I've said good-bye to most of my New York-based friends now, and am trying to squeeze in a few last things I'd like to do (along with the obligations like the dentist appointment I have in a couple of hours) before leaving New York for a few years. Yesterday, this included getting a manicure and pedicure.
Not in blue, as pictured above. I got that color a few months ago (and promptly named it Metrocard Blue). Yesterday, I chose a dark green for my toenails and a slightly lighter green for my fingernails.
Getting mani/pedis was not something I did before moving to New York. I have short nails, as you can see, and I associated such indulgences with long, glamorous nails, which were very much the style in the 1980's. So much of what we consider to be correctly beautiful comes from what we saw lavished with praise in our childhoods, doesn't it? That can be frustrating when who we are doesn't match the praised style of the time.
When I moved to New York, I thought of myself as sort of a tomboy. Even though I was interested, in a way, in "girly" things (like mani/pedis, and haircuts, and jewelry), I didn't think that was who I was. I thought of myself as a big girl without much sex appeal, but with a lot of strength. Very salt of the Earth. Kind of like Coach Bestie on "Glee," to be honest. This was not wholly inaccurate: I am strong, and I am big...but it also wasn't wholly accurate, either. Or even mostly accurate.
Living in New York -- and more importantly, the people I met in New York -- changed me, allowed me to find my true sense of style. At Stella Maris High School, where I ended up teaching for four years, I met tons of young women of all shapes and sizes. How they dressed was, across the board, far more body-conscious than I chose to look at the time, a cool combination of Sufer Girl and Jenny from the Block. And you know what? Seeing confident girls my size, larger, smaller, skinnier, fatter, really inspired me. I saw that they looked better when their clothing was well-fitted and body conscious. (I also saw the reverse, that dressing in tight clothes without thought to your actual physical type and an understanding of what you wanted to promote was a big mistake). This inspired me, and made me want to dress younger, better, hipper, too. It was hard because I didn't have much money, but I tried. I also saw the fun that they had with manicures, and that every woman who worked at the school besides me had a mani/pedi, and started, tentatively to get them, too. I also stuck with classic colors, but it felt nice to be this indulgent and let myself be pampered. I learned to Treat Yo Self.
Moving to BTA changed my style again. Now I was teaching young men, as well as young women, and I had to be conscious of cleveage-revealing and such. I also was allowed to wear whatever I liked (perhaps the one benefit of the UFT's contract) and started wearing the jeans I had worn to teach preschool again. But I tried to dress in a way that was approachable, but clearly adult: lots of Chucks, jeans and Ts with cardigans. I saw that the kids, who don't have much money, but a lot of effort into how they looked, and I decided to at least look decent. I went back to getting mani/pedis and started to try bolder colors, eventually settling on the strong, non-metallic colors I like today. One of my co-workers talked me into trying leggings (Yes, I was 36 and had never worn leggings), and that became my winter staple: boots, leggings, dress, big cardigan. To anyone else, I must look like Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club, but I feel both warm (literally) and feminine and totally comfortable.
That's really the take away from all of this remembering. My biggest lesson over the last 8 years is that I have a feminine and womanly body, and that I'm not really a tomboy. So I'm going to continue getting manicures and pedicures, if I can afford them, and continue to explore my style. I'm not a model, or a fashion stylist, or even someone about whom my friends say "Oh, she's got a great look" (I suspect not, anyway), but it's fun to continue to come into my own. I'm so glad to have been in New York for these years, the Style Capitol of America, to help me do so.