Some Fingernails Just Aren’t Cut Out For Polish
When I was very young, my nails were never painted. My mother of blessed memory thought it impractical and a waste of time. My grandmother of blessed memory enjoyed a weekly ritual that seemed to remind her she was a woman of leisure, when she removed and replaced what had been chipped the week before with a fresh coat.
In French medical school, where I first had an awareness that female beauty was some kind of power or currency, I tried weekly polish for a little in the early years, but found it tough to maintain without chips, even with a pale color, and transparent did not seem worth the trouble. Men didn’t seem to notice, or care.
When I left surgery for other branches of psychiatry, there was a brief affirmation of nail painting, as if I were declaring to the world I was no longer a manual laborer, but an intellectual one. I even remember telling someone about the medieval guilds of barber-surgeons, but how nobody could lump barbers in with the esoteric works of an intellectual not-a-manual laborer type physician.
Fast forward to someone telling me, in the past week, that my chipped nails were unworthy and I ought to visit a salon. Others have mentioned on the sly and more subtly, what a divine self-indulgent feeling it was, something I had to at least try. I haven’t, and doubt I will, although I may have thought of it briefly. I just didn’t think it was worth the trouble, even when I have been told it is a ritual that may include high art.
What the heck has gone on, while I wasn’t watching?
At first, I thought that women wanted salon-done nails simply to extend the salon experience. After all, marketers say when selling to those who have a sufficient amount of discretionary income, selling the experience is a lot more potent than selling the product or the outcome. I have hated the salon experience ever since earliest grade school, when my grandmother of blessed memory informed my mother of blessed memory that I had to have bangs because Mamie Eisenhower had bangs. My mother came along to watch a hairdresser who specialized in children, to make sure I had proper bangs because of my egregiously high forehead. Now, of course, I have no bangs. A male to female transgendered friend once insisted I watch a film about the salon experience as it was “the funniest ever” and I had to enjoy this experience, which I still do not.
I valued the friendship of the person who lent it to me, so I never said I couldn’t stand it. But then, I love the company of men more than the company of women; maybe at least partially because I spent so many years professionally in their world. I don’t even care if I knew and believed stereotypes as early as high school. I truly felt an amazing amount of them compulsively use too many sports metaphors, cultivate cute beer-bellies, burp too much, fail to understand the delicate emotionality of women, and foster the classical arts just so they can get into women’s pants.
Now there are newer, more sensitive types of men — maybe there were then, but not at my prep school mixers.
But back to nails. There is, understandably, little written directly about the psychology of nails, (let alone hands), unless you count medical conditions and such. So I am obligated to fall back on personal experience.
Grooming remains extremely important for women, who may be judged in unexpected ways. Some men have fetishisms about nails and find them quite exciting; yes, their spinal reflex of excitement can respond quickly to things, and this is one.
Much ink is spilled and much money spent on female beauty and its expression. Ways in which it is expressed may or may not actually be attractive to men; nobody seems to be doing double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials on this sort of thing. Just collecting money, quietly.
Much ink is spilled and much money made on women feeling inferior in terms of body image. I don’t intend to feel guilty if my nails are chipped. I have seen the most ornate nails on women who may have or may have expressed to me some kind of problems with body image. On grossly obese women I have seen the most complex nails. There is a technology here that goes far beyond the sociology of the salon. There is high art; as a matter of fact, there is one women cited more than once as the world’s greatest nail artist, and here is her web site. Yes, it is in Japanese. There is a large Japanese community around where I am at in the world and I have seen print advertisements for nails sporting three dimensional flower bouquets, with ribbons and streamers going up the fingers. Not only do I not know how they do it, I do not think I want them. Awkward and would not last long with even my most rudimentary office equipment.
As I told the woman who saw my chipped polish and suggested a nail salon, “They are good enough for writing prescriptions.”
In my world, sometimes it is good that I am, as my husband has said “functionally male.” But I am exploring women, building new friendships with women, and ever learning.