A couple of days ago I put on nail polish for the first time in a long time. It was a conservative color, a light pink, I thought, perhaps a tasteful color for a pastor to wear. I wondered, at the time, why I haven't used nail polish for such a long time. I used to wear it all the time, starting in high school. I liked mauves and bright pinks, both shiny and matte finishes. I experimented wildly, in those days when my income was small but entirely disposable (no mortgage, no utilities, no car to pay for).
When I was in high school, I used to ride the bus downtown after school for piano lessons at MacPhail School of the Arts. If I was a little early, I would wander through the cosmetics counters at Daytons (which no longer exists; first it was Marshall Fields; now it's Macys). I'd try on colors of eye shadow and lipstick and of course, nail polish, and feel more grown up. This is before the women in white coats made cosmetics into a science.
Anyway, almost as soon as I put the nail polish on, I remembered a few of the reasons I stopped wearing it. Almost immediately I found myself trying to do some task with my hands, and wrecking a nail or two in the process. Who has time to wait for nail polish to dry? I am too busy to wait, most of the time.
I have also caught myself thinking that perhaps pastors shouldn't wear nail polish. We don't exactly take a vow of poverty -- but most of us aren't rich, either. I think of nail polish as an extravagance, albeit a small one. Should I have pedicures, cable TV, or flashy jewelry? (I actually don't wear much jewelry either ... my one indulgence being earrings.) But maybe it's just me. Once, on a camping trip with youth, I even wondered about appropriate clergy swimwear.
The other day I was stopped at an exit ramp and there was the too-familiar sight of someone with a "Homeless -- Please Help" sign. The one thing that was not so familiar was that this was a woman. I didn't roll down my window and give her a couple of bucks. I always feel torn at those times. How could I deny her a couple of bucks and then go and have a manicure? Is that why I don't have manicures?
Finally, I don't usually wear nail polish because I am often disappointed in the results. It never makes my hands look as fantastic as I think it should. The colors never look quite as good on my hands as they do in the bottles. I'm not suddenly beautiful and popular.
Still, who can resist, with titles like "Down to my last Penny", or "Midnight Mauve" or "Fire Engine Red"?