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)
11 thoughts on “On Commemorating Personal Accomplishments with Nail Polish”
I’m going to go out and weed.
I just straightened out a plot thread that has been bedeviling me for weeks, and keeping me from finishing my last edits, and…
I earned my time outside – and the weeds need to be removed NOW, before they seed for next year.
Enjoy your nails – it seems harmless enough! I don’t bother – between typing, and chewing them in appropriate circumstances, it isn’t worth the time for me. I already grab a protein shake just so I won’t have to stop during my few usable hours every day. And I hate to think what they would look like if I did them with my brain off. But thanks for the tip about spreading the excess on the skin.
Going out and weeding sounds great, not only because of the immediate attention the task requires but because I’ve always found that mindless, repetitive tasks like that often free up the subconscious and sends up ideas for writing. Plus, it’s always great to spend some time outside, particularly when the sun is shining, regardless of the actual temperature. Enjoy!
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I like to weed my soul at the same time.
It provides some context: I’m going out to remove thistles.
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I saw a woman on “My Strange Addiction” who drinks nail polish. So there’s that.
While I’m comfortably settled in to carrying a purse, my one experiment with nail polish remains an experiment. I’m not cut out for leading that charge. I’m usually pretty good at slipping between worlds, and wearing sparkle on my nails puts a hard brake on that. Anyway, we’re probably both self-conscious, but the attention you’d draw from wearing it would be rather minimal compared to mine.
I’m not sure if I celebrate personal achievements. I tend to view all my endeavors as miserable disasters (lessens the disappointment later), and because it affords me the opportunity to deliver humorous rants to my friends and colleagues. I guess that’s how I celebrate. Humorous rants about failure. It’s the Jewish comedian in me.
And you don’t have a mannish physique.
I don’t think it would be you wearing nail polish in and of itself that would draw stares but rather the use of sparkles. You just don’t strike me as a sparkly kind of guy (maybe you too need a deep burgundy or purple that looks black from certain angles; goes so much better with your Jersey tough guy persona).
There is something to be said for keeping one’s expectations low (or at the very least, reasonable) to leave room for to be pleasantly surprised. I tend not to celebrate achievements too much either – my upbringing taught me that everything I do is my duty anyway, and one isn’t meant to expect or accept rewards for doing one’s duty – however this particular accomplishment was a big one that’s been weighing on me for a while. Of course, I’ve immediately set a whole new goal (revision), but I’m not going to let anyone take the fact that I finally finished a complete draft of something away from me.
And you don’t have a mannish physique.
I actually kinda do: I’m pretty tall for a girl, I’ve got very broad shoulders, I’m slender but don’t have a particularly defined waist, and my hair is now at a 1990s Lenny Kravitz length that confuses a lot of people if my face is partially obscured. When I used to do outdoor education and be all bundled up in hiking gear, kids would sometimes ask me if I’m a boy or a girl. When I bike and wear my cycling jacket and gender-neutral clothing, adults sometimes mis-gender me too, both while I’m actually riding (once, a man told his kid to “Let that guy go by first” before they crossed the bike path) and even in the elevator in my office while I’m going to retrieve my bike.
So I do have some empirical evidence to support my claim, but it doesn’t bother me so much anymore because it’s just social conditioning on what a girl is “supposed” to look like and what a boy is “supposed” to look like that is influencing these people. As societal views of beauty and gender continue to evolve, what people are able to see and perceive will evolve along with them. For now, though, I consider myself to be slipping between worlds as well.
I don’t know where I get my attitude from. If I write a critically acclaimed international bestseller that gets turned into a blockbuster film franchise while earning a PhD in Dutch baroque painting and learning 5 languages, I’ll feel like I accomplished something. It’s funny, but when I finally got my B.A. after years of night school, I happened to land a job at a company that employs people with graduate degrees, so my sense of accomplishment lasted all of 5 minutes when I realized all my co-workers were better educated (I didn’t impress them with my intellect. I got one of the few positions that didn’t require at least a master’s degree).
You are far awesomer than me, and I look forward to the day I can drop your name to impress people. 🙂
I think what you are describing is an athletic build. I’ve seen several pictures of you and would never mistake you for a guy in a million years. When my hair was long back in the day, I got called “miss” and “ma’am” with some regularity, and I have far from a traditionally feminine frame. Most fashion models are 5’8″ or taller, by the way.
We’re all as awesome as we believe ourselves to be. I think we all spend too much time trying to impress others instead of just being who we are and trying to impress ourselves. More often than not, the latter results in a genuineness that ends up making people take notice in any case. That said, when you do publish that bestselling franchise which you’re able to produce the translations yourself, you’d better believe I’ll be telling people, “I knew him when.” 🙂
Yes, I do have an athletic build, but there’s still something odd about the way people perceive me, particularly when I’m not explicitly female-coded in my dress. It may be the fact that Vancouver has a very small black population, so some folk are just not used to seeing the way our physiques and features often differ.
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Nails aside (I have no knowledge of how expert I might prove in this matter) congratulations on finishing up your novel. Please don’t take as long to edit it 🙂
Assuming I finish the Jersey Marathon in 11 days time I will indulge in several beers with the lads secure in the knowledge that I have no work the following morning.
Thank you, Roy! I’m on a roll now and have a taste for finishing things, so I will say with all confidence that my editing should not take as long (the fact that “not as long” is anywhere up to ten years from now notwithstanding). 🙂
Good luck with your marathon! That will be a great accomplishment (I did a half-marathon once, and it damn-near killed me), and those beers will be well deserved. Enjoy!
Congratulations on finishing, Janna! I can’t put on my own nail polish because it always looks terrible, so I’ll get someone else to do it. One day I might be rich enough to get someone else to write my books (like some very well known authors that won’t be mentioned here) 😉
Thanks, Dianne! I’ve gotten decent enough now at doing my own nails, but going to a salon has it’s benefits too, for the colour selection is exhaustive and that professional top coat really makes the colour shine! I don’t believe you’d really want others to write your books for you. Besides, no one could make it better than a Dianne Gray original! 🙂
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