Fingerholds on a Slippery Slope

It’s a busi­ness meet­ing with two 30-something women I’ve never met, the wrong place to bring up any­thing per­sonal. I know that.

The hour is near­ing an end. Nearly all the seri­ous stuff is done. This is actu­ally a del­i­cate moment. Things can be screwed up moments before all is said and done.

One of the women praises the fresh nails of the other.

What am I to say? Small office, we’re sit­ting around a desk.

Both of yours look great,” I say. “But the crafts­man­ship is so inter­est­ing I have to ask, why is one nail dif­fer­ent on your four hands?”

What do you mean?” one says.

The woman in charge has eight nails a slate blue but the ring fin­ger on each hand is moss green. The other woman has eight bright red nails and her ring fin­gers a bright yellow.

Your third fin­gers are dif­fer­ent from the oth­ers. That’s cool. Do you go to the same salon?”

No. Maybe their smiles at me are shift­ing very slightly.

Does it sig­nify some­thing, a group you both belong to?”

No. Now they’ve glanced at each other.

It’s just the lat­est trend, Ben,” says one. “There used to be a lot of flash, now the fash­ion seems to have moved to this.”

Oh, OK. I guess my wife hasn’t picked this style when she goes in. It’s new to me. Entirely new. I like it!”

The meet­ing ends with hand­shakes and glad-to-meet-yous all around. The sec­ond woman walks me out, as she had escorted me in — this is at a secure office build­ing. And our talk then is about the busi­ness and full of good cheer.

My hoped-for out­come did not hap­pen. This is likely because the project changed between the appoint­ment being made and my show­ing up, and we went over that in the meeting.

But what if I said the wrong thing?

• • •

Grow­ing up, people’s liv­ing rooms had knick-knacks on cof­fee tables, per­haps an elab­o­rate table lighter for cig­a­rettes, or a fig­urine bought on an exotic trip. In the 20th cen­tury at least, they were called “con­ver­sa­tion pieces.”

As a boy, I was taught that those are for when the talk is lag­ging. “Say, that is one unique snow globe. Where did you find it?”

We tend to wear our con­ver­sa­tion pieces. Casu­ally, it’s our logo T-shirts. “Where did you catch Neil Young on that tour?” “We saw him in Tulsa. It was awesome!”

All too quickly, though, with appear­ances gen­der issues come up, and they have to be respected. They should be.

Which mat­ters are off-limits or open for com­ment has come to be pretty clear, but fuzzy edges do remain, don’t they. Men appar­ently see the bor­ders as vague, while women gen­er­ally main­tain they’re are as clear as a lac­quer finish.

If it’s espe­cially fla­grant, isn’t one expected to ask about it, to remark upon it? Some folks are hurt if you don’t notice, for exam­ple after a makeover.

A shoul­der tat­too on some­one given to wear­ing sleeve­less gar­ments, an ankle tatt on the sock­less. It’s OK to ask, “Who’s Pearl?” I get that.

There’s Jill Abramson’s New York Times logo Gothic “T” on her back. Few have seen that out­side the swim­ming pool, but she’s talked about it sev­eral times in the press. It came up again since she was fired as exec­u­tive edi­tor a few weeks ago. Her daugh­ter quickly posted a photo of Abram­son in gym clothes ham­mer­ing an old-fashioned punch­ing bag, for the sym­bol­ism, no doubt. No T, but there’s another one on her right shoulder.

Fair game, then.

On the other hand, I never ask about pierc­ings, ever, women or men. Why? For me, those are just dec­o­ra­tive. The ear­rings, studs or hoops some­times are not be to my lik­ing, all the bet­ter to shut up about them.

So, how about dig­its? Before, when a woman has has excep­tional work done on fin­gers or toes, they don’t mind the praise, espe­cially when there’s some bling to them, such as glit­ter or tiny paintings.

Which now, I’ve learned is passe.

• • •

"Accent Nail Ideas" from 2014 Nail Designs Ideas

Accent Nail Ideas” from 2014 Nail Designs Ideas

Thanks to Google, today I’ve learned this man­i­cure set-up is called “accent nails.”

The Ital­ian edi­tion of Vogue mag­a­zine notes that the ring fin­ger is the one out­stand­ing, per­haps to indi­cate roman­tic sta­tus, much as a ring on the ring fin­ger does — “Ring Fin­ger Nail Pol­ish.”

How­ever, the out­landish Jezebel web­site calls the prac­tice “finger-flagging,” to indi­cate sex­ual pref­er­ence in its story, “The Finger-Flagging Man­i­cure for Ladies Who Are into Ladies.”

Uh-oh.

How’s this for a new trend. Where now it’s high cour­tesy to silence smart phones for impor­tant meals and meet­ings, let’s allow them. I want to “search” phrases and top­ics before utter­ing a thing.

A new etiquette.

Copy­right 2014 Ben S. Pol­lock Jr.

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