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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Money doesn’t grow on trees

Growing up as a child in the fifties, we heard a lot of truisms whenever any childhood need was expressed. Probably the most often used was related to financial matters. If we wanted a new toy, for example, we always heard, “Money doesn’t grow on trees,” a phrase that seems pretty common to many of us.

Over the years, when sharing childhood memories, the topic of childhood truisms would often come up while reminiscing with family and friends. Though we found we had many in common, some of us heard slightly darker truisms. In our family, for example, if you expressed boredom, you were often given two options: 1) go play in the street, and 2) go take a long walk off a short pier.

Ask a question? That would be met with, “Where were you when the brains were passed out? Behind a door?” It was, as they say, a rhetorical question.

But there is one truism I have never encountered in conversation with others, and it was an expression saved for me, the only girl in a family of three brothers, a military father, and a German immigrant for a mother.

Only French whores do that.

My first inkling that I was in for a rough ride as a young woman was when, as a blossoming girl, I asked to get my first bra. My dad looked at me and asked with obvious derision, “Why would you want to make mountains out of molehills?” Again , it was a rhetorical question.

To my credit, I did not shrink, but emptied my piggy bank, walked to the nearest five and dime, and bought myself an orange one that I was was sure made me look like Marilyn Monroe.

Then, nearing my teen years, I wanted to paint my nails a soft red, like the girls I saw in the men’s magazines that should not have have been lying around in the open in our home. The response to my request?

Only French whores do that.

Wear lipstick? Curl my hair? Shave my legs? Wear a bright colored shirt? Wear perfume? Make any movement towards expressing my feminine side?

Only French whores do that.

As a result of that ingrained truism, it should be no surprise that I have lived in a world of black and grey most of my life. But I also developed a life long fascination with people whose nails are painted, who wear perfume, and who wear colors that celebrate the vibrancy of light and life. When I met a new therapist for the first time in Seattle, for example, I remember I remarked how I loved her bright red, painted toes, and she immediately responded, “You could do that too, you know…” At the time, that seemed like a totally novel concept, because…well, you know.

Only French whores do that.

Now living in the Southwest, vibrant colors live loudly in the desert sun, and I am still drawn to folks who celebrate those colors like a moth to a bright porch light. Just yesterday, I met a beautiful elderly woman at a pool. Her nails were painted a lively coral to match her lipstick. An entire bouquet of tropical flowers bloomed on her swimsuit in bright yellows and oranges. Long silver earrings dangled from her ear lobes with green gemstones trapped inside. I couldn’t get enough of soaking in her presence. I wanted to dissolve into her.

Then this morning at 3 am, I was awoken with this thought:

I want to paint my nails.

I don’t think this is about vanity or rebellion or trying to draw attention to myself. I don’t think I am caving in to some cultural perception of what beauty is. And I don’t think I have lost my mind.

I think this is about me, at 70, deciding I want to be free of the paralyzing falsehoods that settled as truth into my spirit all these years.

Maybe French whores do wear red fingernail polish. But so do teachers and lawyers and political candidates and hardworking men and women of every profession. Maybe wearing perfume will make me smell like a French whore, but it also might make me smell like a mom working hard to raise her children or a doctor tending to a dying patient or a pastor walking down the aisle of a church. Maybe red is the color of sinful women, but it is also the color of life saving blood, and on every depiction of a loving heart, and a symbol for the Holy Spirit.

I am going to be on a personal mission today. I hear the local tattoo shop around the corner is good at piercing ears. And they are actually very close to a nail salon that probably has a rainbow of color choices that will still work with these guitar playing fingers. Perhaps a purple streak in my hair? Who knows?

Some might call this a second childhood,

but since I never had a first,

I think it’s finally time.

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Sep 06, 2022

h Char, my heart aches for that preteen you! I love your nails! Next time, maybe a little brighter color. And as long as you're at the tattoo shop..... I can totally see you with a small tasteful piece of art somewhere on your skin!

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