Saturday, November 8, 2014

Don't mind the Nails

I took a test recently--one of those mindless, facebook quizzes that rate a little about yourself and if you're half gullible you would believe that your aura is golden, you were a cat in your past life, and your real profession should be in the medical field, specifically,  that of a surgeon.  I take these quizzes because I'm addicted to them. Yes, dumb, superficial and mundane. But I take them. And then, as always, I say, what idiots. I'm not 21, I was never married to a musician, and I do NOT have 3 kids.

Going back to this recent test.  I took a girly test that gave me a score of 25% and I was dubbed a tomboy.  True, I hate pink. True, I can't relate to my oldest sister's obsession with Hello Kitty, and I don't know what to do with an eye liner but I'm no tomboy. I can't climb trees, I won't know what to do with a flat tire, and I'm petrified of snakes. But girly things? It's been my lifelong obsession to be a girly girl. And so, it's also been my lifelong failure.

About 6 weeks ago, the Board of Education showed up at a UPK I run in Brooklyn. It was an insane day, the first day of school.  The very first day we opened our doors to 4 year olds from the board of ed. Just the night before, there were no tiles in the second classroom and I threw construction papers on random tables hoping it would distract the inspectors and they would think the classes were fully supported with materials. Maybe they won't notice that only 5 blocks were in the block center and that the paint area only had brushes and that the science table only had one piece of paper that read, "Science Center." The paint, the books, the blocks, the toys, the manipulatives...they were all still in Amazon, waiting to be ordered.

I sat in front of 2 women. One seemed very eclectic, the other...polished.  My posture was erect and when I'm under tremendous pressure I tend to be a bit more articulate, punctual with my responses, and competent in my tone. I was hard at work not to reveal that I did not know what I was doing. That although I ran a successful and difficult program for children with autism, Universal Pre-K, Common Core, and all the rules and guidelines of the typical early childhood world eluded me.  I didn't find the task intellectually challenging, but there were a lot of bullets on my paper and they were too much too soon for an unprepared educational director and the idea of merging the world of autism with universal pre-k was daunting.

They asked questions, I answered. They made suggestions, I wrote furiously.  They offered advice, I took them. But one of them, the polished one, did not say much. She seemed a bit preoccupied. She was kind and understanding and helpful, but she was preoccupied. And then I realized why. She kept glancing at my nails. They were chipped, dirty, with old nail polish that should have been removed or re-done 6 weeks before.  I curled my fingers into a ball to hide them and then eventually, I placed them under the table, where they would neither distract nor appall anyone. I wondered what she was thinking. If she can't take care of those nails, how is she going to run a school? I wanted to say that I was good at what I did because I was psychotically dedicated. I neglected the woman side of me because I poured everything into my work. But who was I kidding? What excuse did I have for overgrown, chipped nails? I wondered if she noticed my unwashed hair, pulled carelessly into a messy bun? I started biting at my cracked lips and wondered if she thought my glasses were too big. After all, one of the students had asked me if they were goggles.

And then, ever so discreetly, I looked at her. Not a hair out of place. Make-up flawless. Lips intact. She looked like she smelled good. Some women know how to be professional and pretty at the same time.

I'm just not one of them.

And so, the UV gel nail era began for me. I ran home and found a nail salon down the block. Two weeks later, I got them done again. And then before another three weeks were gone, the nails had been redone--this time blue, with a hint of sparkle.  I couldn't commit to make-up and hair, but the nails, the one hour I gave myself every 2 weeks, felt good. They felt right. I was finally doing something for myself that I deserved. Something nice and pretty. Something girly.

"I guess you didn't watch that segment on Dr. Oz about gel nails?"

It was my best friend on the phone. The only woman I know busier than me. The brilliant World Health Organization doctor.

"What did he say?" I panicked, looking at my flawless nails.

"Don't worry about it. They can cause skin cancer but don't worry about it. Just cut down on red meat."

"I don't eat red meat!"

"Oh," she chuckled. "Well, then, maybe exercise. That may eliminate the dangers of you getting your nails done."

Laughter from my friend. Silence from me.

"How can you say that? You know I'm the most paranoid person! How can you say that? Just when I finally turned into a girl, you'd say that!"

"Well, maybe you can get manicures instead?"

"They take forever! I have to sit under that blowing thing forever and it makes me crazy. I can't go get a manicure done every 3 days! They chip after I wash dishes and then I have to sit under that thing forever for them to dry!"

And so, I am sitting here today, my last set of UV gel nails slowly but surely fading. I am wondering and calculating and deciding whether or not to go to the nail salon. Of course I will never get gel nails. That's out of the question. But do I really want to get a manicure? A manicure that will chip and fade within days only for me to keep going back religiously to get them done?

I can see that Board of Ed woman in my mind. I can see her glancing, distracted, preoccupied by my lack of girly-ness.  I know what will happen the next time she comes. I will curl my fingers, turn my hand into balls, and hide them under the table. At-least I'll know, deep down, that I tried to be better. I tried to be more girly. Three weeks. For those that know me well know that that's a very long time.

I think that should count for something.