Why I paint my nails: My story as a man with nail polish

Painting Nails
Evan Tridone /THE REVIEW
Senior Reporter Evan Tridone gives his passionate rationale for painting his nails as “little form of activism.”

Senior Reporter

Yes, I paint my nails. When I started painting my nails a year ago, I never expected all the things I was going to have to deal with for being a man who likes color on his fingernails.

It all started last March, when my friend Mark sat down in the cafeteria for lunch. I noticed nail polish on his fingernails, and he told me that his little sister was practicing painting nails on him the night before and he decided to just leave it on. Personally, I thought it looked awesome, and that afternoon my girlfriend painted my nails blue.

It started off innocently, with a simple admiration for how cool it looked. It didn’t take long for things to change, however. As soon as I came into school the next day, I was called a “girl” and I was asked by many why I would ever do such a thing to myself, I was called homophobic slurs even though I am heterosexual. Quickly, painting my nails became a point of activism for me.

In short, I was hurt. I cried to my girlfriend, asking her why people would be so antagonistic over something so small, something that affected them in absolutely no way whatsoever. It soon became clear to both of us that it was due to the attitudes that society can hold toward men doing things that women do. Playing field hockey, dancing in a ballet, performing in theatre. In my Catholic high school, men were mocked and ridiculed for doing any of these things outside of the gendered norm. Anything typically feminine that a man did resulted in them being called all sorts of slurs and names.

Men do not typically paint their nails, so in part, I understood why people around me would be confused by my actions. It was the attitude, however, that many took toward a man doing something that women do that was hurtful to me. A multitude of people criticized me for participating in an action traditionally seen as feminine.

Now I paint my nails partly because I believe that men should be able to do things normally associated with femininity and not be criticized for them. Men are seen as weaker for partaking in these “feminine” activities, which also exposes a lot about how people perceive the things that women do.

At many points during my freshman year here at the university, people have assumed my sexuality because of my nails. For some reason, people still think that men who do feminine things and men who are gay are exclusively in the same circle. In reality, it’s more of a venn diagram, with people in all parts of the picture.

Painting my nails was a way to immerse myself in the world outside of the gender binary, redefining and bending roles. Although women have made progress in defying gender roles, there are still so many that linger in the subconscious of people of all ages. “Men shouldn’t paint their nails, that’s for girls.” “Women can’t play video games, only guys are good at them.” “Women who have toned muscles aren’t beautiful.”

Gender roles belittle and demean genuine passions of genuine people who mean no harm. Interests are what make us happy, and gender should never prevent someone from the best of our unalienable rights: the pursuit of happiness.

My little form of activism has had some change for the better. My parents who were critical of my nails at first have come around on the issue, and I’m more than grateful for them. My friends who criticized me are now more supportive and understanding.

Overall, painting my fingernails has been a life-changing event for me. It has shown me that prejudice still exists in the world, and that misogyny affects everyone on a daily basis. I’m proud to say that I paint my nails, and still love doing it to this day.

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  • comment-avatar
    Terence Lightning Jr. 1 year

    I loved the article. There are times I wear more feminine outfits and people have questioned my sexuality in the same way that you described for your nails. I think it’s important for people like us to not be afraid to express themselves regardless of gender norms and people’s perspection of their sexuality.

  • comment-avatar
    Pete Robinson 9 months

    I’m gonna be honest with you. I’m a complete eboy and I go to a Catholic high school and there is literally none of that lmao.

  • comment-avatar
    Vannesa 8 months

    That’s how people are. I am hard of hearing and when I tell people they say. “I’m sorry”. Lol.
    Don’t get all butt hurt over it. You chose to do something different and that’s the way people react.
    I’m surprized though since most people are pro gay that they would say anything. I wouldn’t say anything to you. Or maybe I would say I like that color but nothing rude.

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    Annette 8 months

    Good for you. Nail polish is so awesome that anyone should be able to do it. I spent a year wearing men’s clothes. It was fun and comfortable and they have lots of pockets. I’m not queer or transgender I just liked men’s clothes. People should just be allowed to be people and not put in a box.

    • comment-avatar
      Jake 7 months

      And I also love how polished nails look and feel!

  • comment-avatar
    Jake 7 months

    Evan, people want to feel comfortable and so they look for familiarity.  You mess that up for them by doing something that a girl would normally do so they are uneasy.  Kudos for being “you” and using it as a learning opportunity.
    I speak from experience, I have been wearing my nails (toes mostly, because it is more convenient) for over 12 years and I love it!!   When othrrs ask why I do it I sincerely tell them that I enjoy how it looks and feels.  I’ve actually managed to talk a few guys into trying it!
    Keep up being “you”.  You are much better at it than anyone else!!

  • comment-avatar

    I think we all overall should take better care of our nails 🙂 i love the colors i love the whole eboy look

  • comment-avatar
    Miriam Peterson 4 months

    I’m obsessed with nail polish! I use to love going to the nail salon until I was able to do them myself at home. Now I change my nails all the time! I have both female and male friends who do their nails and love it just the same!

    I’d love to send you some of our nail polish strips to try.

  • comment-avatar

    I recently started painting my nails too and Have mixed reactions because of it. My friends and co-workers have been totally supportive. My family, whole other story. That’s definetely  not gonna stop me from enjoying something I like doing. Glad I found your post. 🙂 insta: fernan2393 

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    Joe Swanson 2 months

    You should do whatever makes you happy, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. This doesn’t hurt anyone.I started painting my toenails about 10 years ago, but the last couple of years I gave it up because I was daunted by possible criticism. I wish that I had your courage. I would wear my toenails painted every day and let everyone see, not that anyone should care.

  • comment-avatar

    What are you favorite nail colors? Dark colors look for attracting in men.

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