Walter Gantz’ Blue Nail

By Tamera Theodore

When I met with Walt to get the scoop on his blue nail (see previous blog entry here), I was a little relieved to find that he hadn’t dyed his hair black, hadn’t gotten his ear pierced, and wasn’t displaying new skin ink (not that could be seen, anyway). He wasn’t undergoing some kind of radical transformation after all; his new “look” was confined to a pair of brown shoes and one shoddily painted fingernail. And yet, that nail begged for questioning.

Walt’s first introduction to the world of nail polish occurred sometime last year at a family gathering. When his twin granddaughters asked if they could paint his nails, Walt said that he simply couldn’t decline, although he did insist on limiting the scope of the job to just one nail. He recalled that the color choice was a rather garish red and that it had been applied not only to the nail but all around the nail. “It was a terrible paint job,” Walt chuckled, “but it was done by 7-year old girls! It was to be expected!” He said it took him no time at all to remove the polish; he chipped it off by the time he returned home.

But something happened when his nail was painted for a second time about a month ago. He decided to just let it be. He thought “I’m leaving it on. I like it. This is something my granddaughter did. There’s no need to fix this.” Walt said it served as a very physical reminder of his connection to his family.

Walt's fashionable blue nail

Walt’s fashionable blue nail

Interestingly, for someone who rather just stumbled into the world of nail art, Walt seems decidedly particular about his nail polish practices. For example, only one nail may carry polish at a given time and never the middle finger (even though the gesture sometimes associated with that finger is not one he personally uses). Also, nails on his left hand are off-limits because of the wedding band he wears whenever he’s not swimming. One is left assuming that he has an unspoken rule about limiting adornments of any kind to just one per hand.

In regards to reactions, the polish hasn’t gone unnoticed. Walt has observed some peripheral glances, double takes, and even some wide-eyed stares from colleagues and students. An occasional brave student has asked about it and after hearing Walt’s response, exclaimed “Oh! I thought maybe it was a Band-Aid or a bruise!” One recent work-related meeting with an attorney turned to laughter when the lawyer leaned in inquisitively and said “I’m sorry, I have to ask…is that nail polish?” to which Walt offered a short explanation and then leaned in and said “And I have to ask about your polish — would that color work well for me?”

It has been about one month since Walt’s nail was last painted and about a week since this photo was taken.  Day-to-day activities have taken their toll and it has become clear to Walt that nail art requires a certain amount of TLC. Luckily, the family is gathering this weekend for the girls’ 8th birthday celebration, just in time for a reapplication. There was some concern that the girls might be too busy with birthday activities to redo the polish, but Walt said he’ll drag them away from their fun for a few minutes if he has to.  Here he held up his hand so I could get a better look and said “I mean, look at this! It’s getting to be embarrassing!”

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