My toenail fell off my left big toe. After sustaining a blunt force trauma earlier in the year, it had hung bravely on for months, staring right at me, defiant. Yes, it was black and dead and painless, but it was still there; still firmly attached to my body. I painted over the damage with scarlet varnish and hoped very much it would stay put. But soon enough, one day, in the bath, after a long run by the river, it peeled off and lifted clean away. I cupped the dead toenail in the palm of my hand for a second before realising that was gross and dropping it, promptly, into the foamy bath water. There was tender pink skin where the nail had been, and a new nail sprouting; fledgling and thin and ugly, but full of promise, like a baby gosling.
It felt like a metaphor for something. And by that I mean I am suggesting it was a metaphor for something: namely my personal growth. And no, I’m not overly bothered that the metaphor is extremely obvious to the point where it seems contrived, because, the fact is, it did actually happen and this blog (like it’s author) is nothing if not honest. (And yes, honesty here might lose me readers in the same way that it often loses me friends in real life, but, as in real life: meh. I never liked you that much in the first place.)
You know how everyone says you’ll always feel as if you’re eighteen, deep inside, even when you’re sixty-five and unable to bend down because a genetic calcium deficiency means your hips are disintegrating? Well, I can now tell you that that particular truism is bullshit.
I’m growing up. At long, long last.
Having felt as if I was eighteen from the age of about three until quite recently, I’d like to let those of you still basking in the stew of youth know that there comes a point when you do really feel like a proper grown up. Like a person in her thirties with a professional job and responsibilities and ambitions she might achieve one day — and, yes, all right, absolutely no sex life to speak of, but do you see me complaining about that babe?
I know it sounds dreadful. I too thought I would be drinking Lambrini through a straw and falling out of my bikini until well into old age. But it turns out maturity is underrated.
For example: I make sensible long-term decisions now, and don’t just careen blindly into whatever is on offer. I remember the events of a night out, even when they occurred after 2am. I can get out of bed before midday (although it has to be said, I don’t do so that often). And crippling bouts of low self-esteem occur only weekly, rather than 6,000 times a minute. Which is a welcome relief.
Of course, I’m still single. I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I’d found anything remotely resembling love. But instead of cursing the Gods for casting me aside, I am instead rejoicing. For: Aren’t I bloody lucky, actually. For: If I had got together with any of the men I’d met in my 20s I would be miserable, no doubt about it.
Everyone I knew in my 20s was awful. Especially the men. They were universally horrid and, universally, treated the women they were with like absolute shit, giving me terrible expectations about how I could anticipate the male half of a heterosexual relationship might behave behind its girlfriend’s back. (Badly.) (Look, I’m sorry, but if you’re reading this and you are the wife or girlfriend of a guy I knew between 2003 and 2013 I am afraid your partner is definitely shagging other people (not Joe, obviously Lizzie. I met him in 2002 so he doesn’t count)).
But whatever, those times are in the distant past. My skin has finally cleared up and I have nearly paid off the debts I accrued in those wayward spendy years, when a box of designer knickers could fill the cavernous void I felt inside, even if only temporarily.
The nail on my left big toe is long enough to paint again now. The pinkish skin is thick and normal coloured. And the seasons are turning, turning. Isn’t nature a marvellous thing?
*Image is ‘autumn leaves’ by Graphics Mouse at freedigitalphotos.net.