She took an hour of her time to shape them, layer them and colour them. I found myself watching a romantic comedy on my worn purple couch with laundry piled on one side. The air outside was smoky from forest fires a country away and the inside with polish fumes. She smiled and made comments about life in general. I felt some of my anxiety melt away. She gave and in her gift I was thankful. I had asked because she loves doing it. It's her love language. She's my new sister. Too often I say no and I had an occasion I could use them for. It was a comforting sort of moment even though I was a little uncomfortable.
The truth is I hate having my nails done. Memories surface of a grad long ago that was both hard and beautiful. Followed by a trip to the Nicaraguan mountains. We cut off my gel tips with blunt scissors because they just were not right up there in the beautiful grit. It hurt. My nails were misshapen and scarred for months after. A symbol that more of my life was not fitting and needed to be bluntly cut and life would be slightly misshapen for awhile.
Memories of stinging hands secretly passing my plate through the wires to starving little mouths. We were not supposed to but how could I not? 15 pounds lost in ten days. It was hard on my soul which turned to my body. That was the moment I had to choose between my old life and the one my husband was going to give me. I had one phone call and I chose my husband despite a few misgivings. He answered in a bright, yeasty smelling Subway across the equator in delighted exclamations. I could hear his smile and picture him in his cap and green shirt. I felt calm with relief. I chose right. I still feel a tightening of my chest thinking of the what ifs. What if I hadn't?
The second time my nails were professionally done I was in a wedding. The day of rehearsal we announced our plan to move out of the basement suite so lovingly made. I was four months into my post partum depression with a little muffin depending on me. I was yelled at. For months I found silence, long letters and accusations. Selfish. The trump card so often thrown by extended family to beat all arguments; You. ARE. Selfish. That night I went to the rehearsal shaky and broken. I FELT selfish. So often that is the accusation after I have to set boundaries. I know deep down it's untrue but I do question myself for a moment. What if I had given in to please or believed the lies of perspective? What if I had not followed my husband to that little shack where we would raise the rest of our family before we found our forever home? What if I had not made that physical separation that set the tone for the rest of our lives? I loved that home until it was time to leave. It was a different sort of haven. One I would not go back to but am thankful for all the same.
When my nails are done, I dislike the reminders of a part of my body I am used to ignoring. I don't realize how much I pick at the skin on my shoulders and arms, scratch my head or rub the black eyeliner under my eyes. My fingers feel weighted down by the polish. Like they can't breathe properly. They look pretty but they are not fully me. I often wish they could be but they simply aren't. The colour on the tips of the nail hide the skin and eyeliner that somehow live under the depths no matter how much I wash. I eat with my hands a lot. I rip the meat off of bones instead of cutting it for my children. I separate food with my clean hands during mealtime. I simply wash after. It's easier than using utensils all the time. But with polish I feel I shouldn't. I start to rip the skin off of the drumstick and I pause. I see the nails that are mine yet are not. I go to the drawer to get a rarely used knife. I feel I should be one of those girls who manages to keep nails immaculate. The ones who complete a polish of their entire being on a daily basis. I wonder with awed curiosity how they live?
As much as I lived under that illusion in my past or can create it for photos; I am NOT. That. Girl. Perhaps that is why Elphaba is one of my favourite roles? Perhaps that is why I cried through all the songs in Wicked's musical the first time I heard it 8 years ago? Perhaps it is why I play the songs in my darkest times to remind myself who I am? Perhaps many school mates thought high maintenance when my name was brought up? Truthfully, I am the green girl born into a white world. The one who does good deeds only to be accused of being the witch. No good deed...The only factor of high maintenance on me was the self inflicted time constraints of the illusion I created. While dusty memories were created by these illusions that won't be traded, I still wonder how many more could have been without it? Maybe it would have been worse? Illusion can also bring beauty. Beauty can hold inspiration. But not all the time. Sometimes a hazy sort of lovely bliss is also in the messy. The undone corners.
That time my crush tried to comfort me with the words, "If it was on looks alone I would go for you- you are the hottest girl here but your personality while kind, is very odd. We just wouldn't work." And I knew he never saw me. I also felt the deepest wound because like being green, a inner way of being can not magically change. Also, being the "hottest" girl in the room is not comforting- it was a small room. There will always be someone prettier or younger. That was something I was not willing to hold my value on because of it's fickleness. Plus, I knew that I had my flaws, that I will age, that things will happen and that I don't want to maintain for looks alone. Of course, I could enhance my looks but my personality could only go so far under the chameleon affect. I didn't know why, no matter how much I assimilated, that I still managed to stand out, be odd, or different. At that time I felt it was a shame. Now I realize it was simply being an undiagnosed Aspie in an NT world. Now I love it mostly, but when I didn't know WHY it pulled at my soul and blurred my soft edges into sharp corners.
All in time. My time right now involves waking and rolling into the most comfortable clothes, smearing on some eyeliner because I can't seem to live without it, mascara, dabbing the moisturizer and pulling back my hair into a pony. I wash after I brush the night taste out of my mouth but I prolong showers until I can't go without anymore. I don't brush my hair until I shower again and it's rare that I put on extra make up for anything other than special dinners, trips to the city or a photo I KNOW will be taken. I don't like perfume or unnatural deodorants. Sometimes I lament to my husband that I don't have an enticing smell because I don't want one. He laughs and starts kissing and smelling my skin next to my armpits and says that he loves my natural smell and that it reminds him of the many ways we love. I cringe for a moment and then wonder why am I cringing? This is love, this is beauty, this is natural. If he is my lover, why should any other's opinions of what I entice matter? My kids love me, I like me this way, and my husband does. Enough.
Pretty nails remind me that everything comes at a cost and beauty is fleeting. Soon the colour will peel off or start to chip and I will either have to maintain or be comfortable with the half specks for months. I always chose the later. As much as the wannabe in me begs to maintain, it's really not in the real me to follow through. I spent too much of my life maintaining. I maintained kindness at all costs and gentle response. I maintained the 'appropriate' conversation (mostly). I maintained the elaborate hairstyles, hour long make up routine and immaculate (uncomfortable) business/preppy clothing.
I remember some moments brought on by these decisions that were wonderful. I also remember moments filled with scratchy, dirty, sick feelings. It came with both. My current lifestyle also comes with both. Yet, I find that more often than not I feel at peace. The contented sensations matter more. I surround myself with beauty. I love beauty- both made and raw but now I live in the raw a bit more myself.
Perhaps it is a rare magic to be loved like the velveteen rabbit? To be assured that at the most raw you are the most loved. But at most moments I know I am by the most important person in my world; Myself. It's even rarer to find a counterpart who also believes in this magic and finds a way to not only love himself but to love his partner. Luckily, I have three littles who are also living in both the maintained version of life and the overgrown. I may not be THAT girl but I am the one who ends up Defying Gravity and ends up with the guy at a cost. The cost of reputation and perhaps much of the world. I am the girl who can't grovel in submission to feed ambition. The one who has a brief temper at injustice and changes on a regular basis in response to these injustices. I can't play by the rules yet I can respect them if they make sense. I trust my instincts. I am the girl who no longer steals to the land of might of been or does so only for a moment to be thankful for the land that IS. I'm the girl who is kissed tenderly and held tight. As long as he is mine. I am the girl who leaves disasters in the wake of well meaning or a need to BE true but also the girl who has changed some for good and been changed for the better by a select few.
These are the reflections that happen once a year when I cave into my illusions and decide to paint my nails. Maybe it's a good thing I give into the illusions from time to time to only become a more real version once again? They are my nails yet they are not. I am a different sort of me. I'll take that version until my nails start peeling and then once again I will go back to the home that I am naturally.
While these aren't all of the amazing songs of Wicked these are the songs I referenced in my post. Enjoy!