“I really hope that’s nail polish and not a black toenail.”
I felt like I was suddenly woken up. I was the newcomer in a sauna with five other guys, all sitting closely packed together; the speaker, next to me, was a husky, “builder”-type guy about my age with lots of tattoos and a bit of a sneering face. I’d forgotten that one of my toes was painted with bright-blue “Trophy Wife” nail polish – and that it was also in the process of falling off.
“It’s nail polish,” I confirmed, “but yes, my toenail is falling off.”
He laughed and cringed at the same time, so I explained:
“I just ran a marathon two weeks ago, and as soon as I knew it was falling off, my wife told me it would be better to paint over it than see it turn black…”
And we had a great conversation; he was a lower-class builder, just starting to work out, just starting to eat healthier and drink less, quitting smoking, improving his life. We talked about habits, goals, ideas. Then he left, with a very sweaty handshake.
It was only afterward that it struck me: in 2016, in a semi-rural suburb of London, among the lower socioeconomic classes, it can be preferable, or at least more acceptable, for a guy to have toenail polish on than to be losing a toe. In other words, what could be seen as feminine behavior among males might be better than an injury from a sporting competition.
Which is pretty awesome.