I’m still not sure what “normal” is for me anymore. Over the past few weeks, as I’ve finally given myself over to this part of me, I don’t feel like my old self. Some of my habits and interests are changing, and the very way I conduct myself, even in “guy mode,” may be altering. It feels like it’s on a loose foundation, constantly shifting.
I don’t know why, but for some reason my nails have become a thing with me. Back when I was all dude, nails were something to trim every now and again, and then ignore. Not anymore! I’m letting them grow out a bit (for a man) and I’m keeping them neatly shaped. I bought a 4-way nail buffer, and I keep it in my coat pocket; sometimes I catch myself fiddling with it like it’s a talisman or something. I’m almost obsessive about filing away little burrs or imperfections. Not even just when I’m dressed up! Guy mode or not, I’m fiddling with my nails.
In fact, I recently decided to take a bit of a risk and start wearing a clear lacquer on my nails at all times. Part of it was a preservation thing: I wanted to put a strengthener on there to let them grow better. But I also like the shine it gives to the nails. I considered finding a matte cover for them, but what’s the point I’d they look like they always do? I couldn’t actually put color on them — that’s too far, too obvious — but a little gloss can be dismissed in guy mode. After all, guys get manicures all the time. Isn’t that why they call them MANicures?
So just after I’d clear-coated my nails for the first time, I was driving after dark. Because I’d just done them, I was driving with my fingers kind of flared out, just in case they weren’t dry yet. At one point I pulled up to a red light. I was the only car in the intersection, and there was no streetlamp overhead; it was just the stop light above and the red glowing numbers of a digital gas station sign on the corner combining to create a sort of ambient redness in the car.
As I’m waiting for the light to turn, I look down at my flared fingers on the steering wheel. The sheen of the clear-coat was picking up the ambient light, and the dot of the red stoplight showed in each nail. Immediately curious, I brought my other hand up, flared out the fingers, and began adjusting them until I could get the same reflective glow in each one.
And there, suddenly, in the mix of ambient light and deep shadow, it looked like I had painted nails. Dark, ruby red nails, glimmering in the night. Perfectly painted.
I’ve never actually had my nails painted before. Before that moment, I couldn’t have honestly said that I was interested in painted nails. But there was something about that moment, virtual and transient, that flared in me. My breath caught. I giggled — I honestly giggled — and cracked a wide smile, alone there in the dark.
A moment later the light changed, and I had to drive on. But now I know, as sure as anything, that at some point I want to paint my nails. I want to find a color that reminds me of that moment in the dark, and I want to paint my nails that color. I want that feeling again.
I don’t know quite who I am anymore. I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.