Even my daughters don’t know my secret: I’m hooked on the nail polish and other full-of-promise cosmetics from the drugstore, any drugstore. Oh! the glossy, glamorous nail colors, the soothing powder puffs and special sponges, the blushers that promote a comely glow, luxurient crèmes that pledge smooth-toned glimmering skin — all alluring, addictive.
For years I’ve hidden my secret behind a facade of expensive Clinique potions, but it’s the gaudy, slightly tacky things crammed on drugstore shelves I crave. (Oddly enough, I’m not tempted by lipsticks. I use whatever Clinique provides each time I fall for their “free gift” promotions.)
I’m too artless, too left-handed to be able to polish my own nails though. Besides, I love to go to a salon for mani/pedicures. Love the hot, bubbly water soaks and that someone will cradle my ugly feet as if they were beautiful. My toes end up looking almost human instead of simian. And to have someone massage my hands and arms, make my cracked, split nails look like a 1940s movie star’s, ah-h, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!
But even better is browsing the drug store aisles and imagining what my nails might look like if they were long, strong, and beautifully shaped. This orangy-brown — “A-piers [sic] almost tan” — would work, wouldn’t it? Um, no. The color makes my fingers look as if I’ve been kneading gingersnap dough and forgot to wash my hands.
Or pale “Seashell?” Surely my hands will look as if they were painted by Botticelli, won’t they? Well, not really. On me, “Seashell” looks more like something slimy that crawled out from under a dead hermit crab above the high tide line.
“Mindful Mocha?” “Stoney Crème?” Maybe “Glass Slipper?” Would my nails glitter like Cinderella’s dancing shoes, or look more like a Russian figure skater’s over-sequined costume?
Who am I trying to fool?
My hands and feet have always been my torment. The inked prints on my birth certificate look like a two-year-old’s hands and feet. People used to tell my mother, “She should be a pianist with those hands.” That’s as stupid a remark as those who tell my very tall grandson Miah, “You should be a basketball player.” Big hands and towering height neither a pianist nor a basketball player make.
I did take piano lessons for twelve years. Hated the lessons, hated the peony-filled parlors where our recitals were staged —their scent still makes me queasy — but at least I came out of that period with a love of classical music. Miah’s height didn’t make him love basketball, but his theater/lighting design major seems perfect for him on so many levels and, I must admit, he’s really nice to have around when “tall” things need doing. Well, he’s really nice to have around, period.
We all know women who clean up their houses before the cleaning lady comes, right? I don’t have a cleaning lady, but I do give myself a hack-job pedicure before I go to the salon. I don’t want the sweet little clinician with the tiny porcelain hands to see my feet in their usual state.
It could well be that my foot “phobia” was passed on from my mother. She had a habit of sticking her foot in her mouth: We were shopping for my first pair of high heels. This, back in the day when a salesman fitted a shoe to your foot using a measuring stick while sitting on a low mirrored stool. The young man said I needed a half-size larger. Mom fussed because I already wore an eight. She had big feet and hated that mine were destined to be like hers.
“Half an inch isn’t really much difference,” he said.
“Well,” Mom huffed, “it’d be a lot on the end of your nose!” There was an awkward silence. He fussed with the shoe boxes. When she looked up she noticed his exceptionally long, beaked nose.
She bought me the larger size and we left silently, never to return to that store.