Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Truth About My Nail Polish

If I told you I was thinking of writing a post about nail polish as a metaphor for life, you might think I’d been sniffing it in my spare time. I get it. It sounds a little crazy, but that is exactly what I am going to do. I’ve now had at least 4 conversations with different friends about how nail polish is perceived by the outside world. Each one of them raised it after stepping outside the box and choosing a polish that was outside of the generally acceptable pale pink spectrum.

Nails in a color other than pink? Doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? Here’s the context: we all work corporate jobs. The unspoken rule is “Don’t stand out. Be the cog. Fit into the machine and do your part. Leave your individuality for the weekend.”

For me, the shedding of my individuality (damn that sounds dramatic) started with preparation for my first corporate interview. I went to see a career counselor at my school for a mock interview. I dressed in what I planned to wear to the interview. It was freezing outside so I wore a charcoal gray pants suit with a lightweight turtleneck underneath. We went through a mock interview. Afterwards, she gave me some tips on answering certain types of questions and then she turned to my outfit choice.  Five minutes later, she’d (gently) torn me apart.

When I left her office, I had a checklist. I needed to straighten my hair and wear it behind my shoulders. I was to wear a black or navy skirt suit, a white or cream scoop neck shell, “delicate” jewelry and a low heeled pump. My nails? Pale pink or nude.  This was a bit of a crossroads in my life. I could have decided to be myself. I mean, did I really want to work somewhere that made a portion of its hiring decisions based on how well you fit the mold? I took the other path. I really wanted (and needed) the job.  I’ll admit I was annoyed at first (at the process and at myself) but when I got to the interview and saw everyone there had gotten the memo about the uniform, I was grateful... and I got the job.

After I started working, the little rebel in me bucked the rules a bit. I wore fushia pants, knee high boots, suede skirts and very high heels to work (not together, of course). I wore my hair all sorts of ways and colored it a few times. My nails, however, always remained a light shade of pink or nude until last year.
First, I branched out in minimal ways. I went for metalics and reds. Then, I was in the hospital in June and my family came up to visit. My sis gave me a pedicure and painted my toenails like strawberries. I got tons of compliments (on the weekends) and decided to keep experimenting. First, I painted my nails turquoise. I didn’t change them before going back to work and lots of people noticed…and they liked them. I’ve been experimenting ever since. I’ve used every color and have done polka dots, glitter, ombre, hearts, etc.

Are you tired of manicure descriptions yet? Ready for the “metaphor for life” part? For me, stepping out of the box and into the truth of who I am is always the best thing to do—though it can seem like the hardest. No one likes to be judged. In the end though, there is nothing wrong with being me, whether people approve or not. What other people think shouldn’t impact how I feel at the end of the day. Ultimately, a  job is about skill not about how you look. If I can do the work required of me, who cares if I have pink, yellow, blue and green polka dots on my nails. They make me happy!

On a larger scale, my nails represent not being content to be stifled (though in reality I was probably the one doing most of the stifling based on that mock interview from long ago). When I feel the urge to jump back in the box and self stifle, I just have to tell myself, “Girl, no one cares about your sparkly nails but you! Now, let’s get on with it.” And so it goes.

p/s My friends have joined the nail polish rebellion with me. I went to dinner with one of my girls last night after work (at a stuffier place than we planned for--they didn't have a wait) and she had gray and black leopard print on her nails. It was kinda awesome. 

What aspect of your look or personality do you dial back based on your job, church, friends, etc. ?

How do you step outside of the box when it comes to appearances?

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