My mother had a ritual when manicuring her nails that was at least weekly, and involved many processes of filing, buffing and pushing back cuticles before layers of lotions, base coats, coloured polishes and top coats were lovingly applied. Her nail polish bag was full to brimming of every shade of red, pink and plum that you could imagine.
I however could never master the skill that she had to any great effect. Perhaps a lack of the time or patience needed to allow each carefully applied coat to dry, led to disappointment in what was frankly usually a mess at the end of my fingers.
On the day of my wedding I made my first trip to a nail bar and left with unmanageable talons painted to match my dress. Not entirely a success as they were firmly glued to my cuticles and the pain as they grew out led to my new husband removing them with his multi tool type penknife on our honeymoon – very romantic !
In preparation for my daughter’s wedding in January of this year, her sister convinced me to give it another go – things have changed, products advanced, and a more natural look could be attained I was told. Surprisingly the results were very pleasing, a synthetic nail coating on my own nails felt natural and was as tough as old boots.
I spend the vast majority of my day, particularly Monday to Friday with my fingers stretched over a keyboard or mouse and reaching out for paperwork or phone. It stands to reason therefore, that the bits of me that are constantly in my vision are my hands. I rarely look at my face and have been known to spend a whole afternoon in and out of the general office at work with ink smeared over my cheeks or similar, not realising until an end of the day trip to the loo. I have decided therefore to treat my nails to a hard as bullets nail bar polish every 2-3 weeks which keeps them tip-top and me feeling that at least part of me looks under control.
This has not always been a success however, as the rest of me often lets the side down. The first humiliation of the nail bar happened a couple of weeks ago during a period in London of particularly high pollen. Despite a daily dose of antihistamine, I suffer from hayfever and spend a good deal of my time in the summer quietly crying behind dark glasses. On this day I thought I had it contained. I sat on my fur lined stool and held out my hands for the transformation to begin. Now the thing about the nail treatment I have is that it involves many processes, mum would be so proud, and alternate coats of glue and powder to create that rock hard finish needed to get me through weeks of typing, gardening, and general forget you have manicured nails behaviour.
Needless to say, you cannot stop to wipe a tearful eye, or swat a dripping nose – you get the picture ! the day was hot and the fans were blowing; the lady next to me was having something intricate painted on with some sort of air gun; much to the horror of my stylist within ten minutes of a one hour treatment I was wearing my eye makeup on my chin. The only way to control my nose was to breath in deeply through my nose, yes sniff! a bit like pilates breathing but without the belt tightening sigh that should follow. Give her her due she did try to dab, but I do not blame her for not wanting to get too up close and personal. After about 45 minutes I was told to go and wash my hands, as is usual before the final polish is applied, and was told that I might also want to take a look at my face. It was not a good look !
I returned this morning for my take off and reapply ritual. No hayfever, so all good. Unfortunately I had prepared turmeric cod for tea yesterday evening, one of my husband’s favourites and quick and easy to prepare, you just slaver the cod in a turmeric, oil and lemon juice dressing and shove it in the oven. I was in a bit of a hurry, I did wash my hands after but not too carefully, and, as the decorators arrived at 7.45 this morning, my shower was a little hurried.
As I held out my hands in anticipation of a relaxing hour of idle chit chat she asked, you are not going to cry today are you? no of course not I replied – all good today. I then looked down and realised that my hands looked like those of someone with a 40 a day habit, and able to hold three cigarettes at a time in each hand. Bright yellow cuticles and stained fingers, are not the look that they usually aim for.
She was professional to the extreme, carefully scrubbing the yellow away with god knows what produced from under the counter, and I emerged with my usual nail perfection. I do believe however that what she muttered as she rolled her eyes in the direction of her co stylists was Korean for “we’ve got a right one here”.
I must be very careful in three weeks time not to go for the hat trick or they may not let me back.