That’s enough politics and introspection for now (normal politics and introspection to continue shortly). If you’re reading this blog at the moment you’d think life was all doom and gloom. Let’s talk about something more fun – let’s talk nail varnish!
Like many people, I hate Mondays. At the beginning of December I was having a particularly bad Monday. I had woken up late and there wasn’t enough time to do anything. Morning tea was made, teeth were cleaned, and then hey-presto it was time to leave for work. There was just one minor problem: I didn’t have time to take my nail varnish off, so I was going to have to go to work with my nails painted in gorgeous purple suede-effect OPI varnish.
I should say that going to work wearing nail varnish is not entirely without precedent for me: I have quite long nails, so I normally wear a clear varnish to protect them, and I’ve even been known to push the boat out and rebelliously wear a subtle sparkly varnish or a very subtle colour varnish. But something so blatant? That was new territory for me, and you know what happened? Precisely nothing. Sure a couple of people did a double-take at seeing my hands – most obviously a charming elderly chap at my bus stop into town, but that was it.
This was hugely liberating for me. I love my nails and I am an absolute sucker for nail varnish, and it is incredibly frustrating spending time getting my nails right, doing something funky with them (or plain, doesn’t always have to be funky) and then feeling as though I have to take the varnish off and undo the work the next day is very frustrating, and being able to think instead “What shall I do with my nails *this* week” has been so much fun.
The only reactions I’ve had have been hugely positive. One of the receptionists where I work said “I love your nails, if you ever decided to change careers..!” (that was my Rimmel Metal Rush Royal Blue, with a chrome tip). Then there was a woman in Superdrug – she looked bored out of her mind in the empty shop, but when she saw my nails, her face lit up “I LOVE your nails!”, she said, and we had a lovely chat while she rang up whatever it was I was buying. Most recently, there was a woman in Millets (interesting aside: no men have yet commented on my nails…!); I was wearing a rather striking silver/black ‘magnetic’ polish from MUA, which leaves a series of silver and black concentric circles on the nail after you hold a magnet over the wet polish – it is absolutely awesome stuff – she saw my nails, and I got what has now become a familiar friendly smile, “I love your nails!”, she said, “How do you do that?”, so we started talking nails – it turned out she was also big into nails – I’d only gone in to replace a woolly hat I’d left on the bus.
By far the most interesting conversations I’ve had though, have been with one of the ladies in the make-up department of the new Debenhams in Newbury. I first talked to her when I wanted to see if anyone in that branch of Debenhams sold anything like the purple OPI suede polish. The first person I spoke to didn’t know, “but I know who will”. What the woman I spoke to doesn’t know about nails, just is not worth knowing. “No”, she regretfully told me, “you won’t find anything like that in Newbury, but H&M do a matte finish top-coat. Get a sparkly MUA polish from Superdrug, and try that – might give you the same effect”. We ended up talking nails, and makeup. I went back there a few weeks later to see if they had any silver crackle-finish top coats (which was what I was playing with at the time). I asked a woman on about the only counter in that Debenhams that seemed to have any nail polish for sale, and she once again pointed me to the ‘the nails girl’ (her words, not mine!). As soon as she saw me, “Did you find the matte top coat?!”.
In the grand scheme of things, this probably may not seem terribly noteworthy but to me this has been a big deal, and ironically it has been a big deal because it has not been a big deal. For years I was terrified of people finding out that I’m transgender, and even since coming out I’ve been terrified of seeing me wearing nail varnish. Yet in the space of only a month and a bit, I already find it odd when my nails aren’t painted.
It would be irresponsible of me to write something like this without pointing out that I work for a very relaxed business. It has no dress code and to a certain extent eccentricity is almost expected in certain IT sectors. I am fortunate. I know people who have been reprimanded either directly or indirectly by their workplace for wearing nail varnish. I also can’t deny that there have been situations where I’ve almost subconsciously found my hands in my pockets when going past large vocal* groups of people (*drunk).
But for reasons I couldn’t really put my finger on, the whole experience has made me far more confident. Even on that first day, when this whole thing started purely by accident because I’d over-slept, a certain F*ck you attitude came over me that I’m simply not used to. I liked it.
As I said on Facebook shortly after: F*ck gender conformity. I like my nails.