The Smell of Nail Polish and Polish Remover

| Dec 18, 2017

I still don’t know if private dressing and occasional public outings will be enough to satisfy me, or if I’m going to end up transitioning full time. It’s a scary and exciting journey. One thing I can tell you, even just a few weeks in, is that it’s been a tremendous opportunity to enjoy things I’ve never been able to experience before and to learn about myself.

Not too long ago I had my first ever manicure and pedicure. What a wonderful experience. The warm soaking of hands and feet. The gentle touch. To be pampered for an hour was well worth the forty-five-dollar price. (They even threw in a nice glass of wine!)

Did I get polish? Of course. Although since I’m not fully out yet, I got a beautiful, vibrant red on my toes and a pale, almost translucent pink on my fingers. Unless you were looking carefully, you probably wouldn’t notice my fingernails.

I did goof in one respect, though. I didn’t wait long enough for my fingernails to dry, so I messed up the polish on four nails on one hand. Since I had gone to an out-of-town salon, I went to the store when I got home to buy polish remover, polish, and a top coat. I learned polish is forgiving of uneven strokes, to a degree, though my clumsy repairs don’t look as nearly as good as a professional’s.

I learned something more important, though. For some reason I never understood, the smell of polish and polish remover has been pleasant to me. I thought it was just because I loved so many things that are girly. No, it’s something deeper.

I was one of two children. I came along seven years after my sister. Sadly, we lost her to a brain tumor more than twenty-five years ago. She was gorgeous, she was smart, she was mother of a beautiful woman (my niece, who has been a rock of support for me in this journey and who patiently answers all my woman-related questions.)

As I sat at my kitchen table, applying the remover, the new polish, and then waiting patiently for it to dry this time, I was hit with a memory as sudden and powerful as Proust’s “Madeleine Moment.” I was transported back to 1970, I was ten years old, and I was watching my beautiful sister sitting at our breakfast table applying her nail polish.

I remember being fascinated, and yeah, probably envious, that she got to do this and as I boy, I didn’t. It just seemed like one more female thing that would be denied to me because I had been unlucky enough to be born in a male body.

My niece will accompany me when on my first public outing — a girl’s night (or day) out. Probably something simple, like lunch in a restaurant with booths and dim lighting. But it will be a start. She said a bit wistfully that she wished her mom was still here; she would have loved this. She did teach her daughter a lot of makeup tips and tricks, and now my niece will be passing them on to me. . . sort of a big sister once removed.

I miss her too, but I know she’ll be with us anyway when we venture out into that big, wonderful world.

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Category: Body & Soul

About the Author ()

Claire H. was born and grew up in a large city on the left coast and has spent most of her adult years in a beautiful small coastal community where she's now an elected official in local government after spending many years as a newspaper and radio reporter. In her space time she loves reading, writing fiction (her first novel was published by a regional press a couple of years ago), watching classic Hollywood movies, and walking.

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  1. StephanieW says:

    My daughter and I got a manicure and pedicure together this past summer…. it was fun… encourage everyone to do it at least once….