I am Paulette

Susan writes:

There’s something beautiful about holding someone’s hand while the two of you talk back and forth. Perhaps it’s just the romantic in me but when I pictured doing nails from the start, I’d see it in snapshots, like a movie. I’d see hands being washed and dried on a fluffy white towel. Hands dancing around each other like the sisters in Little Women blocking a scene in their latest play. Strokes of nail polish. One at a time.  The lighting would be bright like a Sunday morning and there would be something familiar about it. Something like the smell of coffee every morning or the soft crackle of AM radio while toasting bread.

But if that vision or level of intimacy could never be achieved, then I’d go shoot for Paulette, Elle Woods’ best friend from Legally Blonde. It’s been so long since I’ve seen the movie. What was it? The “Bend and snap”? Was this the move used to attract a man? I love that movie and I love Paulette. Why be the main character when you could be as interesting and as dynamic as the supporting one? They are always my favourite.

While these moments of beauty– both sisterly and charming– have proven to be true, there is also an art to it that requires some discipline. Things like, painting a small canvas, like the nail bed, evenly. Finding the right pressure when holding a hand. Firm but not too firm. Cutting cuticles (don’t even get me started) or shaping the nail evenly (harder than it looks). Manipulating the products so they do what you want them to. Getting the perfect French tip “smile.” Among many, many more challenges and things to keep in mind. Youtube videos make this stuff look easy. It’s not easy, especially if you’re new to it.

But what brings me back to it are the beautiful moments.

Moments like when a woman, Blade, who’s arm was infected from injecting coke let me put on some fake nails. She tells me a story while she rocks back and forth. Can’t sit still.

“My roommate — this guy —  I found him in the subway. Homeless guy, you know. Didn’t have a place to live. Said he could come stay at my place. Well, he walks in with a 50 inch t.v. with a stereo system and a locker-load pile of shit. Where the hell am I supposed to put all this crap? Made himself at home. Fucking hell. I need a new roommate.”

Another woman stopped by to see the progress of Blade’s nails. They started chatting. Blade was so excited because she was about to get all her hair shaved off. She looks at the other woman, lifts up her half-manicured hand and growls, “I’M MIXING THE BUTCH WITH THE BITCH.”

***

On Sunday, I cried at church after losing my job. I was supposed to offer a Prayer for the People. It was supposed to be for anybody other than myself. But I was on the worship team, too, and I could barely do it. I could barely worship after I just got fired less than four hours ago. I felt like a monkey at the circus, someone on display, going through the motions. If I hadn’t agreed to serve that week at church, I would’ve stayed at home. But I promised to be there so I went.

Then I was supposed to pray and I didn’t know how. So I just told everyone what happened and I felt so stupid after, so full of self- hatred and embarrassment, and tried to pray for help to find something to say. All I could do was pray for my situation and I wish I knew how to pray for some thing else. Maybe for the homeless people or prostitutes or people with addictions but I couldn’t think of anyone but myself. Somehow a prayer squeezed from my lips. Something about forgiveness and God to be glorified and I felt so stupid and ugly and vulnerable and embarrassed. It felt so contrived. Like something I should pray but inside I just felt so ugly.

Sometimes when I feel ugly inside, I remember something beautiful.

I find beauty in the gospels when Joseph takes Jesus’s dead body, washing, and wrapping him in clean linen before putting him in Joseph’s very own tomb that was dug from rock. The beauty of washing his hands and his feet. Sponging the blood off his forehead. Cleaning his wounds. And after, watching someone who’s dead come back to life. It’s one of my favourite images and the scene plays over and over in my head. Sometimes I imagine just sitting there in the tomb, never breaking the fourth wall and my identity as an audience member remains hidden, watching and waiting till the first sign of life breathes into Jesus’s body.

Something about it feels familiar.

Something like home.

Something like hope.

The beauty I find when doing people’s nails is special and it makes me smile. But it doesn’t fill me with the same kind of satisfaction as the story of Jesus. Sometimes these stories gets mixed up and I think that I’m the main character when really, I’m Paulette. I’m the supporting character who makes everybody else look beautiful. They are the important ones. Just like practicing my technique, I need to remind myself of this, too. Selflessness is a skill. It’s not a given personality type. It takes practice.

I’m here to make other people beautiful. I’m the supporting character.

That’s my job as a disciple, a writer and a nail tech.

But sometimes, I get that mixed up.