The week of my wedding, at my best friend’s insistence, I got a pedicure. This was uncharted territory for me.
“Look,” she told me, “If you insist on getting married in those sandals, the least you can do is make your feet presentable.”
“They’re Chacos,” I explained cheerily, “And what’s wrong with my feet?”
“Whatever,” she said, squinting warily down at my beat-up sneakers, “You need a pedicure.”
Eventually, I relented. We arrived at the salon with my mom and were quickly seated in adjacent massage chairs when Jordan explained that we were “a bridal party.” (There was some confusion when I turned out to be the bride.)
I picked a neutral-seeming color and settled into the discomfort of having someone in such close proximity to my feet.
“Do I get a discount for having less than ten toenails?” I asked the pedicurist. Jordan shot me a look like this was a totally inappropriate question.
“What? Maybe it’s less work!” I tried.
The woman glanced up at me.
“These feet are not less work,” she informed me. Okay, fair enough.
My feet are unsightly—some might even say they’re downright gross—but they’re pretty useful. They’ve been up mountains and down rivers, across glaciers and talus fields, over miles of trail both soggy and dry. I have stuffed them into too-small climbing shoes, smelly ski boots, worn-out trail runners, my beloved Chacos, and, on very rare occasions, a pair of sky-high heels.
I rarely have ten toenails.
I’ve even worried about having less than ten toes. Once, after a week in the Alaskan interior in January, I eased out of my plastic ski boots to discover that several of my digits were completely white. It looked—and felt—like someone had chopped off my toes and replaced them with wax replicas. Back home, my toes seared and throbbed as they warmed, turned purple, then black, and I missed out on lots of fun winter activities to make my appointments with a frostbite specialist in Anchorage.
In due time, the rotten flesh peeled away, and I enjoyed the opportunity to make my friends gag with photos of the offending phalanges. It was really gross.
On the upside, I finally lost the pesky ingrown toenail I’d been battling for decades, though no one took me seriously when I said I’d finally found a permanent cure for toenail fungus.
Years later, the affected appendages are finally a pretty standard shape again—if you didn’t know any better, you’d never guess had to regenerate any flesh, though that’s probably at least in part because you can’t look at them for long without politely averting your gaze.
A few days after my wedding—a week post-pedicure—I wiggled my toes in the primordial red mud on a sandbar in Labyrinth Canyon. The polish was mostly gone, and you could once again tell which ones were missing their nails. As I dried my feet next to the fire pan that night, the sticky mud crusted around my Chacos and crumbled away.
“A romantic couples’ mud bath spa for our honeymoon,” I laughed to Bix.
I expect my feet will take me to some pretty far-out places in the coming decades. They work hard, so I don’t mind if they’re a little beat-up.