The Dirt Under our Nails
Dear Evan and Lulu,
Last night I got dressed up for the one event of the year that I bother to brush my hair for. Once a year I squeeze into a dress, wear shoes that pinch my toes, and pose for ridiculous photos with Mike and our friends at an annual holiday party. This year I looked forward to the outing even more than ever after a stressful two weeks with the both of you being sick. Any time you are sick it makes my mind feel slower and my heart feel heavier. This time took both of those to the extreme. After 8 medical visits to 5 different places (including the Emergency Room) in one week, I needed a night out, or fifty.
I’ve never been that great at dressing up, not since the clothes became full size and not intended for my dolls, however I do enjoy it. It feels like stepping into a book and becoming a character of your choice. Different makeup gives you a different personality. Different hair can change your entire outlook on life. Different shoes will make you walk with a limp for weeks but while you are wearing them you’ll feel invincible. Sometimes changing our appearance can give us a fresh perspective.
As I stepped out our door dressed in the best I had to offer after a 9 hour work day, I glanced down and saw black grime lining the underneath of my finger nails.
“Ooooh! I have conductive paint stuck under my nails,” I shouted to Mike. Already having showered I knew the paint was settling in and wouldn’t leave without a fight.
I had spent all day working on a “Staff Make It Day”, encouraging staff to explore making things through a variety of digital and physical formats. I led a session on e-textiles and used conductive paint to complete circuits in bracelets and bookmarks. Apparently I included my fingers in the circuit schematic.
I thought about running back up the stairs and scrubbing my nails with the green scratchy dish pad. I thought about borrowing some of your neon nail polish and masking the innards of my nails by coating the outside of them. I thought how most women would have fake nails, manicures, or certainly a shiny clear coat protecting their nails at the party. There I was with a fancy dress, semi-controlled hair, and dirty black nails that could conduct electricity.
It made me think of your hands and how they constantly have layers of dirt caked beneath your nails. How I can instantly look at your delicate cuticles and know if you stopped on your walk to pick up piles of rocks, couples of pinecones, lonely worms who have lost their path, or handfuls of flowers. I thought about the way you run your hands through the dirt without hesitation or thoughts of consequence. I remembered the way you plant seeds into the earth, the way rake your fingers through the sand, how your limbs find refuge when camouflaged by paint, frosting, or heaps of glue. I saw my hands and they reminded me that the colors under your nails represent a rainbow of experiences that make you unique and special.
So I went to the party with conductive paint underneath my nails. I reminded myself that interesting is more important than polished and having used my hands to create something is more important than having them look nice.
Always be the girls with dirty nails. It might make some people cringe and shake their heads. They will never understand the importance of dirt. But I promise you that you will learn more, love more, and be mesmerized every day if you continue to let yourself explore and get dirty. You have those hands for a reason. It isn’t to hold jewelry and polish. It is to hold rocks and frogs, earth and water, dirt and sand. It is to throw, to catch, to push and pull. It is for mud cakes, snowballs, and gravel piles. You have those hands to learn with. Those are experiences that no polish can mask.