(posted by the flagrant female, in response to D and mike, below)
I don’t actually remember when I stopped. It was some time after school, but I remember my hands as being part of the reason I was never entirely ‘cool’.
Ridiculously chewed nails, just the top, because at the bottom of the cuticle, mild exzema meant that the skin rolled into a fat dry lip, with space underneath to see where the nail came from.
It was fine at the time, you couldn’t play the piano with nails anyway, as my piano teacher would reassuringly tell me.
But I always envied the nails of my best friend, as I did her hair, posture, grace, intellect.
No, not envy, as such. I was just in awe. I wanted to be more like her, and I had no idea how we’d ended up friends.
Actually, I do. It was the music, we’d roll up to school on a wednesday morning and huddle over the gig lists, me with the NME, she with Melody Maker, circling likely nights out, making plans, and then, a few nights later, getting dressed together, doing each other’s hair.
She got A’s in everything without trying. She’d get in a huff about something, and I’d spend days trying to get her to be my best friend again.
I wanted to be a music journalist, she wanted to be a lawyer. We’d both be married by the time the millennium came around, and of course would be each other’s bridesmaids. She was never short of a boyfriend, or two, and once a man even went out with me in order to get closer to her.
And I didn’t really mind, because I could kind of see his point. Who’d want to go out with me with her so nearby.
I wanted to be just like her.
In no way, to my knowledge, at least, did she want to be me.
We’re not in touch anymore. I moved away from London, when I was 16, and for a couple of years we kept in touch, sporadically.
I’ve heard she’s married though.
I wasn’t there.
And I’m glad we’re not in touch, in many ways.
I have a great respect for my friends, and there are many things about them which merit ‘awe’, but I no longer feel below them.
I no longer want to be them.
I think that’s a good thing.
In the 18th century, women of aristocracy would grow the nail on their pinky to an inch or more, just to show they never needed to do manual work, or anything, really, for themselves.
I do, by the way, have an enormous pinky nail.
I don’t know if that’s a good thing.