Chase Martin is a freshman journalism telecommunications double major and writes “Soapbox” for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Chase at email@example.com.
I had been looking for a job all semester, and it took months to finally receive a call. It was Family Video offering me an interview for the following week. I was so surprised and excited, the fact that I had the possibility of working at a video store in 2019 was unreal.
The day of my interview, I made sure I looked nice. I brushed all the knots out of my hair, put on that once-in-a-while button-up shirt and used a friend's cologne just for good measure. When I pulled into the parking lot on the day of the interview, I only had minutes to mentally prepare myself in my car. When I was ready, I reached to open my car door.
As I did, a vibrant blue reflected back at me. It was my nail polish I had forgotten to take off beforehand. Without even thinking, I scraped it off and rushed through the glass doors of Family Video. I had no idea how they would react to a guy with nail polish on.
What I could never understand was, what's so wrong about a guy painting his nails? People will get so worked up about some paint on my nails, but shouldn’t people have better things to worry about? Society has given masculinity and femininity strict guidelines. For example: boys like blue, and girls like pink, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Guys can be guys and girls can be girls, but society’s oppressive opinions should never deter anybody from expressing themselves. I am just a straight guy who likes to paint his nails, what’s the problem with that?
It’s been around three years since I first started painting my nails. Growing up in my hometown meant that any act that questioned a male's sexuality was frowned upon. I had a crush on a girl and wanted to impress her, so that’s when I painted my nails for the first time. I started with black nail polish because I thought that it was the most gender-neutral color.
Fellow students as well as teachers at my high school were beginning to take notice. People weren’t afraid to voice their negative opinions, but I didn’t let it get to me. My dad was the first to be bothered by the nail polish, but that only fueled the fire. When he finally came around to it, I was pleasantly surprised.
At first I was embarrassed by the color of my nails, but eventually that embarrassment turned into confidence. I moved on to brighter colors after that black polish, and in my mind, nothing could stop me. It felt amazing.
I also spent the last years of high school growing out my hair. By the time graduation rolled around, it was down to my shoulders. Society considered my painted nails and the long hair to be primarily feminine, but what even is the point of assigning gender to things like this? Every time I saw my grandparents they would always bring up the hair and nails. I was expecting to be praised for expressing myself, but the only thing I received was disapproval. I just kept telling myself that they grew up in different times and that I couldn’t expect everybody to be on board with it.
The summer following graduation, I worked as a server for a local pizzeria. This was the first job that I had where I would have to directly interact with customers. I decided to work up the confidence and show up to work with painted nails.
After a couple of weeks, I started to learn that my co-workers didn’t have any prejudice against me expressing feminine qualities, but that my tips would be half of what I received when I didn’t have nail polish on. The thing that I was proud of was affecting me financially, and it really made me think, “What is the big deal?”
What I figured was that people just hate seeing change, especially the older population. This dilemma really motivated me to continue to paint my nails. Even if people continue discriminating against me for expressing my femininity, I won’t stop painting my nails.
A lot of people add the assumption that I am homosexual or transgender whenever they see my appearance. Although I believe that everybody falls on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, I myself do not classify as a homosexual. You don’t have to be gay to paint your nails, wear makeup or even a dress. Some of my favorite male band members sport their femininity as a “stick it to the man” toward society. So what is stopping me from doing the same?
When you see me with painted nails, I’m not asking for compliments, an argument or attention, I am looking to change people's minds. Because every once in a while, there would be some little boy that would light up at the sight of my nails. The question is, who knows if he’ll do it too. I’m just glad I made him think.