Nail polish came into my life during my college days, or more correctly during my college evenings. It was part of dressing-up to go out on a date, not that I had a lot of time for dating, but because when I did, nail polish was recognized as part of the outfit.
Way back then bright red was in, the brighter the better. If you were really good at applying the polish, you could leave a bare half-moon at the top of the cuticle for a really chic look. I mastered that half-moon.
A year after my college graduation, Bill and I were married, and a year after that the first of our eight children was born. I spent the next 16 years as a busy stay-at-home Mom, or as some ignorant folks put it, a “non-working mother.”
Let me tell you from my personal experience there is no such animal as a non-working mother. My tirades on this subject earned me a reputation for being outspoken.
When women’s liberation came into vogue, my husband was not the least bit surprised. He told me, “You were liberated a long time before it ever came into style.”
Actually I never was a dedicated “woman’s libber.” I had no desire to be equal to men. I always preferred being superior.
But I digress, back to my topic of my life with nail polish.
When our youngest child entered first grade, I went back to work teaching school. Actually I went from working at one job as a wife and mother to two jobs, one as wife/mother and another as school teacher.
In the 1970s if you wanted to make copies of something you used carbon paper or a ditto machine. Carbon paper made your hands black and ditto turned them purple. Teaching required lots of copies of lots of papers, so no matter how much you scrubbed your hands, either purple or black showed under your finger nails.
Red was out by then as an everyday nail polish color, and I didn’t have time to change colors every time I changed my outfit, so I picked a nice neutral color that went with every outfit.
My junior high students were wearing polish colors like black, navy, and even brown.
Within two weeks I learned about the influence a teacher had on students when all my girls turned to nice neutral nail polish. I leaned that example beats preaching by a country mile, and that a little color on the nails held a reluctant student’s attention when I pointed to the chalkboard with my polished finger.
Since then nail polish has been a pretty steady part of my life, although throughout most of my teaching years I usually went without the nail polish during summer vacation to give my nails a chance to breathe. Nine months of constant coverage tended to turn them yellow. Three months off, and they were back to normal, just like school teachers.
Back to why I’ve been thinking about nail polish lately. Why do they always retire a color I like shortly after I decide I like it?
About a year or so ago I settled on a polish color called rose amethyst. It was not the screaming red of my youth, but a smooth rosy color with just a hint of lilac that went with all the basic colors I use in clothes all year round. And now it is no longer available.
That means I have to experiment with numerous 1/2 fl. oz. bottles of paint that I pay more for than I pay for a pint of wall paint until I finally find what I want again. Such frustration! It’s enough to drive one to tears.
But then I find that tears of minor frustration are easier to cope with than lonely tears of grief.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate Oct. 6, 2006.