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Dirty Fingernails Come with the Territory

[Editor’s note: Just Miss is the pseudonym of a second-year teacher in a high school in the Bronx.]

There is dirt under my fingernails. Always. I can’t ever seem to get them clean, no matter how many times I use the pink industrial soap in the faculty bathroom, or the school-issued hand sanitizer.

Can I recall the days when I used to have clean fingernails? Regular manicures? Hmm….. nope. I suddenly feel for the art teachers of the world. Their manicures were doomed from Day One.

I have very nice fingernails. Much longer and more elegant than the rest of me. I have a friend who is a hand and foot model, and I’ve often marveled at her life. She travels the world, having her extremities photographed, holding various products. Fascinating… But she also has to wear black gloves when she’s at the beach or in the sun to keep her skin soft and fair. I don’t envy that. It’s more than a little comical, and it just reminds you of that “Seinfeld” episode, doesn’t it?

Chalk dust, marker eraser from the white board, who knows what else is under there. If I wore black gloves all day I wonder if anyone would notice…

And yet — my fingernails are a reflection of me. They’re haggard and worn. They need filing and polish, maybe a nice soak and some pampering. THEY NEED REST. When I look down at them, I smile. Only one teaching day left and I’m… (dare I say it?) FREE.

June in a New York City classroom has been no picnic, like the worst that’s thrown at you just before vacation to make you appreciate your vacation that much more. Water fights, food fights, you name it. But soon the hallways will be beautifully quiet. No more alarms at 6 a.m. — unless I’d heading out for an early beach day. No more whining children — unless they are related to me. No more keeping up with the latest vernacular — “Dead ass” translates as: “Seriously!”; “That’s my neck” translates as: “Wait, I messed up, don’t hit me”; and being “tight,” depending how it is being used, can mean either a good thing (“I like that haircut, it’s tight.”) OR being all upset about nothing (“Why you gettin’ TIGHT Miss??”).

In a day I could spend HOURS in the manicure chair, not giving a damn what the words the manicurists are using, then HOURS in my garden messing up my manicure…

One day left, my little fingers. We can do this. Dead ass.

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