Those of y’all who follow me on Twitter may have noticed me talking about nail polish a lot more lately. I dipped my toes into those shimmery waters a few years back for a friend’s party, and I’ve been sloooowly increasing how often I wear it until I realized, this past spring, that wearing it has become a key component of my presentation. That first time I painted my nails, every time I looked at my hands I had a “WHOA! Whose hands are at the end of my arms??” moment, but now I feel oddly naked when I don’t have it on. (A fun example: this week I had a dream in which one of my fingernails was partially torn off, exposing part of the nail bed, and my first thought was not “OW” or “how did that happen?” but “HOW am I going to paint my nails now?!?”)
I’ve branched out in terms of colors I want to wear; I started out with a metallic dark grey and at this point I have a pretty well-stocked rainbow of polish. As I slowly increased the range and saturation of colors, I still stayed away from straight-up glitter and from anything pink for a good while, but I bought this polish recently so clearly that hurdle’s been crossed. Some of this is just related to my overall trend towards wearing more colors in the past few years; I haven’t followed a “dark neutrals only” clothing rule since those dark desperate days of doing anything to try to get people to get my pronouns right, but recently I’ve been drawn to brighter colors than I’ve worn since I was in high school. I even find myself missing the amazing purple velour jeans I bought on clearance for something like eight bucks in ninth grade. Either my taste has recently changed, or I’ve become comfortable enough with myself to embrace the ridiculous taste I’ve always had. I’m not sure.
I often struggle to take compliments graciously, but I’ve found that I really like it when other people notice and compliment my nail polish. When I first realized I wanted to wear polish more and was branching out into more interesting colors, I was still a little self-conscious about having it on, in a way that was a mix between “wait, how does this relate to my confusing-ass gender” and “will other people think it’s weird.” I don’t like to focus too much on other people’s opinions of me, but that doesn’t mean I’m not aware of negative reactions, either. But on one particular day, when multiple people commented on how good my metallic gold-green polish looks in direct sunlight, I was just so pleased that they were into it, and it was easy to say “yeah I know, how fun is this color? Thanks!” and go on my way feeling even more enthusiastic about it. And every time since then that it’s happened, I think “oh, you noticed the thing I most want you to see about me! I did something right!” I feel a lot less weird about that sort of compliment than I do about something I can’t control. My eyes might be nice, sure, but they aren’t really something I had a hand in creating. But if someone wants to tell me how rad my nail polish is, that reflects positively on my choices and my presentation, and I can get behind that. And since I’m most excited about my nail polish at the moment, those are the compliments I feel best about.
Because I’ll be honest with y’all – it’s so often a struggle to be happy with how I look, in all sorts of ways. I’ve had body image issues for years, I feel awkward about how to make clothes work properly, and I often don’t want to take up space or be noticed at all. And I’m working on that! A lot of it’s changing! On one level I think that focusing too much on my appearance may not be the best thing, but finding a way to be louder about thinking I’m hot stuff (whether or not anyone’s letting me know they agree or not) has been incredibly helpful. I recently took this picture of myself and was really pleased with it; you can see the bluish-purple streak in my hair and I’m wearing a shirt I really like, but what seals it for me is that I got my matte blue nails in there too. Yeah.
Maybe this is the sort of revelation that will come as no surprise to people who are interested in fashion or makeup but when I put on nail polish? It feels like I’m putting on ARMOR. The way I look and dress and carry myself has been something I’ve been struggling with for pretty much my entire life; this was an issue long before I ever questioned my gender. And I’ve hit this point where… all that hasn’t gone away, to be sure, but I’m having more and more moments where I’m able to think I look pretty good and am carrying myself well. I’m actually feeling confident a lot of the time, and having nail polish on somehow amplifies that. It’s my “don’t fuck with me” armor. I’ll walk down the street, see color on my nails, and feel more powerful because of it.