbed, clipped, scraped, and massaged from the tip of my toes all the way to my knees. Not once did Monique 90 degree angle my big toe. When she was done, I was so relaxed that I was afraid I might not be able to stand.

It was the third best thing a woman ever did for me.

Get your mind out of the gutter.

A woman birthed me.

A woman birthed my children.

And a woman made my toes look great.

One, two, three.

Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University.

He can be reached at