For Taube, Many Decades Later, On Why I Gave Her Baby Pink Nail Polish on Her Thirteenth Birthday When She’d Asked for Cherry Red

by Sarah Einstein

We were just past the age of Bonnie Bell Lipsmackers and Love’s Baby Soft Perfume, moving on to Cover Girl tinted lip gloss and just a hint of mascara. Not yet ready for lipstick or eye liner. Our mothers were both particularly strict about hemlines and the age of ear piercing and the possibility of a high heel, but it wouldn’t have mattered. We were not the sort of girls who would look back on adolescence with a wistful sense that the best days were behind us. We weren’t built for teenage glamour.

And so when you asked for Cherry Red nail polish for your thirteenth birthday—not your official present, which was probably a book our mothers agreed it was good for young girls to read or, because my mother thought your mother bought you skimpy winter coats, a woolen scarf and mittens, but the illicit present I bought with my own allowance and gave you under the pine trees before school—I knew you were exceeding your grasp. That cherry red was for girls with long, tanned legs and heavy golden hair whose mothers let them pierce their ears in the first grade and who baked, basted in baby oil, in bikinis on beach towels while we, lumpen and brown-haired, sat slathered with sunscreen under beach umbrellas, reading books and wishing it would rain.

 

Sarah Einstein is a PhD candidate at Ohio University in Creative Nonfiction. Her work has appeared in Ninth Letter, PANK, Fringe, and other journals and has been awarded a Pushcart Prize. She is also the Managing Editor of Brevity.

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