Yesterday Matt asked me to paint his toenails, a summertime ritual we have followed for at least five years, possibly more. He wears very revealing sandals all summer, and he likes his toes to look pretty. Who doesn’t? I’m happy to oblige.
He prefers glossy red, for the record.
So just now I decided to join in the fun and paint my toenails too, the same color of red. Needless to say, most of the shades of polish in our house are variations on red, since most of the polish exists primarily for Matt’s use. I just borrow his make-up when I’m feeling particularly girly.
Which I am today, clearly.
As I was performing the peculiar acrobatics that are required to properly paint one’s toenails while sitting on the toilet seat, I was suddenly struck by a memory of painting my nails when I was fourteen.
It was summertime, I was lounging about on my front porch, being fourteen and righteously slothful. Our next-door neighbor was a guy we called Sarge, apparently because he had been in the National Guard for twenty years or something, who knows if that was ever true.
All I knew about the guy was that he was a kinda short, very funny gay guy with bleached blond hair who liked to stand around on his front lawn with a green water hose in one hand and a healthy glass of scotch in the other, watering his lawn. He ran a boarding house next door, and my brothers used to “visit” with him and the other tenants in the evenings to get high and sample his liquor cabinet.
My mother never suspected any of this about him, thinking that National Guard Veteran = Upstanding Member of Society Involved in Nothing Untoward.
On this particular summer morning, I was sitting on our front porch, painting my toenails a lovely shade of lilac. Sarge sauntered over to chat (scotch-free, as far as I can recall, but what do I know?), and after a few minutes of idle chatter, asked me perfectly amicably if there wasn’t some more profitable way I could spend my time than lolling about on the lawn, painting my nails purple?
It’s lilac, I said, and I’m on the porch. The lawn is over there.
And no, I added, I’m fourteen, it’s summertime. I think this is exactly what I should be doing with my time.
Sarge smiled and gave me one of those little one-fingered tip-o-the-hats (you know? the index finger to the right side of the forehead, then flicked the index finger in my direction? what is that called?) and said — with I’m pretty sure more than a touch of envy — touche.
And here I am, it’s summer, I’m 33, and I’m painting my nails (hold on, lemme check…) heartbeat frost on a summer evening, and I still think it’s the most proper use of my time.
Am I wrong? Am I wrong?