Back in 1991 I was in Kindergarten, and my favorite days were the ones where my teacher Mrs. Moore would pull out a stack of magazines and the kid-friendly scissors and ask us to make collages matching the day's current theme. Most of these magazines were of the Better Homes and Gardens or People variety. We would thumb through their glossy pages and find pictures of interesting people, places, and animals to glue in crazy arrangements on our construction paper masterpiece.
The thing about magazines is that, of course, they're full of ads, and because of the kind of magazines we were looking at we were most often exposed to makeup ads. All these pouting models with luscious lips, thick dark eyelashes, and shiny perfect hair. And since this was 25 years ago, all the lipstick, hair dye, nail polish, etc. worn by these models tended to be in neutral or "natural" shades of pink, beige, brown. The most outlandish you might get were the fiery reds, hot pinks, or plums and purples. But there were none of the crazy neon rainbow hues you might see these days.
That was the climate I was brought up in. My father thought that girls shouldn't wear makeup until they were older, and that when they finally did it should be those same neutral shades - the ones that accentuate natural beauty but don't call attention to themselves.
Fast forward eight years. I'm 13 years old and in the 9th grade - my first year back in a traditional classroom setting. (After Kindergarten, my mom decided to home school us... which was very cool, but something to discuss in another post.) Anyway, I'm finally in high school, and here I am on a shopping trip with two of my friends from class. I end up buying some new jeans, a button down shirt that looks like something Julia Stiles wore in her most recent movie, and some nail polish.
But wait, guys. Not just nail polish. Dark blue nail polish.
I love this nail polish.
Love, love, love.
I saw it on the shelf and it was calling my name.
Hidden in its shimmery depths is a reflection of my very soul..... or something. (I was very emo in 9th grade. So sue me.) In fact, I can't even wait to get home. I pop open the bottle in the car and give myself a very shaky and precarious manicure on the way back to my friend Rebekah's house.
When it dries, I can't stop staring at my fingertips. I feel so grown-up. So brave and bold. In a way, I kind of feel invincible.
Looking back now, this seems silly. It doesn't seem like a big deal in an age where people regularly give themselves bubble gum pink highlights or rainbow-striped mohawks. But to me, back then, it was huge.
Buying that blue nail polish was a formative experience for me. It's maybe the first time I can remember making a decision for myself, without fear of what others might say. I knew certain authorities in my life (my parents, my school dress code) might disapprove. But I didn't care. And for Little Miss Goody-Two-Shoes Never-Put-A-Toe-Out-Line-In-Her-Life, this was paradigm-shifting. I made my own choice, took my own path, moved forward with no regrets.
Which is why to this day if you ever see me wearing nail polish that color, it's usually because I'm trying to remind myself of that moment and how I felt: brave, bold, invincible. Some days those feelings are hard to come by.
It's kind of nice to remember a time when I could buy them in a bottle. Who knew such things were for sale? And for only $2.99?