Monday, January 3, 2011


Late one Tuesday night last September, I was waiting at a bus stop along with a few others, but two young black girls stood out. Not just to me but to a couple of tusty youths going about their business. On auto pilot they began their usually labberish talk to get the girls attention, get their number, get a feel up...  or just get to them if they couldn't get any of the above.
 The girls seemed a little  unsure of themselves, awkward in their tight lycra tops revealing cleavage, and tight jeans exaggerating puppy fat curves... but they held their ground as the boys asked questions in a cool but assertive manner. Not getting the response they wanted, the boys ramped up the volume on the sexual innuendo with a lustful aggression to back it up. The two young women,  stood firm finding support in each others presence. The boy's foolish talk up in the girls faces was getting them no where - the boys stepped.

One girl said to her friend. "Dem boys are so shtupid man. What makes them fink we're gonna gi dem anyfing when dey go on like dat?"
I liked their style. Cool, if a little shakey but holding on to something they knew that those boys didn't. They had a choice.

 Many young girls don't feel they have the choice of refusing to accept  these torrents of testosterone driven assaults because they feel dis-empowered. Some allow and even encourage inappropriate, explicit and aggressive ways of being talked to or touched.  To match that energy, they'll behave in a manner as if they are giving permission for the dignity of their young Womanhood to be disregarded, not just disrespected but totally ignored. This is the symptom  of a dis-ease. They themselves are not aware of their own value. Who has neglected to tell them that these encounters equates to  them being de-humanised as a Female Human Being, as they accept  being spoken to as if they are only  a vagina, no, a 'hole' on legs? They have been trained to believe that their sexual power is all they have in the world to get them through life, and  get them what they want. Some of them get themselves in trouble, get diseases, get pregnant. Some put themselves in  serious danger.

 But these two girls held their corner. What else, besides their ripening puberty and their new found beauty, made them stand out? Their nails. Bright, officious, cutting  slashes of rainbow through the air when they talked with their hands as well as their bright lips and fast tongues.
On the upstairs deck of the bus, with my bags of shopping, I went over and told them that I liked the way they handled 'dem youts' and I had to get pictures of their nails for a 'project'. They remain anonymous.  Love my mobile phone for these moments.
I was then reminded of a poem I wrote many moons ago... Listen, read, explore...

Written By Zena Edwards 2001© 


Melanie's nails tip the scales beyond the balanced rational of modern architecture.
Rhinestone encrusted, they arch entrusted to an adhesive, bonding live nail to acrylic
Unifying her in a mirage marriage of sophisticate Ameri-carib elite to brown girl in 
Beauty College from Tottenham high street. 

Mel got her nails from “US GAL, from a real Korean chick with her high heeled,
tiled floor cracking, sling backing tight jeaned or shorted skirt wearing, little tittied,
hair flicking, eye flitting but perfectionist focus for nails building self.

Three Saturdays of her minimum wage slave was the price Mel paid. Her manager points out the impracticality of her newly acquired appendages. Mel points a beclawed index digit retreating, hissing her warning like a lioness, cub protecting, "Don’t you come between her and her ten reasons for living!"

Mel's nails entrap the gaze of the mind ticking the gansta rap on MTV box - big black six packs and guns, undulating brown flesh in thongs... Mel imagines it’s her choice of rhinestones on her thumb that catch the sun and leaves them struck dumb.
Mels nails tell a tale of her clawing her way through a thicket
of charmless males, who liked her thigh, her buttocks tight and high
Her breast pointing to the sky, her clean wet eyes.
Mels nails meant she never washed a dish from that monumental day.
Like a buzz from a passing fly were her mothers the complaints -
Ignored or irritatingly swatted away with a curled lip
Her ears had closed to that voice long ago anyway.
The space between which was not full of air
as  maternal blusters and playground blasts had blown her to believe
from pubescent rebukes alluding to her bodily parts
that chose to round and swell before she had lost
her clumsy schoolgirl gait; those bulges that attracted 

an attention she only knew made her uncomfortable
made want to origami herself in to shape of a boat
or something even less interesting.
Poked at for contemplative visage mistaken for shy
inaccurately diagnosed as "Well She's just stupid, innit."
And her inclination for re-potting plants was not a reflection
on her personality as being an unanimated as a wallflower.
She just liked to help things grow.
somewhere down the line she had put down the gardening gloves
and picked up shears pruning that soft touch don't say much
into a loose lip l such and such
it wasn’t enough to just dispassionately exist
scratch the varnished surface and see after the eclipse

You find a small tongue cannot articulate big pain lying under cover, could not choose
which night was dream filled, could not wish away
the rain that fell on Mels small world. Her blamelessness
bent over backwards a rainbow under those dark clouds smelling
of thick mans smell and Tennents Extra unmasked
by the favourite aftershaveof her stepfather seeping
under her door and into her bed.

And between the mothers back teeth laughing, his big hand
her  mothers broad hip stoking and heavy whispering
in ears only open for compliments and good girl pay offs,
mother rationalises blindness for the impossibility
of his preference of her daughter over herself….

Thus after nose, brow, dimple navel and eighteenth ear piercing
through which her frustration escaped, Melanie painted
her nails a shock of colour  She chose herself. Definitively.
Uncompromisingly -  Nefertiti on her left pinkie with a tiny gold ring
punched through representing her vague knowledge of self, a sun setting
on an Island beach and solitary palm tree, firework, stars, explosions of a kaleidoscope 

Mel got her nails and face painted to accentuate the light and shade
of her dreams not to cover up the shabby seams of tear darned recoveries. No…. 

Misadventure was a survivor’s test. She knew this and her promenades into womanhood
Were strewn with the waste of her hurts.

But she prettied them up with polish and flares of yellow brick roads, 
glitterati carnivals, and the lazy sound of droning bees pollinating 
in a park in Tottenham filling 
her body to bursting, shooting out of her fingers tips like car headlights.
She had fine art Picassoed over her nails in the colours she chose 
for herself definitively and uncompromisingly. 
Cos Mel's nails were her dreams manifest. 
Her conquest. What she claimed.

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