“Have you lost a bet?”
When I curiously asked a friend if he wanted to polish one of my nails too after a night out, in no way did I realize that it would later affect my world in little ways and set a thinking process in motion that would cover more than just my now fabulously fuchsia index fingernail. In the center of this whirlwind of thoughts stood the following question: How can such a tiny thing possibly change the relationship between me and my surroundings and how do I respond to this?
How I thought I would feel
You might think I am exaggerating a bit here. To be honest, I don’t blame you; This would probably be the same thing I would think if I hadn’t had this quite confronting experience. As a matter of fact: I would have (and still would) categorize myself as someone who is rather indifferent and often unaware of the opinion of others if it doesn’t affect me in any direct way. I can’t help but quote the famous drag queen Rupaul here: ‘’Unless they paying your bills pay them bitches no mind’’. However, it turned out that evidently, sometimes this is easier said than done. So what’s my excuse for caring? Well, what had happened was…
How I really felt
For a few days after acquiring my newly polished claw I barely noticed it so other than the fact that I liked this subtle new addition to my appearance it didn’t make any difference to me or my experiences. That was until I was doing the groceries one day and a cashier looked at me funny. ‘’Did you lose a bet?’’ she said. At this point I had totally forgotten the pop of color on my nail, but this remark yanked me back into self-consciousness. It startled me. Then I recollected myself, gave her a big smile in order to ward off the awkwardness and said ‘’No. Can I pay by card?’’
Afterwards I became more self-conscious and started noticing people treating me slightly different like giving weird looks or even asking questions. I didn’t see these little occurrences as a big deal, and of course I also got a lot of positive reactions from friends, but the whole thing did wake me up to the fact that my right ring fingernail didn’t meet the norm for men’s right ring fingernails. Therefore, I didn’t fully meet the standard of what is normal according to most people around me and the fact that this was constantly pointed out to me made me more aware of this than I wanted to be in order to feel comfortable in these moments. Now let me make one thing clear: I have known that colored nails aren’t the standard of what is normal for men since long before I wanted to get one painted. It would be naive to do something outside of the norm and expect people not to notice. However, apparently I don’t want to be pointed out as different all the time either. I don’t feel a need to meet the standards of what is normal or be perceived as someone who meets these standards, but I want to be treated the same way as others who do.
How I think I should feel
Except being treated the same way as others who do fit the norm isn’t entirely in my control, unless I go out of my way to meet the standards of these others after all, in which case I fail myself by default. Living up to the norm in order to be treated the same as others shouldn’t be worth changing yourself over, even if it’s as small as a nail you got painted at an afterparty.
How I feel now
Being stubborn comes in handy when staying true to yourself, so I decided I probably got too used to otherwise fitting to the norm and that I should suck it up and move on. I did just that and it got better eventually so I have no regrets! I might actually keep the nail in question drenched in colorful chemicals forever, unless maybe if someone who pays my bills doesn’t want me to.
What can we take from this?
Every decision is a consideration of multiple factors and some of these can be stepping out of your comfort zone and sticking or not sticking to the norm. This also goes for little decisions, like in my case. To answer the question that came to mind in the beginning: I think that little changes you make might establish changes in the relationship between you and your surroundings when they don’t match with the social norms of others because others experience and will sometimes respond to these changes too, making them bigger decisions than you initially might think since the change itself might not be the only change that you are going to experience. These side-effects might make it seem easier for you to stay in your comfort zone, but I encourage you to pause, think and ask yourself questions in these instances. What’s important to you? Who are you making the decision for? What do YOU want? Conforming will relieve discomfort in the short term, but sticking to the original plan might actually make you happy in the long run.
By Bilal Errazki