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The Day The World Became Shut To Me - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal
July 12th, 2006
12:28 am


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The Day The World Became Shut To Me

Even as a boy, I had subscriptions to magazines that I felt guilty about not reading. Back in the day, my guiltzine of choice was World Magazine – a Boys’ Life-style colorful magazine aimed at teaching kids about science and, well, the World. It was chock-a-block full of interesting articles on geckos and eerily iridescent photos of deep-sea jellyfish, but for some reason the World magazines piled up in the corner until ones on the bottom began to smolder from the pressure of the magazines on the top. Eventually, they turned to peat.

But there was one issue of World that changed my life – or, rather, it didn’t change my life. And it happened when I was eight.

The issue in question had an article on fingernails. They were amazing fingernails, of the sort I’d never seen before – big, long, smooth things painted in bright colors. My mother painted her fingernails a crimson shade, but that wasn’t what World had.

World had art on those fingertips.

One of the fingernails had a tiny globe on it, complete with the North American continents and wisps of cirrus clouds. Another had a rainbow in lacquered colors sweeping across the face of the nail. A third had a little black-and-white panda, eating a bamboo leaf.

That was the coolest thing my eight-year-mind had ever seen. I knew about tattoos, of course, but the ones I’d seen were faded and muddy against a pale pink skin. They were nothing like the bright primary colors on these fingernails.

I craved nails of my own.

Alas, I knew I wasn’t artistic enough – and I had the bad habit of biting my nails off, something I instantly vowed never to do again so that I could carry around ten miniature landscapes upon my hands. So I asked my mother for help; I knew she painted her nails, so of course she knew the deep secrets of how to place the rings of Saturn upon my fingertips.

When my Mom freaked out, I could not understand.

“You’re a boy,” she said firmly. I shrugged. Yeah, I got that whole “boy” thing. But what did that have to do with painting my fingernails?

She explained that I would look stupid, but this had no weight coming from my mother – no offense, ma, but I’d seen some of the outfits you’d picked out for me, and they weren’t exactly getting me acclaim on the school grounds. I held fast to my goal of getting cool fingernails.

She railed on for another ten minutes, and realizing that she was getting nowhere, she brought in my Uncle Tommy. Tommy was my idol back then, forever going into New York to do cool things with fun people, and surely he would convince me. And then Tommy explained that there were some things that boys didn’t do, and just like you didn’t see him walking around in a dress, we couldn’t see you walking around with hot pink fingernails.

“But a dress is stupid,” I protested. “These fingernails are cool.”

Tommy knew that I was flighty, seized with a monstrous need to play the violin one day and skipping my lessons the next, so he just nodded and let it go. But I had found something beautiful, and I latched onto it like a terrier onto a rat.

The next day, I asked again. They brought in my babysitter, Sheryl, who was young and popular, and she told me that the kids would laugh at me. This was, of course, nonsense. They’d have been dutifully impressed by the elaborate brushwork on my fingertips!

My dad took a stab at it when he came home from work. He made no further sense. And when they brought in my grandparents, I caved.

I did not stop asking because they had convinced me of the righteousness of their cause. I stopped asking because I could not do this without help – fingernail polish was expensive, and the kids would laugh if I walked in with slipshod art. And apparently, the entire world was against the idea of boys wearing cool fingernails, so I was destined to fail.

I burned with envy. I didn’t want to be a girl, but it bugged me that girls could be pretty and guys had to be dumb and boring. Couldn’t they see that the appeal of having a unicorn doing a little dance on your ring finger crossed gender boundaries?

So I put the idea away. And by the time I was a teenager and able to afford it, I was such an inveterate nail-chewer that I never could make it happen.

But what I remember is the stupid wall. I wanted to do something that would have been the coolest goddamn thing ever, and it was the only time in the history of my family that I could not find a single ally no matter how hard I looked. I had a supportive family, and usually at least one person understood, but the one time I was totally alone was over something so silly and trivial I still cannot fathom why they abandoned me.

To hell with my parents. Those fingernails would have been awesome.

(50 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

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[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 04:39 am (UTC)
I always wanted to do that. My parents HATE fingernail polish of any kind, so I've gone crazy in college doing my nails all the time. I just wish I could do the intricate art.
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 05:03 am (UTC)
i would recomend my nail tech, as he does very pretty things on my nails all the time :) but he's way out here in vancouver, BC. i am sure there are studios that will do them for you out there though :)

and if you get the acrylic put on, then you can just wear them around sometimes :D
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 01:17 pm (UTC)

Off topic ...

Man, that icon hurts just to look at it. Ow ow ow!

Of course, YMMV :D
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
Date:July 12th, 2006 05:53 am (UTC)
I expected a theferrett / "The Waterboy"'s Coach Klein crossover moment: What momma don't know ...
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 06:12 am (UTC)
There are airbrush artists who do nails like that even today. Most of them, however, are done on the acrylic nails that are glued onto your real ones. Since men have much larger nails than women, I would think that there would be no problem in doing maybe one or two nails just for fun. Shoot, I know men who have had diamonds put into or onto their teeth. If that is OK and bling earings are OK, then why not an airbrushed nail or two. Doing all of them might be a bit much though.
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 06:36 am (UTC)
Dude, Ferrett! Get a coupla nails done. Please.
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 09:39 am (UTC)
That blows. I think I think i can somewhat relate, While I never had a "girls don't do that" moment, I had plenty of ones where "Nice girls don't do that." Who knew I could create chaos and disorder, give everyone the wrong impression, and completely disrupt the classroom environment by wearing fingerless lace gloves to school in 1994. Not that anyone other than my father noticed, of course. ) or wearing workman's boots. Or all black.

It did, however, escape notice when I intricately painted tiny scenes from The Crow on my fingernails. I had a lot of time on my hands.
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 12:21 pm (UTC)
My whole life is a "nice girls don't do that moment". I have decided that I am perfectly capable of being a nice person without having to be nice girl. Unfortunately I don't have the artistic skills nessecary to draw on my nails, but I play a mean air guitar and can wolf whistle loud enough to strip paint.
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 09:57 am (UTC)
You should have given them a copy of Heinlein's Beyond This Horizon to read :p.
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 10:23 am (UTC)
It's not too late, you know.

And the great thing about the kind of job you have, where you don't have to work with the public on a day-to-day basis, is that, really, it doesn't matter what people think.

I say "Go for it."

[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 12:30 pm (UTC)
I wonder...were the appalled by the thought that you wanted pretty nails, or that you simply wanted to paint your nails? What if you went on a goth kick and decided you wanted to paint them black?
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 06:52 pm (UTC)
There was no "goth kick" in the late 70s/early 80s. There was punk in the 80s, but in suburbia that seemed to have been more about hair and jewelry than nails.
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 01:18 pm (UTC)
hee hee... I love "But I had found something beautiful, and I latched onto it like a terrier onto a rat." hee hee hee.

I bet you could have pulled off the fingernail thing. You know who my favorite nail-polish-wearer is...and he's nothing if not masculine...mmSpike. (and secondarily, Seth Green)
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 01:19 pm (UTC)
That's sad.

My 8 year old son recently asked about painting his fingernails. At first I got that fear in my gut. The one mothers get that says, "Oh no! Everyone will laugh at him and beat him up!" But then, he's homeschooled. It's not like he's going to be alone on the playground with a bunch of homophobe bullies. And wanting to paint fingernails, or even wear lace, isn't necessarily about wanting to be feminine or gay. It's about something that's pretty, and cool. I know plenty of guys who like silk boxers (but of course they won't wear a silk shirt).

Anyway, I finally just told him he'd have to wait until his teens, just like his sisters. :-)
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 05:25 pm (UTC)
Silk shirts aren't masculine?! (dies)
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 01:39 pm (UTC)

I feel your pain.

From the time I was a child, I was fascinated by tattoos, and you know well how that turned out ... even though the whole family was lined up against me because, in the immortal words of my grandmother, "tattoos make a girl look tough."

I even had my thumbnail tattooed, because I could. And it was damn cool to have a floral scene embedded there, at least until it grew out.

When I found out that those elaborately airbrushed fingernails are only worn by hookers, at least here on the East Coast, I nearly cried. I wanted, just once, to sport sunsets on each finger. I feel your pain.
[User Picture]
Date:July 13th, 2006 02:03 am (UTC)

Re: I feel your pain.

Only worn by hookers since when???? Last time I checked, my mother-in-law isn't a hooker... neither am I (tho some people wouldn't be surprised if I went that way, lol), and neither are ANY of the other customers in the nail shops I go to.
Maybe it's just the particular part of the state you're in...
Date:July 12th, 2006 02:20 pm (UTC)
My brother used to like nail polish. He'd wear it on the last day of school, the only day he could get away with it. Permanent marker on the nail is Boy, but actual polish is Girl.

Do you read Bitch PhD? Her pseudonymous kid is mistaken for a girl a lot because he likes having long hair and once got into an argument at school about boys and nail polish. Adorable stories.
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 02:22 pm (UTC)
It's not too late! Last year at SIGGRAPH, Jim and I (along with countless other attendees) got our nails done by the Nail Jet Pro. The end result was far too cool to be particularly gendered; I saw lots of little girls and little boys getting their nails done.

You can see my nails - at least, the ones that I hadn't already destroyed, here:

(The designs from left: starburst, Mona Lisa, Dragon, Scuba diver, tropical sunset, stained glass window, leopard, and SIGGRAPH logo.)
[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2006 04:33 pm (UTC)
wow that looks amazing!
Date:July 12th, 2006 02:46 pm (UTC)
I've always hated stupid gender restrictions, especially while growing up. ESPECIALLY as a boy with long hair, a not very butch face, and an intense dislike of sports. My father didn't try to drill the whole macho thing into me, thankfully, but the entire rest of the world did.
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