There are certain things people say to you when you’re a girl that undeniably shape who you become as a woman. My grandmother was one of those people. She used to always say to me: “Shireen, never wear cheap underwear or cheap perfume. A good man can always tell the difference.” 

Mind you, the first time she uttered those pearls of wisdom to me, I was only ten years old and fresh off a crying jag after having my Wonder Woman Underoos ripped from my prepubescent fingers by my mother, who insisted: “You’re too old to be wearing super hero undergarments!” 

I wept (in private) for weeks and wondered if my mother and grandmother were secretly in cahoots to find me “a good man.” I was so paranoid they were trying to marry me off, I hid my “Love’s Baby Soft” perfume in my school locker, along with my official “I’m running away from home” note.

First, it was my cheap underwear; next, it would be my cheap perfume. I mean, don’t get me wrong, my sweet-smelling spritzer wasn’t inexpensive to me. I would use my entire monthly allowance just to buy a bottle. Still, for whatever reason, I knew in the grand scheme of things, it cost less than, say, “Chanel No. 5” or “Joy” by Jean Patou Parfum, worn by both matriarchs in my family. 

A few months later, my grandmother bequeathed to me what she called: “Your annual ‘it’s hard to grow up’ gift,” A.K.A, my birthday present. I blushed when I opened the box. It was packed with a plethora of pretty pink panties, embellished with little white daisies and a bottle of Calvin Klein’s “Obsession.” It was official, I was the one obsessed. Wonder Woman who? Baby Soft what?  

My grandmother smiled at the small victory and said: “By the way, did you know that you can tell a lot about a woman by the way she keeps her hands and feet? Especially her feet. A good man finds that appealing “ 

There they were, the words that would follow me into womanhood. I shook my head like I knew exactly what she was talking about, but as usual, I didn’t. I pushed my new perfume and panties aside and quickly examined my petite little paws. It would be a long time before I knew exactly how to keep them pretty. 

As the years meandered by, it became my mission, my motto, my mantra even, to have mind-blowing, meticulously manicured hands and fantastically fetching feet. Especially, the feet part. Because, well, my grandmother insisted I’d find a good man that way. 

So, here’s what I’ve learned…

According to the experts at “Nails by Valerie of New York Inc.,” your cuticles should always be well cared for, but never overly cut or wedged way back and your nail length should be neat and natural. If they’re too short or too long, it can take away from the health of your hands. 

Shape matters, too. Stay away from garishly squared or perfectly pointed. If it’s too much of a good thing, well, it’s just too much (no matter what the trend is.) When it comes to polish, go ahead, fancy up your fingers, just stay on top of it. The adjectives “chipped,” “nicked” and “worn-out” should only be used to describe antique furniture, not anything on your body.

When it comes to putting your best foot forward, all of the aforementioned tips apply to your toes, too. Plus, in some way, shape or form, you should have someone at some point (preferably a professional) rubbing, sloughing and buffing your heels to keep them free of hard-core calluses and cracks. 

Also, choose shoes (even if they’re heels) that don’t rub, pinch or poke your little piggies. If you let your feet get gouged now, you’ll grow bunions, blisters and eventually bad feet later and trust me, you do NOT want be on a first name basis with a podiatrist (unless you’re dating or married.)

The most important thing I’ve learned from Valerie over the years is, as she puts it: “Do your homework.” In other words, in between your mani and pedi appointments, the use of a good quality cuticle cream and oil is a maintenance must.  

Once you’ve perfected your preening, it’s all about presentation. My stylist, Shari from Koko and Palenki, says this year for Valentine’s day, you don’t have to be  well-heeled to “Sexify Your Feet.” Believe it or not, flat is fabulous, too.  

Right now, there’s nothing sexier than a bejeweled bracelet sandal, especially the ones made by Mystique. They make the foot look down-right dainty, delicate and delicious. Yes, gems for your stems are definitely the trend, but you have to wear them the right way. 

You can do that by keeping your clothes subtle, yet sexy. Pair your fancy footwear with a solid wrap dress or a short, off-the-shoulder maxi that matches your sandals. Then, let your feet do the talking by popping the monochromatic color palette with a bold toe-nail polish. 

The more glitz and glam a Mystique Sandal has the more it’ll cost. They usually  start at around $100. I snagged mine at Koko & Palenki in the Aventura Mall for a little over $200. Mystique also carries a wide variety on-line. However, I do recommend you try before you buy. Foot jewelry can be heavy and hard to walk in. So, it’s important to know how much your toes can tolerate.  Remember, this look should be comfortable and effortless. 

In the meantime, I’ve asked a lot my friends over the years what they thought my grandmother meant by: “You can tell a lot about a woman by the way she keeps her hands and feet,” and for the most part, they’ve all pretty much said the same thing. 

It means that a woman cares about herself, she pays attention to detail, she has self-worth, self-love and self-respect and if she has all those things, she’s probably worth knowing and more than likely, she’ll treat you in the same high regard as she treats herself.

When I asked my boyfriend what he thought it meant, he said: “I don’t really know, but thank god for your grandmother and her foot advice, because you definitely have suckable toes.” I guess my grandmother was right after all, a good man does find well-cared for feet “appealing” and I’m also guessing, I’m going to have a really good Valentine’s Day. 

Somewhere up in heaven, I hope my grandmother is smiling, because she knows she taught me well. I wear good underwear, quality perfume and I have well-kept hands and feet. What’s more, I understand the real lesson – loving and caring for yourself is just as important as loving and caring for others. 
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photography by tod p/t4twophotography 
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