I have this thing about painted toenails. Naked without a slick of varnish, I feel weak and vulnerable. Crazy at it sounds, it’s one of my coping strategies and actually has nothing at all to do with flip flop season.
Even when pregnant and complete with feet precariously balanced on a coffee table, I could not give up on this part of myself. I’ll also admit to feeling ever so slightly smug when the midwife wondered how on earth I’d managed to manoeuvre around my enormous bump. “Where there’s a will there’s a way”, I remember thinking, through gritted 42-week-pregnant-teeth. What she didn’t know was this was my way of showing the (somewhat terrified) determination I felt I needed to approach motherhood with.
And after both births, when I couldn’t quite manage to paint them, exhausted and tearful, this bothered me. Thrown by the loss of sleep, routine and basic ability to brush my teeth in peace, my toenails spoke all of this inner turmoil. I was lost temporarily, making sense of my baby and redefining ‘me’ in this new chapter.
Classing taking off the polish as removing a part of my identity seems a ridiculous thing to say, yet it’s how I feel. Yes I love manicured hands, who doesn’t? But, feet are the inner steel; the part I paint for no-one but myself. The sign that I’ve got this, I’m in control and can carry on.
It’s apparent that makeup provides us with a coat of armour, an outer illusion to protect our exterior shell from how we may truly feel inside. My toenail obsession is an extension of that ethos; even something as minor as the notion of appearing groomed, when the reality is slobbing at home in joggers. Whether convincing the world or myself, it keeps me in charge.
Empowered with knowledge, we can conquer endless amounts. From mascara to new socks, a favourite scent or comfort food, finding your own self-preservation mechanism is everything. Protecting that precious sense of identity is the only way to soldier on. And especially so, when armed with a fresh coat of colour.