Female bonding involves booze, pedicures and gossip

by Amy Kingsley

It was a cold and rainy Sunday when I crossed the flagstone path to the back door of a house off Lawndale Drive. In my hands I carried a takeout container filled with guacamole and a bag of Tostitos Scoops.

Although it was a Sunday, and a cold one in January at that, the chips and dip weren’t intended for a football-related gathering but for congregation of a very different sort. Inside the kitchen Mary leaned against a sink and Lara bustled about setting plates on a side table, checking a pot on the stove and occasionally tucking an errant pigtail behind her ear.

We were the first of what would be a group of eight who arrived at Lara’s house for what has become a monthly ritual: brunch and pedicures.

Now, I’m not the kind of woman who ever cared much for “Sex in the City” or obsessed over Manolo Blahniks. Thirteen years of playing in rock ‘n’ roll bands has made me more comfortable debating the relative merits of 4×10 cabinet configuration than I am discussing the proper way to implement a layered look. Maybe because I spend so much time around men, I’ve found these monthly retreats, uncharacteristic though they may be, almost therapeutic.

I asked Mary, who looked very much the part of pretty young mother in khaki pants and a blue bow blouse, about her business. Things had been quiet, she said, except for a strange phone call she received the week before.

A man with a robotic voice and faint German accent called seeking leather goods (Mary owns the Adam & Eve on Spring Garden Road), and, over the course of a conversation, revealed that he had been abducted as a child, trained, reprogrammed and bartered in the underground sex trade. Mary had cross-examined him, trying to trip him up, and still wasn’t sure whether the story was true. Two of her employees attended the brunch, and because employees of adult-oriented business always have the best work-related anecdotes, caught up on the week’s hijinks.

We were joined by a woman who works at a nonprofit, another who is a vet tech, one massage therapist and a couple women still weighing their options. We poured margaritas, loaded our plates with food and seated ourselves in a rough oval. Our conversation touched on religion (our ranks included two Unitarians, several agnostics and a Buddhist), family, work and local gossip.

We talked for four hours, aided in part by the pitchers of margaritas refreshed by Lara and subsequently consumed by the lot of us. We dished about local characters, maybe dwelling a bit on a certain character notorious for cattiness toward women. Then the conversation shifted to work, particularly the ways in which careers in the helping fields (which are often occupied by women) are undervalued. My friend in the nonprofit sector lamented the expectation that she work long hours for low pay.

The outing, in truth, is only marginally about toenail upkeep. January is not high season for pedicures. At Happy Nails, they’ve come to expect us, filing in toward the end of a shortened Sunday workday and overwhelming their small staff.

We go in shifts. Half thumb through gossip magazines in the waiting area while the others choose colors and plunge feet into warm baths. The conversation tapers at this point, rendered unnecessary by the combination of alcohol buzz and massaging chair.

Between the pumicing, painting and drying, the entire process takes another hour or two, depending on how many shifts our group is divided into.

I’ve skipped the pedicure part for the past two months. The $30 service just seems less frivolous during the season of open-toed shoes. But on Monday morning I looked at my toenails and winced. Some were jagged, others too long and all were flecked with the remnants of a pedicure now three-months old. Next month will be February, one month closer to spring and, perhaps a better time to get those toenails taken care of.

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