My sister Robin and I look a lot alike, but we live very different lives. Even when we're in the same place at the same time, doing the exact same thing, we end up with very different experiences.
It was 1986, and my eldest sister, Carla, was getting her MBA from Jacksonville U, so three of us sisters went to Florida to whoop and holler as she got her diploma.
On the day before the graduation, Robin got the idea that we should make a sisterly day of it by going to a spa and getting our nails done. Lelane and Carla agreed. As a pedicure virgin, I wasn't so sure.
"I can't believe you've never had one," Robin said. "You have to try it, your feet will be gorgeous."
So we descended on Carla's local salon/spa. Carla got the works -- color, cut, manicure, pedicure -- while the rest of us settled for a mani-pedi.
My nail tech, a Vietnamese woman of mature years, smiled and said hello as I climbed into her chair and sank my feet into the bath of warm water. It was the last time that afternoon that either of us would widen our lips to express pleasure.
During the remainder of the session, she shared with me what a miserable life she had. Giving pedicures made her hands and arms ache. At night, the pain kept her awake. During the long, long hours of the day as she slaved over smelly feet, she wanted to break down and weep.
With each stroke of her emery board, I felt less like a woman pampering herself with her first pedicure, and more like an evil exploiter of underpaid immigrant labor.
Finally, as she applied a coat of pearlescent polish, Granny Sunshine made her closing statement: if she'd known what her life was going to be like in America, she would never have left Vietnam.
This was a country which, just that year, would finally begin to recover from the devastation of a multi-decade, multi-national war. Where starvation was a common cause of death, but only for those who survived the dengue fever.
I stuffed my newly-gorgeous feet into my tennis shoes, gave her a gigantic tip, and got the hell out of there.
As we walked to the car, Robin preened her pretty red toenails in her adorable little sandals.
"See?" she said. "Wasn't that incredible?"
It certainly was.