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Foot fault

LORI OSIECKI ILLUSTRATION

My daughter Gladiola informs me, in the same tone she would use to tell me that I got wretched body odor, that my toenails need polishing.

I thought my toenails were my private business – not like my private parts; don’t get me wrong, I ain’t no foot fetishist – but not the parts that I got to worry about how they look, like my hair or my nose.

I cut them, I clean them and otherwise they’re down there on the ground, usually covered by a shoe. So who’s to notice?

Everybody, evidently.

I got to explain.

Louie, an old pal of my gentleman friend Lust, is finally making the “Big Leap” with his girlfriend Angel. The wedding is in Audubon Park. In August.

Which presents me with a fashion dilemma: How do I create an ensemble that’s equally appropriate in boiling heat, pouring rain or a possible hurricane?

I decide the odds are on boiling heat. So now my choice is between a polyester sundress that will look freshly pressed, while I’m being pressure-cooked inside it, or a 100-percent cotton flowered sundress that will wrinkle like a wad of flowered Kleenex but absorb sweat.

I go for the Kleenex wad.

I also buy what my daughter Gladiola calls high-heeled strappy sandals. (What are un-strappy sandals – shoe soles?)

So I get dressed, and twirl into the living room to ask Gladiola how I look. She inquires what shade of toenail polish I’ll be wearing. I tell her I’m not wearing toenail polish, because when I take my pantyhose off, it leaves little waffle marks on my toenails.

She gasps. Nobody under 90 wears pantyhose, she tells me.

But this is a wedding. Besides, I got a couple of varicose veins that look a lot better if you don’t see them. She says I would do better to draw butterflies on them and pass them off as tattoos than to wear pantyhose on them. She is serious.

And even worse than pantyhose is pantyhose with sandals, she says.

She looks at my son Gargoyle to back her up. He smirks and says, “I only wear pantyhose when I rob the TimeSaver.” That boy watches too many movies.

Then I think: Why am I fighting this? It ain’t like I’ve had a long and loving relationship with my pantyhose. I would be walking along somewheres and realize I was having a pantyhose malfunction. The crotch wouldn’t be in my crotch; it would be on its way to my knees. I would have to slink behind something and swat myself between the legs a few times hoping to get them back up. It wouldn’t work. Then I’d notice somebody watching, and God knows what they thought.

So for this wedding – no pantyhose.

But then Gladiola decrees I can’t just prance out with naked toenails. It is really more preferable, for a wedding, to get a professional pedicure, she says. (My friend Awlette tells me this a lot, but she runs a beauty spa. Her business is to manicure your fingers, pedicure your toes, wax away the hair you don’t want and arrange the hair you do. She is always after me to get her full treatment. “Just let yourself be pampered,” she says to me. Me, I don’t want to be pampered with a bikini wax. I want to be pampered with a hot fudge sundae.)

My mother-in-law Ms. Larda is also going to this wedding, and I remember she told me that she gave up painting her toenails when Elvis married Priscilla. This was probably the time she stopped being able to reach them. If they want to appeal to the older crowd, they got to put out toenail polish brushes with long handles, so you can polish your toenails standing up, she says.

Meanwhile, Gladiola brings out her Pink Pomegracious! nail polish and gives me an emergency pedicure, even though Lust, sweating over his shirt collar, is tapping his foot. At least he don’t have to display his toenails.

We get there, and the second I step off the pavement into the grassy area reserved for the wedding, my high heels sink into the dirt, and I got to yank up my feet and walk like a drum majorette. I collapse onto my folding chair, and look around. Nobody younger than me has pantyhose on, but every woman older than me does. I must be on the cusp.

There is a nice little breeze, and I can actually feel it on my legs. Ms. Larda plops down next to me, shoving her chair legs a few inches into the ground. She is swabbing perspiration with her handkerchief, but she got her pantyhose on. I tell her what Gladiola said.

“You don’t remember girdles and garter belts, Modine,” she says to me. “Pantyhose ain’t nothing,” and sits and sweats, righteously.

The afternoon thundershower holds off until the “I dos,” but then the sky breaks loose.

I snatch off my sandals and run for the reception hall, which is right nearby. Inside there’s a lot of gasping and giggling and the caterer hands out towels. It don’t take me too long to repair myself and get in the food line. But Ms. Larda and the other pantyhose-wearers got dirt stuck to their legs and stocking-toes full of mud. They line up for the bathroom, where the pantyhose are piling up.

I sip a little champagne, and I look around at a lot of bare legs and naked toenails, Ms. Larda’s among them. “Feels good,” she grunts. She has come around.

That is the kiss of death. Word must have flashed to world fashion headquarters that old ladies have been seen with their toes showing, because not a week later, Gladiola announces to me that she has seen three celebrities on Inside Edition strutting around in pantyhose. Next, Michelle Obama will be wearing them again.

And all our toenails will get some privacy.

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