Polishing Up

I was in high school the last time I remember painting my fingernails. I had a piano audition in the choir room and as I recall, it didn’t go very well. When I played, I was used to seeing plain, stubby fingernails, so it was very distracting to suddenly see flashes of blood red. I wondered what I’d been thinking, painting my nails. Why had I chosen this, of all days, to decide to be girly?

I swore never to paint my nails again, and aside from the occasional Halloween costume, I have stuck with my promise. I’ve never regretted it – with my pianist-length nails, it seemed pretty pointless. Plus, I have actual Man Hands (proven in a side-by-side comparison with my grandfather’s identical hands), and while I’ll admit they’re quite useful, they are not at all attractive and I see no reason to draw attention to them by adding polish. And, as I discussed in one of my earliest blog posts, for a long time, I snootily saw painting my nails as a frivolous waste of time (as if I spent it doing anything more noble or elevated).

Another reason I didn’t want to draw attention to my hands is that I just don’t think any hands are attractive. I know it’s common to hate the sight of feet, but I get grossed out by fingers (especially long, creepy ones). I don’t mind watching fingers doing useful things, but fingers reaching out as if they’re about to grab you really bother me. My kids enjoy drawing pictures of fingers–or things made entirely out of fingers–just to bug me. They often wave their fingers in my face just to get a rise out of me and they keep threatening to buy me those awful finger hands.


Fingers with super long nails creep me out even more. I’ve been trying to stop saying, “How can anyone…” but seriously, how can anyone find these attractive?


A few weeks ago, I babysat a little girl who asked me to paint her fingernails. Luckily, she was easily distracted and moved on to another idea quickly, but I was surprised by my panicked reaction (Fingernails? Me? Do I even know how? This is why I have no daughters!!!) and decided it was time to get over my aversion.

My husband was surprised. “You never paint your fingernails? Did I know that?” Then a few minutes later when he walked back into the room, “Wow, you’re right. I never realized it, but it’s really weird to see you with polish.”

And it was so weird. Like mirror shock, but always there in my peripheral vision. Do I have a piece of spinach stuck to me? No, just my nails.  Did I cut myself? No, just my nails.Did I not wash off all the flour after making bread? Is that White-Out? No, just my nails.


It bothered me that I could feel the polish all the time. I always felt like it wasn’t quite dry and that I’d stain everything I touched. Also, I always assumed the smell went away after a while, but every time my hand was near my face, I had flashbacks of the Stop Zit polish my little sister used to wear at night to discourage thumb sucking.

Since I wanted to get a broad range of experience, I polished and removed polish and re-polished almost daily. I realize that most people keep the same polish on for a while so it’s probably not as tedious for them, but how do they prevent daily chipping? After only a few hours of playing the piano or cleaning the house, the tips of my nails were already chipping away and looking pretty trashy. If I had polished nails regularly, I’d have to either maintain them vigilantly or just do nothing all day but sit back and admire my nails. That doesn’t seem like it would work, long-term.


I’m also really bad at painting nails. One of the days this week, I hired my 11-year-old neighbor to do it for me, but then she left town and I was forced to develop my own skills.

I even tried to get a little fancy with some lady-bug dots. I don’t think anyone will be hiring me anytime soon.


After a while, it became less strange to see my nails painted but I never felt like they made me more attractive. My hands are still just tools and I still don’t want to draw attention to them, but there was one particular color that made me feel a little nicer when I wore it, probably because it was pretty humdrum and neutral.


Maybe I’ll even pull it out sometimes on special occasions. You know, the kind that call for painted nails. I have yet to encounter such an occasion, but you never know. All I do know is that right now I just really, really want to take this stuff off!



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