I’ve never been one of those girly-girls, or sophisticated women who go in for manicures, or gets her nails done. I was once in a small group of women talking and they came around to the subject and each in turn extended their hands out gracefully to show off their nails. I reluctantly pulled my hands out of my pockets and stuck them out with nothing to show but the most recent ragged break from who-knows-what, just walking around and living, but most embarrassing the tell-tale signs of Cheeto residue staining my fingers orange. Sure, I keep them trim, sometimes file them when they don’t look right, but painting them and sitting patiently while they dry and not being able to do anything with my hands is torture. And painting my right hand with my left? Might as well be using my feet to do it! (The result looks like the notes I write to Joe pretending to be one of the cats, using my left hand, pen in fist like it’s a paw: Deer Mstr Jo, plz chanj r littr box.) How do people keep them that way? Don’t they open doors, fumble about in their bags looking for chapstick, shift gears, cook, touch people, type, text, wipe???!!???
I do like to paint my toenails. It’s a pleasant hot-weather ritual, and my toes don’t seem to get into nearly as much trouble as my hands do. I deviated from my usual classic red to a vibrant green this last summer, but my toenails looked so much like green M & M’s it was kind of disturbing. I caught Joe looking at them hungrily from time to time. When my own stomach starting growling when I looked down at the bright little candy coated toes around lunch-time I knew it was time for a change.
I have fond memories of my father painting my mother’s toenails, he on the floor at her feet tenderly holding her soft, white foot, tiny brush held steadily as he stroked the wet paint onto each nail. It seemed so romantic, and I believe it was, though thinking of it now in the guise of a much more cynical adult it may have been largely because my father’s such a perfectionist (while my mother is more of a let’s just get it done kinda of a gal, to hell with the details), and wanted them done Exactly. Right.
I have painted my fingernails to accessorize a costume, or more recently, for a show, because I thought it would be fun to see shining, brightly colored fingertips on my guitar strings. Of course, I waited until two hours before we were ready to pack up our gear and go, and the nails were getting damaged before I even got out the door; one index fingernail had the look of the puckered skin of a top of a pudding, or a circle of creosote that’s hot with summer heat that you push with your foot and it gets all sloughy looking like the skin around an elephant’s eye, or mine after a bad night. By the end of the show it looked like I’d been trapped in a coffin alive, trying to scratch my way out. I was quite taken with the purpleness, though, so maybe I’ll try again. My interest was piqued by some glow-in-the-dark polish I saw when I was being overwhelmed by all the choices I had picking out the perfect purple. Joe volunteered to paint them for me next time, which is very thoughtful and romantic of him….