Reverse French Manicure


The season has begun. The reverse French manicure.


Jared will catch me picking at my nails and give me a look. "I'm not stressing out, I'm picking the dirt from under my nails," I tell him. "Ok," he says.

I'll give him a dirty look next time he picks his nails. "My hands are really dried out now. Lots of hangnails," he tells me. "Ok," I say.

Married couples. Always nagging each other.

That's what I thought of my parents. Sometimes, I would let them know what I thought of their nagging. My mother would say, "You don't know what real arguing is like." Fair. I thought about my grandparents bickering, nagging, and arguing in Polish. In English.

I once asked Jared, "What does arguing in Hungarian sound like?"

"Like my grandparents," he said simply.

I know just a bit of Hungarian, my adopted and beloved other language. We lived with Jared's grandparents' for a month in Szentendre, Hungary. During meals, I would sit back at the dinner table and listen to the tone of their speech. Very irritable and familiar with each other. 

Nani, Jared's grandmother, spoke to me as though I was fluent, a fluent child, perhaps. Still, a fluent Hungarian child at age two knows more Hungarian than I do. I may have a command of a few more Hungarian curses than a two year old. And my, the Hungarians do have some curses so good that they make me giddy.


I'm not a terribly careful or fastidious person. Sticks poke out of my hat. Always. Leaves dangle from the fringe of my shawl. My knuckles are scraped. My clothes are rumpled. My clothes have tiny holes from blackberry brambles. "But this is new!" I think.

My hair is fuzzy. Even at weddings. Even at a professional portrait sitting that I am paying for. Check my "about" page to confirm. Very fuzzy hair. I love it.

I leave the house without checking the mirror. I consider this only when it is "too late".

I admire others who coordinate socks and shirts. They look nice. Often, I decide what to wear as I am putting on clothes. Red, blue, and pink socks. By the time I get to choosing a shirt, I am no longer thinking of my socks. I don't match, therefore.

I went to give a lecture to a garden club. I wore a nice outfit by my standards. I think that is important as an ambassador for native plants. I wore my kung fu shoes, a pair of white Feiyues. Feiyues finally stop smelling strongly of rubber tires just about the time the soles wear out.

I like my Feiyues. The soles are thin and nearly flat. They are wide and easy. Simple. Because I wear them to kung fu class and practice in them at home, they are a bit of a talisman. I feel rooted, strong and flexible. Sometimes, I try to secret away in an empty hallway or the bathroom and quietly do a form† before giving a lecture.

At home, I thought I looked fine. At the lecture, I looked down. My shoes were closer to replacement time than fresh rubber-tire-aroma time. My shoes are always dirty. Even my "nice" ones.

I think I am an accurate ambassador for natives - periodically fresh and washed, often disheveled from the wind and rain, a bit bug-eaten and scratched. So, from now until that damned winter returns, I will be happily, nay, joyfully sporting my reverse French manicure.


† Form - A composed sequence of movements in martial arts. Usually beginning with a formal greeting and ending with a closing. Also called a "sequence" or "kata".