I have taken to going for morning runs with my housemate Rita. She is a superfit West Coaster with a lithe athlete’s body. I am a flabby Londoner with a penchant for cheese and ale. Ibiza, I have come to understand, does not tolerate excess flesh and our route along Talamanca Beach takes us past rows of bronzed babes in bikinis, with tits that would have Newton refuting his own theory. Whilst I long ago abandoned the idea of ever being one of these pneumatic RoboBarbies I still believe that a little bit of exercise is probably a good thing as long as I know there’s a slice of cake waiting for me at the end of it.
Usually our runs follow the same pattern, I wobble along after Rita panting and then at some point she gestures to say she is about to run up some ridiculous hill. I shake my head to indicate that I will not be joining her. I jog half-heartedly back to the apartment and collapse on the sofa – a big red sweaty mess. She returns an hour later glistening and radiant like she’s just been frolicking through a meadow of bluebells.
When I bought my running shoes I didn’t have the slightest intention to actually run in them. They are silver and hot pink and half a size too small. Half a size too small would not have been an issue on a gentle stroll to the pub but it is an issue when you’re flailing down four kilometres of promenade in thirty degree heat. They give me enormous unsexy blisters on my big toes and hard calluses on the soles of my feet.
To remedy this I decided to treat myself to pedicure. I was cautious because both my previous Ibiza grooming experiences have been mildly traumatic.
First there was my visit to the hairdressers. The haircut I wanted was something like Sherilyn Fenn’s in David Lynch classic Twin Peaks. The haircut I actually got was something like the Jack Nance’s in David Lynch classic Eraserhead. I knew that something was awry when the hairdresser produced the clippers but what I didn’t know was the Spanish for ‘what the hell are you doing you scissor-happy motherfucker?’
Then there was the eyebrow shaping. Now as someone who spent her adolescence with a monobrow even the Gallagher brothers would envy I have had my fair share of eyebrow shaping experiences. For those of you who have been blessed with naturally sparse and non-conjoined eyebrows, the traditional methods of brow management are waxing, plucking and threading. You will be aware if you have ever read Cosmo, Sugar or More (or any magazine that expounds on the dos and donts of burgeoning womanhood) that shaving your eyebrows is tantamount to wearing a boiler suit to a bar mitzvah. You just don’t do it. Forehead stubble will never be a hot look for Spring/Summer ’15. So you can imagine my chagrin when trapped in a barber chair in Ibiza Town, the lady plucking my eyebrows suddenly produced an enormous cutthroat razor and took it to my head. Obscure post-punk hit Ladyshave by Fad Gadget encapsulates the horror of this experience.
After surviving (just) the eyebrow shave I vowed never again to set foot in any beauty emporium on the island but at some point my desire to have sexy crimson toenails overruled my common sense.
Picture the scene. It’s siesta time on a hot August day and I’m strolling through Ibiza Town. I chance upon a little nail bar on a sleepy side street. I peer inside the window and I’m pleased to see that they have those massaging chairs that are the linchpin of every good pedicure.
Immediately, a diminutive, camp man in a communist t-shirt and camo shorts comes rushing out to greet me.
“Um, pedicura?” I ask.
“Si! Si!” he enthuses.
I can see that all the technicians are busy so I ask,
A little alarm bell goes off in my head. I assumed this man was the receptionist but could he also be the pedicurist? I am all for equal opportunities but I have never had a man give me a pedicure before. For some reason the idea makes me feel slightly weird.
He leads me to the massage chair and then wanders off.
Phew! I think to myself. He’s just making me comfortable until one of these lovely ladies becomes available.
Sadly, this is not the case and he returns moments later with some bath salts for the footspa and an odd glint in his eye.
I try to be open minded.
Why shouldn’t a man be a pedicurist? It’s only a problem if he has amalgamated the roles of pedicurist, foot fetishist and resident sex pest. Which I’m sure he hasn’t. Just relax and enjoy this and stop being such a gender-role fascist.
“Oh!” he glances down disparagingly at my feet as he sprinkles the bath salts into the footspa.
I try to keep smiling and make general chit chat, both of us speaking broken Spanish.
“Where are you from? How long have you been here?”
Then the gleam returns to his eye and he asks the dreaded question that you don’t want a man who is massaging your feet to ask,
“Tienes novio?” (Do you have a boyfriend?)
Followed by a suggestive wink.
“No” I reply too honestly.
“Ah!” he proclaims in Spanish “I am looking for a girlfriend.”
Oh no, he’s going to hit on me I panic arrogantly. Then he turns to a beautiful tattooed girl with some elaborate Day of the Dead etching on her arm who is having her fingers adorned with blue polish and diamantes.
“Hey!” he hollers across the salon,”I’m looking for a girl just like you. Want to go for dinner?”
“I have a boyfriend, he’s Italian. He is very possessive.” she replies.
The manicurist who is painting the tattooed lady’s nails looks up, “Ignore him. He’s always hitting on the customers.”
“Is he your boyfriend?” another women who is also having her nails done, asks her.
“No!” he interjects affronted “I prefer larger ladies like that one over there.” He points to tattoo lady.
“I’m not large!” she protests. It’s true, she’s not. She’s about 5’5″ and a size 10.
He goes back to clipping my toenails and then suddenly out of nowhere he reaches out and tickles under my knees. Now I am no pedicure connoisseur but I am pretty sure that this is inappropriate and not strictly pedicure protocol. I shoot him a look that says,
Watch your wandering hands buster but he’s entirely oblivious.
“Oh!” he suddenly proclaims “Your legs are very hairy!” (it’s also possible he says “very brown” but either way, it’s definitely derogatory).
The problem with not speaking the language properly is that you can’t explain,
Actually I just went to the pharmacy to buy some razors but it was closed for siesta and actually they’re not that hairy and if you were giving a pedicure to a man you wouldn’t be complaining about his leg hair, so you can piss off.
Come to think of it, it’s probably for the best that all I can do under the circumstance is shrug indignantly.
I decide after the insults and the tickle the best thing to do is to adopt a far away look and pretend I don’t understand a word of Spanish.
In walks a woman carrying a Pomeranian Dog under her arm, sporting cut-off denim shorts with pert butt cheeks peeking out ever so slightly, tattoos, purple hair and an undercut.
“Hola guapa,” (Hi beautiful) he shouts “Want to go out for a drink sometime?”
She ignores him, puts down the Pomeranian who wiggles off haughtily and plonks her furry little tail down on the floor in a prim and superior manner as if is she waiting for her doggie manicurist to arrive.
He goes back to tattoo lady,
“Come on beautiful! Let me take you out for dinner sometime.”
She waves her freshly polished free hand at him in an international gesture of In your dreams Mr.
Following his double rebuff he turns back to me and smiles as if to say,
You have terrible feet and hairy legs but you’ll do.
I stare in to the middle distance pretending not to notice so he gets up, abandons the pedicure and tickles me under the arm.
I contemplate getting out of massage chair and lamping him but on balance it feels like too much effort. I concentrate my gaze on a bottle of red nail polish and imagine how lovely my toes will look if I manage to get through this without a GBH charge.
Perhaps in a parallel universe there is a feminist utopia where pedicures are administered by buff demigods in loincloths. In that universe tickling might be wholly appropriate but in this universe men should be required by law to prove that they understand the difference between jolly flirting and unsolicited sexual advances before being admitted into the intimate world of feminine foot care.
I make it through the rest of the pedicure without incident. Admittedly there is a marked improvement in the state of my feet. However, this third and final debacle has me well and truly sworn off the Ibiza beauty industry for life. If you happen to find yourself in this epicentre of unrelenting female perfection and you see one woman with split ends, a monobrow and chipped nails – that’s probably me.