Hard as Nails


There is an unspoken understanding among women that we all know, or can at least figure out, how other women work. We can fly at each other like angry cats sometimes, but yes, we all have a basis understanding of woman nature. To my curious male friends: yes, there is a Manual, and we all have to read it. If most female habits seem eerily similar, that’s why. Habits like perpetual lateness and always imagining ourselves to look ten pounds heavier than we actually are.

A handful of us choose to disregard most of the handbook completely. I skipped the chapters on hair, nails, and makeup and skimmed the chapter on deportment, deeming the latter more important than the former. As a result, I fail to understand the female tendency of obsessing over one’s fingernails.

Fingernails are rather grotesque little things. They’re cast off skin cells. If you’re healthy, they’re a pearly pink with little ridges down the length. Aside from being rather excellent letter-openers, they don’t have much practical purpose at all. Perhaps this is why, somewhere during the great long course of history, women decided to start painting them.

I try not to bring this up in conversation with other readers of The Manual. They’ll start talking about nail-polish, a topic as foreign to me as nuclear physics, and someone will make a very sweet comment about how lovely my nails would look in a dark magenta or whatever else. I calmly reply that I prefer not to paint my nails. They usually look at me like I’m either two fries short of a Happy Meal or like I’m the kind of girl who lived under a rock during puberty. They think I’m strange because I don’t paint my nails. Perhaps they’re right. I think they’re strange because they do.

There are girls out there with lovely hands. They have long, white fingers that seem made for playing piano or doing embroidery. Crimson nails, or nails of any color, are the perfect aesthetic capstone for hands like those. If you have the time and energy to take care of your hands, that is.

I spend the better part of my time typing. When I’m not typing, I’m writing with a pen or pencil. On Sundays, I play the violin. Long nails are a hindrance, not a help, to what I do on a regular basis. Keeping them long is impractical and annoying. Even though longer nails make my stubby fingers look longer (which, I gather, is more attractive—go figure), having my nails uncut drives me crazy. I fiddle with them. I tap them. They get caught on my clothes. They tear.  

“Trim them and file them,” people tell me. “You have pretty nails.”

Regardless of how attractive the collections of dead skin cells on the tips of my fingers may be, my loyal readers know that I barely have time to eat, much less sit around and take an emery board to my nails. I cut them to the quick and forget about them until they’re long enough to be bothersome again.  

However, comma, I will admit that occasionally doing arsty things to my fingernails is rather fun. This summer, for instance, when I was on vacation with my friends, I got bored and painted my nails deep purple and did the tips in silver, utterly on a whim. (If I’m going to be normal, I don’t want to do it in a normal way.) Then, for my friend’s wedding, all us bridesmaids went and got professional manicures. I paid for the sort that would last for weeks so I wouldn’t have to think about my fingers after it was done. The polish did, indeed, last for weeks. Thankfully, they are now trimmed back to their normal stumpiness, and typing is much easier now.

I know that a few fellow readers of The Manual will consider my statements heretical. There are others who have seen women who grow out their nails to ridiculous lengths and spend hours doing bizarre things to their nails (including all manner of beads and glitter) and will agree with me, at least in part. Impractical as nail-primping may be, I will admit that doing something artistic for the sake of doing it is rather fun. The creative urge just manifests itself in different ways for different people. For me, it’s writing and drawing anthropomorphic cartoon characters. For others, it’s painting their nails. In my journey as a human being, I will try to understand why my fellow women do what they do.

Considering I threw away The Manual a long, long time ago, I have a feeling it will take me a while.


10 responses »

  1. Although I’ve never had a professional manicure, I did paint my nails “religiously” until you came along. Somehow all the handwashing, diaper-changing, mommy stuff that you brought into my life permanently altered the appearance of my hands. People used to tell me I had beautiful hands–they don’t do that anymore, but I wouldn’t swap beautiful hands for my beautiful daughter any day of the week! 🙂

  2. Hehe, I giggled through your entire post. I am much the same way. However, I convinced my mother to put silver nail polish in my stocking. It was great fun until it chipped off while washing dishes. Ah, well. We’ll let the people who have time for it have their fun.
    Wait… we were supposed to read that manual? I’m fairly sure I used it against my brother.

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