It’s been almost five years since I put on nail polish. That’s a LONG time for someone who regularly painted her nails.

I’ve always had good nails. Even in junior high school, I remember having long, strong nails. This is unusual, because a) I’m definitely no girly-girl, and 2) I was a volleyball player so by necessity I had to keep them short most of the time. But when I had a little off-season time, I had long nails. And I’m one of those people who has really white nail tips, like a full-time French manicure going on. So, I didn’t really need or get into nail polish until I was in my 30s, probably.

But when I did? It was COLOUR, man. I was always tanned and always slightly out there, fashion-wise, so my polish has had very little of the usual pearly pinks and sparkly blushes you see the girly girls wearing. No no no. I wore GARNET. And BLUE. And BLACK. And GREEN. Maybe a bit of gold, if I was feeling sunny and girly, or a lighter plum colour if I needed to appear to be conservative.

But then came the whole “kids” business. Trying and failing meant that some hospital surgical procedures banned nail polishes. Staying home and going through infertility treatment meant gardening and baking like whoa, which is hardly conducive to long, polished nails. And then having a child…

Well, apart from the whole OMG SCRATCH thing, there’s the ever-present threat of some food substance or play doh or, most horrifying of all, vomit or poo or whatever a kid has going on ending up stuck under your nails.

So, short and clean is best.

Except, lately, as Stinkerbelle is older, I’ve found those issues have been far less of a problem. So, yesterday afternoon, as That Girl was sick and we were sitting on the sofa watching CBeebees Bedtime Stories, I began looking at her nails. And they needed clipping, for sure. So I got to thinking…

“Honey, would you like me to paint your nails?”

She agreed, although I don’t think she really understood the question. But I thought I’d try it, and see. So off I went to get some clippers and an emery board and some polish and polish remover. Now, like I said, I don’t go in for conventional colours, and although we don’t care, it’s kind of NOT DONE to paint a four-year-old’s nails some dark blue or black.

I grabbed a bunch of colours and went back upstairs.

I sat down and chose a gold colour, and painted one of my fingernails. “OOOH, watchu doing?” asked That Girl.

“Painting my nails,” I told her.

“Can I do it?” she inevitably asked.

I told her no, but that I would do it for her if she liked. There was a resounding YES PLEASE and I grabbed a little foot and got to work.

I did one big toe a pale plum colour. She ran off to show Daddy, also home sick, the wonder of her painted toenail. And then ran back and climbed up for more.

Now, the benefit of this whole business is that, for a kid who does not like to get her toenails clipped, because she is OMG SO TICKLISH, it gives her some incentive. So, she sat PERFECTLY STILL while I trimmed and filed and painted the remaining four little toenails. And then blew on them, for fun.

She was ENCHANTED, and again ran off to show Daddy. And quick as a flash ran back and begged me to do the rest. So I finished her toes.

She wanted a different colour for her fingers, but all I had was dark stuff, so we settled on the gold. I painted her fingernails, showing Daddy at each break. And then, while those dried, I thought, fuck it. And I got my favourite peacock blue polish out and did mine. Not the best manicure job I have ever done, but way better than I expected after five years’ away.

I had forgotten. You FEEL differently, you MOVE differently, with your nails done. My fingers feel longer and… better.

(Stinkerbelle, not so much. She did not like the feeling of nail polish on her fingernails, and asked me to take it off within about an hour of painting. But the toes are still plummy.)

But for me, it was a bit of reclamation. I felt, ever so slightly, a bit like myself again. I hadn’t felt that way in years.

There’s a thing that happens when you become a parent. You lose a lot of who you used to be. That’s not a bad thing — that’s why you sign on to be parents in the first place. You KNOW this will happen, going in. Life change. Who you are grows and changes and morphs into something new. And it’s silly to think you won’t.

And yet… you still kind of miss aspects of who you used to be.

Some of us change more than others. BDH has managed to hold on to some important aspects of who he was — playing computer games, playing soccer — and just fit it all into his new self as “Dad”.

Me, not so much. I lost most of who I was a long time ago. The sports are gone, and there is precious little time for fitness these days. And besides, fitness HURTS now, since the quest for family and hormones and whatnot caused me to swell like a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man version of myself. And gone with the younger, slimmer me are the clothes and the hairdos and the dressing up stuff. Which is fine, because hey, most of our disposable income is pretty much tied up in food and housing these days.

But the main reason it’s all good change is because the trade off is that little girl over there, currently spinning around and admiring herself in a full-length mirror. So, you know, TOTALLY worth it.

But still, like everyone, I miss the old me sometimes. So, although it is, by conventional wisdom, TOTALLY NOT COOL for a mom of my age to have bright blue fingernails — I’m really enjoying it. For a little while, anyways. A little bit of me tapping away at the keyboard, cutting onions, grabbing for keys to go drive That Girl to whatever she’s got going on this week, whatever.

I’m sure some of the moms at tomorrow night’s end-of-year school fete will be all a-twitter with the tut-tutting and the sidelong glances. But then, I always enjoyed that part of having crazy bright nails anyway.

And the bonus? It’s something fun Stinkerbelle and I can do together. And maybe, during the summer when we have no one to see and no place to go and no one to Mommy Drive By me at the state of my kid’s nails… maybe this summer I’ll paint hers blue, too.

8 thoughts on “Reclamation

  1. Blue nails are my favourite! With sparkles! (And we can’t be too different in age). I can’t paint my own nails for the life of me so I was THRILLED to discover the new Sally Hansen sticker nails. I don’t put them on all that often, but I can’t help but watch my fingers all day when I do!

    While I hate many “grown-up” things adults do to children, I do happen to think that polish on tiny fingers and toes is very cute 🙂

    • @melissa — Mine are peacock blue, which is probably my favourite colour of them all, although I have a dark navy blue as well. But it’s not as solid colour, if you know what I mean, kind of streaky and glassy, so I rarely wear it because I suck at painting my own nails.

      When we were planning our wedding, BDH said he didn’t really care about a bunch of photos, as long as he got a picture of me sitting drinking a beer with my feet up and toenails painted blue. Because that’s me, basically. And so we made sure to get one.

      Cool story, bro.

  2. This is a very girlie thing to do with your daughter. I did it with my girls and now I am doing it with my grand daughters.
    I must admit I don’t have much time to myself anymore but I still indulge every once in a while. I must admit I do feel more girlie when I do and can’t stop looking at them when they are not covered with garden dirt or paint but I can’t stand it when it starts to chip.

  3. Good for you! I can’t have long nails because of trapeze (they get ripped off), but I have found I like painting my toenails every now and then. As for color, if you’re going to paint your nails, it might as well look like you’ve painted your nails, right? Go for bold!

    BUT, where do you live that people are so mean and judgmental? It bums me out to hear these kinds of things. (Like those mean people on your street. Ick.) Why should anyone care what color someone else’s nails are? Just punch ’em in the face with those fancy hands of yours.

  4. I loves silver, blue, and classic convertible red. My girls tend to prefer mauve, and my boy loves anything sparkly.

  5. catchin’ up… great to see you again… we have the same deal here… good on S for handling it for an hour. C makes me take it off immediately. why?????
    anyhow…. it’s all good fun!

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