Sometimes I think I write too much about dealing with my kids and their issues. This morning, for instance, could have provoked yet another thousand word essay on the joys of trying to get out of the house on time and why it never ever happens and how I'll never qualify as Mother of the Year because I keep losing my temper and my son hates me because he doesn't get TV, DS or laptop time tonight. But...his medicine got in him. So I assume his teacher will have a better day than my morning was. But this isn't about that.
This post is about being a girly girl. Or being not a girly girl. Or about being both all at the same time, and reconciling the picture of who I am in my mind with the reality of me.
With all due respect - and apologies - to the ultra-feminine among us: I have never felt I was one of you. I was the girl who wanted to get the most offensive rebounds in the basketball game, not cheer the team on from the sidelines wearing a tight sweater and a skimpy skirt. I was the girl who collected snakes and dug clams and spent most of her weekends on or around her horse and who only wore dresses if threatened with death or disinheritance.
It wasn't that I didn't want to be pretty. I did want to be pretty, oh so very much. But I knew that I wasn't. I knew, deep inside of me, that I was never going to earn peer acceptance for being cute or petite or having a feminine voice or a sweet laugh. I could only be good at certain things, and those weren't necessarily the things that purchase a pass into the world of beautiful girls. And I liked the things I was good at, even if they weren't considered truly feminine pursuits.
I sailed along through high school and college mostly feeling like Marmaduke trapped in a china shop. Eventually, finally, I started figuring out that I had assets that went beyond being able to beat the average guy in an arm wrestling match, and more importantly, learned to enjoy making the most of them. I would guess its taken me about twenty years altogether to become more at ease with the woman inside me who wants to look pretty. I finally had to understand that pretty and smart don't have to be mutually exclusive. I finally get it, that I can change the oil in my car by myself and that doesn't disaqualify me from putting on a pretty dress and some makeup and a dab of perfume on my wrists and being attractive in a more conventional way.
I've learned that there is NOTHING WRONG with wanting to look attractive. And the most interesting thing about it all is that I reached a point in my life where I don't do it for anyone but myself. I don't get dressed up to impress a man, I get dressed up because I want to. And I dress down because I want to. Dressing down doesn't make me a dirty mom. Its just one aspect of who I am.
And to clarify, "attractive" to me doesn't mean looking like Angelina Jolie or Grace Kelly or any of those skanky Jersey Girls on television. It means looking like me, all dressed up. Beautiful is the way you see yourself, beautiful is the way love sees you. Likewise, ugly comes from inside too. Ugly is the way some people act, not the way they look.
I don't worry what people will think of me in the grocery store if I've been on my horse and I'm covered in dust and hair and I'm wearing my boots and I have hat head. Go right ahead and stare at me disapprovingly if you must, I don't notice it and even if I did you lack the power to make me feel bad. The flip side of that coin is that when I make the effort to dress up and look pretty, I don't need you to approve of me for me to know I look good. That comes from me, not you.
One physical trait that I've always not liked about myself are my fingernails. The women in my family of origin have very sturdy, very strong hands. Functional hands. But - terrible nail beds. Short, wide nail beds, not the nice long oval ones I so admire. The nails grow out splayed and split and not so very nicely. I am also not good about caring for my hands. I never wear rubber gloves when I'm cleaning house or doing dishes. So I have these short fingernails and they're always getting broken and cracked. They're ridged, my cuticles are an embarassment.
I have mostly accepted that these are the hands I have, but I don't necessarily have to like them. And it does feel strange when I go and pay for a pedicure and come out of the shop with lovely toes and newly de-calloused feet in sharp contrast to the mangy cuticles and chopped off nails on my hands.
I have talked myself into and out of artificial nails for years. I had them briefly in my twenties. I even bought nail polish the exact shade of my red Nissan Pathfinder. But they didn't last, I split one painfully due to my clumsiness, I was terrible about getting fills done. And then with my current lifestyle, horses and dogs and cleaning stalls and all...it didn't seem like something I could - or should - do.
Except I have this one index finger where the nail is splitting. And it won't stop. Its been split for over two months now, and as it grows, it just keeps splitting. I've tried polish, I've tried special plastic "bandaids" just for fingernails, I've tried acrylic nail polish. I've tried nail treatments. In the end, I just keep cutting it back farther and farther and no matter how far down to the quick I get it, it still splits and the edges of the split catch on things like my saddle pad or my shoelace and it splits farther and more painfully every time.
So I gave it some thought. Artificial nails don't have to be long nails. They can be as long or as short as I want them to be. Even if the nail technician thinks they should be longer, it doesn't really matter. I'm the customer, I get to ask for what I want. And yes, artificial nails are harder than hell on your real nails. But my real nails are complete crap anyway, so honestly, does it really matter if they get thin and brittle and crack? They do that anyway! Artificial nails require maintenance. I'm notoriously bad at taking care of myself. So now I have a compelling excuse to go take some time for myself and spend it on something that looks nice. Artificial nails look fake. Yes, but even fake looking nails look a thousand percent better than the ones God graced me with.
Wow, I had an argument with myself and I WON.
I can still beat you at arm wrestling, though.