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Painting nails: The simple act that changed a man’s approach to masculinity

He realized he was trapped in "The Man Box."

Painting nails: The simple act that changed a man’s approach to masculinity
Jennifter Lantigua / Flickr

Anyone who's ever done an ounce of soul-searching has probably wondered what it would be like to live as their true self. But who's this magical being we all have inside of us? Is it the person we've been raised to be?

Are we searching for an authentic self that hasn't been compromised by society's rigid roles cut out for us based on gender, age, country of origin, religion, race, or social status?


Is finding one's self a process of creating ourselves, as George Bernard Shaw said? Or can we get to our self by eliminating all the ways we've been compromised by socialization?

An anonymous writer for Uplift learned a profound lesson in self-actualization after letting his daughter paint his finger nails purple. What seemed like a simple act completely changed how he saw himself and how others related to him.

"I'm a middle age guy, yes I'm a more liberal type of person but painting my nails?! I couldn't possibly paint my nails, that's women's business!" he thought after his seven-year-old daughter made the hard-to-deny request that she paint his finger nails purple.

via Polished Man / Instagram

But he decided to go against his instincts and say yes after thinking about a 2010 TED Talk by Tony Porter entitled "A Call to Men." In the talk, Porter asks men to reflect on how they've been socialized to be violent and see women as "weak."

Porter ends his talk with a powerful call to action to men everywhere:

"I need you on board. I need you with me. I need you working with me and me working with you on how we raise our sons and teach them to be men — that it's okay to not be dominating, that it's okay to have feelings, and emotions, that it's okay to promote equality. That it's okay to have women who are just friends and that's it. That it's okay to be whole, that my liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman."

Porter also added this powerful anecdote about a nine-year-old boy.

"I asked a nine-year-old boy, 'What would life be like for you, if you didn't have to adhere to this man box?' He said to me, 'I would be free.'"

The author further described his beliefs on the The Man Box.

"The Man Box culture dictates that boys are taught to be emotionally reserved, brave, stoic and competitive. Those qualities seen as more feminine such as expressing emotions, crying or being vulnerable are typically discouraged. The rules are blindly enforced, with those who do not toe the line, often being labelled as 'soft,' 'gay' or are scolded, 'not to be a girl.'"

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When the author first went out in public with his nails painted purple it was like a a mini social experiment. Women uniformly greeted him with positivity. "Morning, ah wow, I love your nails!" the barista at his local coffee shop exclaimed.

Other women said that nails matched his outfit or that "it's great to see a man with painted nails."

The reaction he received from men was similarly uniform, but decidedly negative.

The author received a "silent appraisal at best, but mostly a look of startled confusion," he wrote. "The confusion that, here's a man, a generally 'normal' manly looking man who's not doing what our culture expects a 'normal' man to do. I had unwittingly challenged the rules of The Man Box. I was intrigued."

His painted nails experiment was the catalyst for a deep inner journey of questioning masculinity.

"Obviously, it has taken time to go through the inner process of slowly deconstructing my learned beliefs of what it means to be a man. This has been an evolution rather than a revolution. As I slowly chipped away, it astounded me just how much I sold myself short. For years I excelled at playing the stoic and reserved male. I literally could not cry and saw this as a good thing. I hated dancing, frowned at overly public displays of affection or vulnerability, and tried my hardest to look like a 'normal' guy.

But underneath this public facade, I was angry and felt very much out of step with the world, not to mention light years away from my authentic self. I would project this anger on to people around me, especially the women in my life, as if it was somehow their fault. I wallowed in being the victim, not realizing I was perpetuating the causes of my own suffering."

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The author then joined a man's group where they learn to be vulnerable and learn how to be outwardly gentle and compassionate.

After putting all this work into himself, he feels he can interact with the other men authentically. "First, simply as a human being and secondly, as my own version of a man. I recognize that I have ultimate sovereignty and responsibility for myself."

Part of becoming our true selves is finding our own ways of authentically expressing our gender. As the author notes, that all begins with realizing we're all in a box. But that box can easily be opened. It our choice to take the first step out.

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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