My fairly new boyfriend Todd was a nice-enough looking guy with some questionable grooming habits. I tried to tell myself that these minor, easily fixable flaws shouldn’t influence how I felt about him.
But instead of gazing into Todd’s eyes, I found myself staring at his nose hair, fixated. Brownish-grey tufts looking like steel wool sprouted from his nostrils. An occasional bit of crust hung from his nose hairs like food caught in a beard.
Nothing says “I love you” like buying your man a nose hair trimmer. In retrospect, I realize that Todd could have gotten (justifiably) offended. But while he “didn’t see what the big deal was,” he reluctantly agreed to try the trimmer out. Todd examined the miniscule blades that didn’t appear sharp enough to cut the nose hairs of a squirrel. He turned on the trimmer and held it to the edge of his nostril as if afraid it would get sucked in too deep and shred his brain.
“Just stick it on in there,” I told him suggestively. I put my hand over his and gently nudged the trimmer further into his nose. Todd balked. Our grooming session was cut short while his nose hairs weren’t.
Cutting his nails, on the other hand, didn’t require any sort of motorized device. I couldn’t take my eyes off his fingers as he drummed his hands on his knees or folded them on a restaurant table. His long, sharp and ragged fingernails looked like they had been gnawed on by a wild animal.
I was introduced to Todd’s bare feet one night when he plunked them down on my coffee table with a thud. His toenails were curled, yellowing claws that could scale a tree or grasp a rocky mountain cliff. “Throw on some socks — you’ve got to be cold,” I suggested. His nails poked through the cotton and I wondered to myself if he’d consider wearing a second pair.
Wasn’t nail-clipping Personal Hygiene 101? Yes, Todd was raised by a busy single mom who worked long hours to keep a roof over their heads. But this elementary grooming skill never came up in conversation during his formative years? If not, Todd should have been self-taught by now. Cutting your nails doesn’t exactly require a user’s manual.
I learned from my earlier grooming intervention and decided to try a more tactful and subtle approach this time. “Wouldn’t it be fun to go get a mani/pedi together? My friend Stacy goes with her boyfriend.”
“Eh, I don’t really need that.”
I turned his hand in mine from side to side. “It couldn’t hurt.”
He followed my gaze to his hands. “Guys don’t do that. I’d look like an idiot.”
I waved him off. “I see guys in there all the time. Construction workers who work with their hands. It’s soothing for them. They aren’t really manicures, they’re MAN-icures.”
Note: The only work Todd did with his hands was typing on a computer keyboard.
I reassured him pedicures too were manly-man approved. When I brought him to the nail salon, he was the only guy there. The unlucky woman assigned to Todd blanched when he lowered his feet into the water. She twittered, talking back and forth in Korean to the woman doing my pedicure. I had a fleeting, unkind wish that I could have been in on the conversation.
The woman asked Todd if he wanted clear fingernail polish. He looked to me with trepidation. While I’d never heard of men getting that done, I told him to “go for it,” figuring he may as well get the full treatment. This was my undoing. Afterwards, Todd couldn’t stop looking at his hands. He hated the polish. It made him look like a girl. He’d been the only guy there. The women were laughing at him. He wasn’t going back.
Our relationship’s death knell rang one night while we were in bed. I felt Todd’s hand moving around inside me as if he were scratching an itch. I shifted away, hoping he’d take a hint. As he became more enthusiastic, his nails scraped at my inner walls like a rogue pap smear. I clasped his wrist.
And then I felt a sharp pain like he’d taken a switchblade to my lady bits. Imagine moments of intimacy with Edward Scissorhands. Was it possible for your cervix to be punctured? I envisioned permanent damage and the inability to ever bear children.
The ache took a day or so to subside. I saw Todd a couple of times after that, but the romance was gone. Particularly when he returned with his razor nails intact and ready to go another round.
I had to break it off with him. I had my safety to protect.