Two fresh-faced women behind the counter greet me as I enter the Grooming Lounge’s flagship location, just footsteps from the White House. Miss Maggie, the resident pedicurist, collects me after a short wait in the Lounge’s lounge—an above-ground man cave outfitted with, well, probably what you’d expect: dark wood, black leather, a McQueen photo, and the satisfying aroma of sandalwood. I follow her through an unmarked door past the barber area, into what can only be described as a migraine victim’s Shangri-La: a private, closet-dark room outfitted with a massage chair. I plop down in the chair, and Maggie draws a footbath beneath me. Sitting on a low stool, she spikes the tub with a minty fresh antiseptic that turns the water deep sea blue.
After an initial soak, Maggie summons my right leg with a flick of her wrists to a padded footrest where she begins her work. Following a skilled talon trimming, my toenails are made snag-free with a filing job and a vigorous buff. Then, without the aid of a flashlight helmet, she spelunks beneath my nails using a fluted metal instrument. My cuticles are then pruned and pushed back as we go through the same process with the other foot.
Next comes a foot and ankle massage with a granulated peppermint body scrub, which smells fantastic and dredges up plenty of excess grime. Next: a calming green tea-infused “foot mask.” Using a paintbrush, Maggie liberally applies the potent concoction with the grace of a kindergartner’s foray into oil painting. It instantly cools. She then tightly wraps my feet in hot towels and I sit for the next five minutes as the menthol does its thing, first feeling icy and then so cold that it’s burning hot. I see steam coming from the paraffin wax actuator across the room, foreshadowing Maggie’s next move.
Wiping away as much of the mask as she can, she sprays off the remainder and slips on plastic booties filled with paraffin wax. Think of dipping your feet in a thick fondue fountain: That’s what the paraffin feels like. The wax locks in moisture and you can actually feel your skin softening right then and there. Five minutes pass and Maggie tears open the bags and wipes off the waxy remnants, revealing a polished pair of soft, stroke-able, sandal-ready feet. And with that, Maggie says, "all done!" After paying up front, I amble down Connecticut Avenue and for the first time in a long while, I’m putting my best feet forward.
Photo: Grooming Lounge