River Dad, Remaining Masculine in a Feminine World

My feet are silky smooth and my toes look great! Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

Being a manly, studly, masculine Stay-at-Home Dad, I’ve been doing a lot of work in the yard this summer.

Taking down a chain-link fence, lopping huge branches off trees, weeding, mulching, digging up a wisteria bush. All of this has been done by hand — without the help of power tools. Hand-sawing through 8-inch branches, smashing fence posts (buried two to three feet deep in concrete) with a sledge hammer, staring at the wisteria bush’s root ball and crying — this has been my summer.

And I’m proud to say the yard is looking good. Well, the portion of the yard I’m tackling. There’s an entire other half of the yard still overgrown with weeds. It’s on my to-do list.

As an added bonus, the kids have turned my landscaping into an educational activity. Wherever I dig, they find some of the gnarliest bugs I’ve ever seen. They grab a fistful of worms and let the slimy things curl around their fingers, collect jars of beetles and centipedes (our kitchen counter resembles the creepy shelf of a mad scientist-in-training), and rescue ants.

You’re wondering where my baby-soft feet come in, aren’t you? When I’m working in my yard, I’m wearing my Tevas, so things slip under my feet — dirt, mulch, rocks, bugs — which, combined with the amount of sheer abuse I’m putting them through, are beating them up something awful. Not that I mind. Manly, studly, masculine men don’t care about their feet. Our feet are there for us to use and abuse, and one of the true joys of being a manly, studly, masculine man is picking at calluses while watching So You Think You Can Dance.

One night, my wife looked on while I mutilated the bottoms of my feet and suggested I go get a pedicure. I scoffed. She shrugged and I went back to enjoying a fantastic Pas De Deux. The next day, the calluses had multiplied, and my wife again suggested I go get a pedicure. I again scoffed, but a little softer. This went on for some time until I began to consider her sage advice. After all, she gets pedicures and she doesn’t spend evenings picking her feet apart. Also, her feet are silky smooth with Mango Mango polish. I’d like my feet to be silky smooth. At the very least, I’d like them not to be bleeding masses of pulp.

Still, I hesitated. It wasn’t that I was afraid of a pedicure. Rather, I was afraid of moving that much further away from manly, studly, masculine man to Westchester Mom. Being a stay-at-home dad, I’ve worked hard to maintain a personal sense of guy-ness. It can be difficult between the Mommy and Me classes and the diaper changes and the playdates and the entire Disney catalog to remain acceptably manly. Having a pedicure just seemed one step too far. But, eventually, the pain from my self-inflicted flesh wounds outweighed my squeamishness and I went in for a pedi.

I walked in — a stranger in a strange land. Did I imagine the women already there doing a slight double-take as a man entered without a wife or daughter in tow? Who was I? What were my intentions? How dare I invade their realm? But the pedicurist looked at me and saw only money. There was a chair available, so before I even had time to think, I was sitting down and a tub was filling with warm water at my feet.

The first thing I noticed was the different levels of pedicures. I could get a basic pedi, an extra-special pedi, a really extra-special pedi, or a super deluxe in-your-face fairy dust massage pedi. Intimidated, I ordered up the basic. The woman took one look at my feet and shook her head. I was upsold. I didn’t even have a choice.

I smiled at the woman in the chair next to me. She nodded, turned up the vibrations of her massage chair and went back to her US Weekly. It wasn’t like she was annoyed that I was there, more like disappointed. Like this was her refuge from the weary ways of men and here I was, spoiling her effort to pamper herself in peace. It made me feel self-conscious, yet also indignant. Heck, I’m at home raising two kids. I deserve some pampering just as much as the next parent. I have the right to soak my feet in lemon water if I want. I turned on my own vibrating chair and read my National Geographic.

Everything went smoothly until my pedicurist brought out the cheese grater and began hacking up my flesh like a scene in one of those Saw movies. Wincing with each stroke, I watched slices of River Dad flake down onto the towel one by one. Once I’d lost about an inch in height, the cheese grater was set aside and the grinding stone was put to work. Here my foot dominatrix really put her back into her work, perhaps to punish me for daring to infiltrate this sacred asylum of femininity.

I won’t bore you with the remaining details. My feet were scrubbed, wrapped in plastic wrap, massaged, and soaked. My cuticles were… I don’t know… cuticled. It was at times painful and at times embarrassing, but my vibrating butt made it all OK. Once the initial shock wore off, they treated my feet as any other feet. Hairier than they’re used to, perhaps, but a job to be completed. When she finished, though, I noticed that my pedicurist failed to offer to paint my toenails. Not sure how I feel about that; I mean it’s part of the service. I paid for it. And not getting paint meant that I couldn’t sit at the drying wall and get a shoulder massage.

So I got a pedicure. My feet are silky smooth; I’m still a manly, studly, masculine man; I’m still at home with the kids. Nothing’s changed. I may get another one some day. In fact, I’m so emboldened by the success of my endeavor, I might venture even further into the wonderful world of women. I’ve heard tales of something called a Day Spa…

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About the Author: David Neilsen