I became the anti-Mike. Bizarro Mike!

    It's nutty the defense mechanisms we're capable of conjuring when we're faced with the prospect of being pushed out of our comfort zone. We can talk all we want about letting the YOLO (You Only Live Once) philosophy dictate our life decisions and basically living an endless, adventurous, extreme Mountain Dew commercial, but if we're honest with ourselves, most of the time most of us are averse to risk. We like the familiar and predictable, because when things are known to us we are in control. We’re safe and secure. It’s our bubble. When we experience things in life that are outside the protective confines of our box, we get a little uneasy.

    Or in my case, downright unpleasant. 

    It was the week between Christmas and New Year's in 2016. My wife had taken time off from work to be home with the boys, so I took a couple of days off, too We were trying to figure out what to do on the Friday before New Year's weekend, and my wife, who'd received a gift card from a friend to Tips-n-Toes in Crookston, proposed that I join her for a pedicure that afternoon.

    I was vaguely open to the idea at first. But, a pedicure? Exposing my naked feet to a stranger? Yikes. But it was a festive time of the year and I was feeling somewhat adventurous, so I sort of agreed to get a pedicure with my wife.

    But as that morning progressed, I started to realize I wanted nothing to do with it. So I got crabby. I snapped at the boys for not helping pick up the house. I made multiple mountains out of other little molehills that wormed their way into my mind. The last straw was the freezing rain we'd gotten a couple days earlier; it had become a slick coating of ice on our steps that I had previously hinted to the boys needed to be chipped away. But there the steps were, still treacherous for anyone to navigate.

    So I shoved my feet into some boots, threw on my coat, grabbed some gloves and stormed outside, shutting the basement door hard enough for everyone to know that I had exited the building. And for the next 20 minutes or so, I proceeded to attack with a vengeance the ice with our ice chipper.

    I went back in the house, and my wife had clearly decided that the last person she wanted to get a pedicure with was me. In a huff, she said she'd rather be by herself, and off she went. She hadn't even backed out of the garage yet and I already felt like an idiot. An idiot who had successfully squirmed his way out of getting a pedicure, but an idiot nonetheless.

    Looking to make amends a year later, it was I who bought my wife a Tips-n-Toes gift card this past Christmas.

    Last week, as I sat next to her in those massaging chairs at Tips-n-Toes and we chatted about this and that while the staff did their impressive work, I couldn't help but bring up that stressful day last year.

    She recalled my meltdown, vividly. "All of that because you didn't want to do this?" she said, with a note of incredulity. "Who wouldn't want to do this?"

    For most of us, human touch is critical to our well-being. It makes us feel alive. I've read about longtime single people who have been alone for much of their lives, and how the simple act of getting a haircut and having a hair stylist touch their head and their shoulders and wash their hair is a profound thing for them. 

    My wife was right: Who wouldn’t want an amazing foot massage? But, still, I thought I'd have an issue with a stranger touching my feet. And not just touching my feet, but actually being paid to touch my feet, i.e. BEING FORCED to touch my feet. But those two Tips-n-Toes staff members couldn’t have been more pleasant and seemingly happy to be right where they were at that moment. So I got over all of my preconceived hang-ups in rapid fashion.

   They knew I was a newbie, so they cracked a couple simple jokes, and soon I was more than happy to simply roll with the pedicure, the wax treatment, the hot stone massage, the hot towels, etc.

   I became the anti-Mike. Bizarro Mike!  

   Their flat-screen TVs on the walls were tuned to HGTV, and an episode of "Fixer-Upper" was nearing its conclusion. Normally, the husband and wife hosts and their super-cute banter makes my gag reflex kick in, and that’s from only stumbling across an episode preview now and then, but as the Tips-n-Toes expert worked magic with my feet, I suddenly found Chip and Joanna Gaines to be charming. And, wouldn't you know it? They'd worked another miracle with a house makeover.

    Next up was an episode of "Property Brothers," and as brothers Drew and Jonathan Scott presented home remodel options to a young couple, I shockingly didn’t find the couple to be pretentious, spoiled brats. They were earnest, sincere and respectful of the brothers’ expertise, and, darn it, the renovated home was fabulous.

    Maybe more than any surprising reactions to TV shows that usually drive me so batty that I avoid them like emptying the dishwasher, I found myself grinning or at least halfway smirking during the entire pedicure. Far outside my comfort zone, I was comfortable. I had my wife sitting next to me, happy as a clam – whatever that means – and my feet felt nice and looked less awful than when I’d walked into Tips-n-Toes that day.

    I may even go back some day, and if I do, maybe I’ll even get my toenails painted a dazzling color, with sparkles. YOLO, baby!