Knees scuffed, hair a perpetual knot of entropy, I was more the basic and beloved tomboy archetype than the fairy princess as a young girl. Though my afternoons were more likely spent playing with dump trucks, plowing through brown dirt and terrorizing the local pill bugs, rather than pilfering lipstick from my mother, practicing my pucker, I was not immune to the Barbie doll phenomenon. Even when spending an afternoon building a huge dream home for my Barbie and her various friends, leveraging bizarre ornaments and chachkas invariably housed in my and my friends' basements, this did not segue into painting our nails and lips. Generally, it led to romping around outside, looking for toads. Countless plastic bodies, immobile and contorted, lay piled in large cardboard boxes in my basement, amid a flood of neon shoes and evening dresses. Despite the frenzy of their storage, something more akin to a guerrilla war zone, I loved these dolls. And, to be fair, was more gentle with them as I grew older, a sort of strange tension, where the realization of their superficiality as toys enhances, yet the association of their doll bodies with approaching feminine development also strengthens. They grew more fake, yet I treated them more like actual miniature people.
As I would assume is fairly common, my tomboy tendencies were fostered and encouraged by my father. To this day, he adheres to a natural over artificial approach when it comes to grooming. The one time in early adolescence when I did paint my nails with a friend, furtively, in some atrocious algal green and yellow, surely ended in some disapproving comment, though, what exactly I do not remember. Which is probably a good thing, at least for my own sanity. So, unlike many of the girls my age, in my circumstance, I did not actually own a bottle of nail polish until my junior year of high school. An added flair before my junior prom dance, the shade was a deep ruby wine, a more glittered and cheerful blood, and it matched my dress. Raven Red by Revlon, a loose nod to Edgar Allen Poe. With this as my seminal precedent, for years after, the only shade I wore was this, rarely, slowly emptying the bottle.
Eventually, probably around the time that whatever remark about my unattractive forest moss green nails was forgotten, I branched out, to other variations in the dark red family. Cherry Crush. Revlon Red. Frankly Scarlet. At the start of the summer, taunted by the austere lust of the cosmetics aisle of the pharmacy, I stared at the rows. In my chromatic comfort zone, I owned them all. Each one. Hastily, I grabbed some blindingly fuchsia tint and ran to the register. Did not look back.
First remorse, then neglect. Earlier this week, I finally cracked open the bright pink, slicked it on. Immediately, my nails adopt a plastic sheen. Curved keratin becomes that iconic tiny plastic pump of my childhood, and I remember the frustration when, inevitably, one would disappear into the abyss of the play room.
(image taken from Ron's Rescued Treasures)