Nail Bar : Responding to Differences

I was at the CIPD conference in Manchester recently, and decided as the continuation of experimenting with difference, to have my nails done for the second year running. Why? Two main reasons. First, I was curious to see how people reacted, and second, overall I enjoyed the experience the first time and simply wanted to repeat it.

In 2015 I chose a dark purple as my colour, this year I went with green. Both times I enjoyed the experience of the manicure itself – thanks to the good people at Peter Marcus. and the subsequent reactions from people fascinated me.

While reflecting on this recently, a friend asked me how I reacted to myself. Here’s what I recalled:

Part One.

In 2015 I had my nails done for the first time. Keira and I have played around with nail varnish at home loads of times, this was the first time in public. The person in the nail bar commented I was the first man customer who had asked for a manicure and polish. I chose a deep purple varnish. I left the nail bar and immediately scuffed a nail – went back and was fixed up again. Left for a second time feeling very self conscious. That feeling stayed with me and I attracted a range of feedback. Surprise, delight, confusion, acknowledgement of bravery, curiosity (why would I do such a thing?), and disapproval. The uncertainty stayed with me. I remember hiding my nails from view on the tube on the way home.

Part Two.

In 2016 I went back for another go. The person in the nail bar remembered me, we had a few laughs, made sure my nails were properly dry this time! I felt much less self conscious this year, and I think as a result of this, I attracted far fewer comments. I occasionally found myself hiding my nails but for the most part, I think they looked good and I liked what I’d had done and enjoyed the experience.

Part Three.

Based on this experiment, it seems that I invite reactions from other people more than I previously thought I did. There is no good reason why I felt awkward, beyond my own hangups and my perception of the prejudices of others. This is a small experiment in how people, me included, respond to difference. As an older white man, I have all/most of the privilege in many situations. The nails is a way of me disarming and enjoying myself, and I still get nervous/uncertain etc. I’m keeping going.

Part Four.

Best £25 I’ve spent in ages!


In addition to the nails experiment, which I will be repeating soon, I sometimes choose to wear shorts to work in the summer months. This is another one of those small differences which in some cases, attracts interesting responses. Internally I wrestle with ‘is it acceptable to wear shirts to work?’ even in very high temperatures. I frequently talk myself out of shorts and into trousers, then regret this when I’m overheating on a crowded tube in London. Additionally – I note that people (it is nearly always men) who react in any way to the shorts situation, do so by mocking me for my choice. To what extent I invite this reaction, I am unsure.

I find this kind of experiment fascinating – in terms of what I learn about others and myself, and as a reminder of my own prejudices, and as a reminder to be kind. If you’ve tried anything similar – I’d love to hear from you.

Heroes – Len Frobisher

I’m chuffed to bits with the way this Heroes series is developing. Today I’m delighted to bring you a tale of someone who knew the value of perseverance, and daring to be different. Len Frobisher. This lovely post is written for you by Anthony Allinson, it  hit me for six and I hope you enjoy it.

Len Frobisher, an unsung and obscure hero from my youth.

In the 80s, when I was a kid in Leeds, I played cricket a lot. In fact, I played a very lot, almost all year round. However, while I was good, I was not great. I won some cups with my team in Leeds and some club prizes for bowling and had a brilliant time.

Like many kids sports clubs it ran entirely on the good will and effort of parents, almost always those of other boys in the team. I was conscious of this even when I was 13, and was generally as grateful then as I am now to those who calmly explain to my son that Hampshire Under 11 (U11) cricket won’t feature the Duckworth Lewis Method in the event of rain, nor will Hawkeye come to the rescue should he be convinced he has been robbed of an LBW.

These people are heroes to me because they do things that they don’t have to, they bear the mutterings and occasional open hostility from parents (my wife took one look at what goes on between parents, coaches and officials in soccer and promptly ceased all soccer activity) and, while their kids benefit, so do many others. That’s the deal and it’s a good one.

There was a problem with my club in Leeds though, and it took a particular hero of mine to resolve it. His name was, Len Frobisher.

The problem was simple. Sons of dad’s who were in the club’s senior teams got in the junior sides regardless, it was a rather unhealthy clique. This is why I opened with my little bit about me. My point being that at U15 I got in the side anyway, I was not great, but I was good enough. However, lots of really promising kids didn’t get a look in, simply because their dads weren’t part of the club set up. Chummy clubby types make my skin crawl; I detest vested interests, cliques and abuse of position. I must confess to a pathetically old case of sour grapes here, because by the time we got to U18 this set up meant that I didn’t always get in the first team either! Perhaps I just wasn’t good enough, but a few others around me definitely were.

Rather than being negative though, I want to thank a hero called Len Frobisher for daring to be different and for creating opportunities. The result was that we won the U18 cup in 1985 and changed the structure of the junior set up completely as a result. Len did four things over several years, in each case quietly and simply exercising his values and just doing things differently to the way they were done in the rest of the club.

1.He ensured those nominated for the winter nets, the ones run by the county to which each club sent 2-3 players, were attended by the kids with potential rather than the usual suspects. I was honoured to be one of those kids, and I picked up the bowling gong for the U15s that year. That’s not really the point but I couldn’t help bringing it up 🙂

2. He decoupled his coaching from his son’s involvement and set up, then single handedly ran a second XI at U18. His son was very good and played in the first XI. This, in case you miss it, was the big gift. The first team had 4 coaches and was in a ready made league. The second XI just had Len, a captain who refused to follow orders (ahem…) and a fixture list cobbled together week by week by Len that took us all over West Yorks.

3. While the second XI was supposed to be just that, several of us also played regularly for the club’s adult teams, including that erratic captain. I suspect there was a lot of politics behind the scenes, but we never saw any of it.

4. He stuck at it, smiled most of the time and just did things differently.

The resulting team was an utterly inseparable group of equals. There is a long and quite unpleasant story I could add about an incident in a nightclub several years later to demonstrate this. Perhaps another time, it really isn’t the point.

It all came good in 1985. Kids club cricket, especially the cup competitions, descend into farce at the end of the season. The cup final is often in the summer holidays when roughly half of both sides are typically on holiday. However, we had 25 regular players thanks to Len. I would love to tell a Hollywood story of how the second XI won the day, but all I can remember is that we made up half the side and that we won the U18 cup for the club.

I then went to University and drifted away for a few years. When I went back, there were U9, U11 and U13 sides and a coaching model organised for the kids and the club, not dads and sons. The club was cleaning up trophies at all levels.

Len did that, he didn’t have to, but he did. It is thirty years ago but he is still a hero to me.