Many years ago I decided, decidedly, that I was not to be a painted nail girl. Not for any sort of statement but just for two simple reasons:
- It felt weird. With painted nails I moved like Edward Scissor Hands, like my digits were foreign and not to be trusted.
- It went to hell. I garden and cook. I do normal things that I think everyone else does. But it appears normal, active people also have painted nails?! I’ve never understood this.
I haven’t felt like writing lately. It’s an uncomfortable feeling but one I’m chewing on. Tonight I feel like writing and I’m giving myself permission to ditch the 27 drafts I have and start new and easy and without expectation, like a four year-old’s freshly painted nails.
While shopping this week, my youngest requested new nail polish because “ours is gloppy and doesn’t spread out at all.” That’s because it’s all from the 1900s. College Halloween parties, most likely. I said yes, which doesn’t often happen in these sorts of situations. She picked two colors. Turquoise and neon purple.
It got me thinking, in that bright, cosmetically-alluring aisle.
Do I still chew my nails? I must. Because I never cut them and they are short. Or is that just because of my rough ways? I honestly don’t know if I bite my nails or not. I do know I have rough ways.
Yeah? (staring at my garden-dirty, jagged, asymmetrical nails)
Do you want to paint your nails with me?
I answered quickly, like a dare to myself and also a high five to Ruby. I chose my color and we checked out. We also bought nail polish remover and cotton balls.
Our Mother’s Day was good and slow, gentle and loud. I felt thoughtful about loss. It seems the clip of death and illness is picking up in our lives. I guess this is to be expected as we age. It’s hard. And often feels unfair. How do we react? What do we say? We exist and we hug. We dig in like it’s our last dig.
The new-nail-polish afternoon was magic in the way any new thing is magic with a four and six year old. It could have been a thrifted cup or a fresh grapefruit or a rearranged living room. This day it was nail polish and that mama was doing it too.
They watched me intently, their noses a few inches from my fingers, as I expertly smeared the dark goo across my nails. I was deliberate and exact, an Opi Ninja. They were impressed and that made me laugh. They laughed with me.
Ruby chose all neon purple, every nail, many coats. It mostly all smeared off in moments. Some on her cheek, some on the back of her hand. Margot chose to have the tips of her nails painted in the black polish I chose for mine. She’s heard of a french manicure, she explained, from our neighbor and insisted this was how it looked. So, essentially, I painted her nails to look like mud was packed under the tips, which is how our family’s nails look most days anyway.
We spread our fingers like starfish in the sun and chatted about our day, reminding each other to NOT BONK THE NAILS. It didn’t work or it exactly worked, as Ruby pointed out when she said:
It’s ok if it goofs. That’s how it’s ‘posed to be. And we can do it again! Differently next time, which will be even more fun.
It’s always lovely to read your stories. Nails seem to be an interesting indicator of whether we’re living life physically enough. I know if my nails get too long, well I musn’t have been climbing recently enough to file them up and down the rock, and if I haven’t been doing that, then I’ve been missing something which brings me simple joy. In your gardening, sewing, cooking, hiking, mothering type life, your hands are your practical tools, decorating everything around you, and maybe less able to do so if decorated themselves and worried about chipping?! Meanwhile, that black polish does look very elegant and I love that it was a together activity.
Thank you always for your thoughtful blogposts,
Ali of Ze Alps.