It all began with the random thought that occurred to me while at work on the final chapter of my WIP:
I should paint my fingernails so that when I finally type “The End”, I’ll do so in vivid colour to help me remember the moment forever.
It being the first attempted novel I’d have ever completed making the event something of a big deal to me.
Still, this notion to adorn myself was quite a departure for me. I’m hardly a deft hand when it comes to personal ornamentation:
My fashion sense lies at the confluence of my love of second-hand shopping, my somewhat mannish physique, and my fondness for styles, colours, patterns that often stand out since, as a 5’8 black woman with dreadlocks halfway down my back, I’m already a fairly noteworthy figure.
My competence with makeup is virtually non-existent – I never wore it as a teenager since colours that match me were non-existent in the chain drug stores I could afford. I never wore it when I started making my own money and having greater access to multiethnic cosmetic options since my first job as a park warden trainee in the middle of the wilderness rather eliminated the need to doll up. And now I’ve just lost interest in the whole overpriced, chemical-laden affair.
But nail polish – nail polish seemed safe and impossible to screw up (admittedly still chemical-laden, but at least not on my face). Plus the odd and vibrant colours that I favour are socially acceptable now.
(Even black nail polish is acceptable, although I’d never choose plain black, but rather a rich purple or burgundy that’s so dark, it looks black from certain angles.)
I even already possessed a decent supply of nail polish because, although I hadn’t painted my fingernails in some twenty years, I do my feet regularly every summer because I like to wear open-toe sandals yet have ugly toenails (a couple years of hiking boots and humping heavy packs through the bush will do that to a girl).
In addition, a co-worker offered to let me pick through her nail kit and borrow some colours on an extended loan.
I had a great idea for a colour scheme after some of my Facebook friends recommended using more than one colour: I was going to emulate the peacock as a symbol of pride in my coming accomplishment, as well as the fact I’ve always just liked the look of peacocks (their sound, on the other hand, not so much).
Colour me bad
The thing about painting your fingernails compared to your toes, though, is a) you don’t have to use those uncomfortable foam toe separators (+1), yet b) you do have to have a much steadier hand (-1), and for set of nails, paint using you non-dominant hand (-10,000).
I once took a handedness test.
Like many other human characteristics (personality, gender, sexual orientation), handedness falls on a spectrum, with very few people who are exclusively right or left handed. Most of us use our non-dominant hand in at least some situations.
This test scored on a scale of one to ten, with one being the theoretical extreme of right-handedness, ten bring the theoretical extreme left handedness, and five being perfectly ambidextrous.
I scored a two, i.e. pretty much as close as humanly possible to theoretical impossibility.
All this to say that painting the nails on my right hand kind of made my brain hurt.
It took me three attempts and two episodes of Sherlock just to even get my index finger right, the problem being I was applying waaay too much polish from not being dexterous enough to wipe the access from the brush on the mouth of the bottle.
Anyone who does any sort of painting knows what happens when you apply too much paint: it doesn’t dry properly and results in a tacky, easily-damaged mess.
But I persevered! The Irene Adler episode of Sherlock was great, and I discovered that broad strokes of colour that painted the excess onto the surrounding skin is a viable way to make the layers thinner. The extra polish sloughed off my skin quite readily after a couple rounds of dishes or shampooing my hair.
My nails were looking great.
But within days, the colour started to chip off.
My co-worker – now my official nail consultant – told me it’s because I needed to use top coat, which is a strengthener, adds shine, and would also help smooth out any flaws in my polishing technique.
“You can use base coat as well,” she said. “It will help the colour stick to your nail better and go on more evenly.”
The base coat would be sufficient, I informed her. For as much as I wanted to pimp my nails, I didn’t want to be all day at the paint shop making it happen, with base coat, two coats of colour, and then top coat.
Plus, some of these ancillary clear coats are like ten bucks a pop; I was lucky to score a bottle from a discontinued brand for $4.
So, I when through the whole polishing process again, this time with top coat, and you know what? I still couldn’t last a full week before it started chipping.
But the pattern of chipping was telling: from the top down, with the whites of my nails revealing themselves too quickly to be normal growth.
It took an examination of the hands of another co-worker with way longer nails than I and an immaculate paint job for me to figure it out: instead of using the pads of my fingers, when I type, I use my nails.
I type with my nails? How had I never noticed this? Do you know how annoying that clickity clicking sounds? Like little mice scurrying across the keyboard. If I had to listen to a colleague typing like that, I’d be irritated.
The final insult in my adventures in commemorate the coming occasion with nail polish was that, of course, since I have no concept of how long writing actually takes (hence my being “almost finished” since early March), the colour I thought I’d end with (“The Peacock”) wasn’t the case at all.
I actually went through another a whole other colour scheme I titled “The Storm”, a week of no colour at all, and then another week still with an eye-catching glitter bomb of powder blue bling, before a more subtly blue-tinted glitter that I’ve taken to calling “Let it Go” finally took me across the finish line.
A/N: Yes, it finally happened: on the evening of September 15, after too many years of writing and not writing, I completed the third installment of my historical fiction trilogy*!
A/N #2: *In draft.
How do you celebrate personal achievements? Tell me about it in the comments.
(Images: J.G. Noelle)