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Mani-Pedi Body Language

Is it any surprise that the U.S. manicure-pedicure business is now a $7 billion industry employing a quarter million people? For the harried office worker besieged by deadlines, demands, and needy higher-ups, there are few better ways to unwind than to dip into the local nail salon for 20 minutes of soothing, well-deserved “me-time.” Says Arlie Hochschild, a University of California at Berkeley sociology professor emeritus and author of the new book The Outsourced Self: “It’s about being pampered, a reward to ourselves, like an ice-cream sundae. You get to be in a passive state while it’s the other person that’s working.” A visit also gently breaks social barriers, says body-language expert Patti Wood, author of the forthcoming Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions: “If you’re feeling touch-deprived, it’s a way to have people touch you. I’m holding your hand and bathing your feet, very intimate acts you usually reserve for family members.”

Recently, Bloomberg Businessweek called on a half-dozen of Manhattan’s popular mani-pedi temples. Here’s what we observed, as interpreted by Hochschild; Wood; UMass Amherst professor and nail-salon researcher Miliann Kang; Minsk-born Janna Radevich, longtime owner of the city’s Blush Beauty Spa and Laser Center; and Vegas rock singer Chris “The Dutchess” Walton, who won last year’s Guinness World Record for longest fingernails (three feet), but says she can still play the piano.

Illustration by Lisa Hanawalt; Dutchess photograph by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

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