the polish de resistance

Or: my first taste of sticking it to the man by way of self-care.

I’ve mentioned the peculiar private school I attended from kindergarten through third — the one that wanted to be half CS Lewis’ Experiment House and half Welton House from Dead Poets’ Society, except a day school, with young children. We had uniforms, we called the principal ‘headmaster’ and had to stand up when he entered a classroom, we learned italicized writing with calligraphic fountain pens, we attended chapel every morning. Wednesdays were particularly tedious, though that is where I first tasted wine. I’m half convinced it was a timeskip back to the fifties. That’s the place that taught me about Big Brother, by way of its CCTV surveillance, before I read 1984.


When I was in the kindergarten class, a memo circulated: no nail polish. I’m not sure why. I want to say one of the girls in class wore some, but I don’t know — memories of things from that far back are really memories of us telling the story before, so at some point I may have added that as a reason and transmuted it to fact. Although I remember learning how to write the number three there, and that my muscle-memory, fresh with victory over the devious two, kept making twos at first.

Point is, there was A Memo, and my mother did not like this, not one bit. She has a low opinion of conformity, and we already had plenty of that, with the uniforms. (I recall I always had very brightly patterned shoes and backpacks. Hmm. Hair ties too. Hmmm.)

When she got that memo, she told me we were going to do something about it. She then painted my nails with clear polish, and told me not to tell anybody they were painted. The point being, you don’t tell my kid what to god damn do with her body. She didn’t say that part, but I got the gist.

I probably told some of my kid friends, shh, I’m wearing CLEAR. I doubt it lasted long, what with digging in the giant sandpit play yard they had. What I remember most about this was sitting in class, covertly looking at my shiny fingernails as I laid my hand on my desk. I remember the feeling of having secretly pulled one over on the powers that be, and them having no idea I’d done it. The delight of getting away with it. It was delicious.

I developed a taste for that. It’s served me well.

Lately, especially in light of Agent Orange stinking up President Obama’s office, my mother has been asking me if she did a good enough job teaching me not to let the man tell me what to do. If I was going to be good at looking for ways around it. I told her this story, which she’d completely forgotten. Now I’ve told you.

When there’s a trap set up for you
In every corner of this town
And so you learn the only way to go is underground
When there’s a trap set up for you
In every corner of your room
And so you learn the only way to go is through the roof

Gogol Bordello – Through the Roof ‘n’ Underground


my dog ate my dignity

One thing I have always believed to be true: one cannot have both dogs and dignity. It’s impossible. You have to decide between one or the other. Dogs have no self-consciousness, but going beyond that, they do not even know what it is. So they assume you don’t have any, either.

My dogs ate my dignity years ago. Decades. In my childhood, when they ate my three foot long realistic plastic alligator (and I am still sore about that.) I didn’t have much dignity to begin with, so it’s okay, and the fun of dogs makes up for it.

Now that the Florida heat is starting to set in, early evening is the best time to take Logan for walks. He has the back yard for excretion and digging holes; the walks are exercise for both of us. They’re leash training, too. Unfortunately, everyone else knows this is the Nice Outside Time as well, and as a result, I run into a fair number of people.

About two houses away from home, Logan spotted a small stick on the sidewalk. He picked it up, shook it, played a bit with it. I laughed at this, as I do, because Logan is hilarious. He took this for encouragement and trotted along, happy as can be, with the stick in his mouth.

We passed many people. There was a woman bringing in a sprinkler from her front yard. She didn’t give us much of a glance, but she did scold her dog (I couldn’t see it) for barking as we passed by.

Further on there were two guys, nineteen or twenty, Too Cool For Life, fiddling with a lawn mower at the end of their driveway in the most James Dean Careless Testosterone-ful way possible. Logan and I detoured around a car that was parked on the sidewalk, putting us closer to The Two Dudes. Logan trotted along, happy as a dog can be, because I’M ON A WALK and I HAVE A STICK! I followed along, every aspect of my bearing saying my derpy dog is fucking awesome, comprende? The Two Dudes stared, not entirely sure of what they were seeing.

… I get that a lot.

Past the halfway point I decided that Logan would keep this stick for the whole walk, no matter what. If he dropped it to look at something else, I’d kick it along the ground, or pick it up and have him jump for it. If I made it a desirable object, by having it when he didn’t, he would want it very badly and do anything to get it from me.

We passed the House With The Sighthound — Whippet or Greyhound, I don’t know, just that it is brindle, has a pink collar, and barks maniacally whenever anyone turns that corner. Logan kept his stick firmly, though his hackles went up a little. He’s still uneasy about being barked at.

We tromped through the backlots and field, occasionally playing Who’s Got The Stick, happy as could be because we were a girl and her dog (or a dog and his girl) out on a walk, with a stick, on a nice day, and nobody bothering us.

We turned a corner and spotted another man walking a dog. I hadn’t seen him before. Logan, stick clamped firmly in his mouth, stopped and looked at this new dog.

“Which way you headed?” the guy asked, holding back. The dog, about Logan’s size but stockier, Lab and something, looked bored.

I pointed. “Thatway.” Logan decided that he and his stick wanted to visit, and moved towards the man and dog.

“I don’t know about this one,” the guy said. “She’s not my dog. We met another lady the other day and…”

“Oh, he’s friendly,” I said, which is what I generally say well in advance when I encounter someone while I have my dog. “He likes other dogs.” I looked at Logan, who held his stick firmly and eyed this other dog as if to say, I have a stick, don’t you want it? “He, uh. He likes…. sticks.”

“This is my friend’s dog,” the guy repeated. “I’m walking her for him.” Thus proving that he was not only too cool for dogwalks, but also too cool for me and my goofy dog and my goofy dog’s stick.

I nodded and off we went, Logan and I, past a house where a whole family were arguing with each other in and around a car with all its doors open. A teenaged girl, also Too Cool For Life, stared critically at us before returning her attention to the discussion.

Sometimes ya just can’t win for trying. But who cares, when you have a dog and your dog has a stick, and it’s a nice evening for a walk?