I hate getting manicures. Not so much of a "news flash" considering I routinely discuss how I detest showering and putting on anything with buttons, but really, it's worse than periods, than liquid eyeliner, than gynecological speculums or anything else a lady is s'posed to do. And while I'm aware this is not a sentiment shared by Manhattan women with seven to ten dollars to spare on another person creating a fragile painting upon their most reliable extremity, I can't help it. The entire process drives me crazy, mostly because it aligns all of my terrible tendencies: the innate hypochondriac, the impatient child, the stranger-hating recluse. Basically, once I've stared at all the tranquil posters of lilacs floating in water and studied every face around me, my brain goes numb and a Nancy Grace-style three-way conversation between these awful segments of my personalty starts up.
Judging from the hands of the people roaming the city, though, others enjoy it. Adore it, even! And as much as it pains me to say, for a few choice things this past week that required me to put a layer of clothing on besides underwear, I've needed to look "presentable". Which, naturally, includes joining the ranks of New York ladies and having my nail beds doused in two thin coats of colored liquid for what seems like a length of time that will never, ever end.
Always a fan of mild and passive-aggressive rebellion, I chose royal blue.
(Suck a D, Ballet Slippers.)
Like most thirty minute trips, this week's was not a pleasant journey. For a neurotic, going to a place that involves 1. chemicals, 2. UV lights and 3. much too much time to think is a Molotov cocktail of crazy. Straight up, choo choo! pulling into kooky-crazy-psychotown. Not sure what I'm talking about? Come with me, on a terrible journey through the nail factory, a land of relentless panic and unbelievable patience:
Picking out a color. Indecisiveness has led me to try every single flavor of Jeni's ice Cream and have mini-meltdowns at Duane Reade, not to mention purchase innumerable amounts of barrettes from Forever 21's checkout line. I am the reason they carry microwavable corn cobs at the grocery store; I am the person who used to buy cotton candy at the Walmart near overnight camp just because it was near the door. So, as overwhelmingly wonderful as a wall of colorful options is, it comes with the burden of a complete brain explosion inside my skull as to what to pick. I take such an inexplicably long time to decide that there is always — ALWAYS — a woman who comes over to help fill my emotional void. It's the common battle of Betty and Veronica; debating between grey or oxblood of whatever fashion tells me to choose, and the inappropriately garish shade I inevitably settle on. Oh, and I never finish doubting the one I chose, down to the first glob that touches my hand. Doesn't everyone?
Neuroses Richter Scale Rating: 7. Being rushed while trying to make what feels like a life-changing decision should only occur in the realm of choosing what shoes to wear while running late, or in a Planned Parenthood waiting room.
Nail prep. Holding hands with a lady stranger ranks up there alongside "kissing relatives with mustaches" on the terrible things you gotta do list, but it it just takes soooo looooong. (The kissing relatives part, of course. Ba-dum, ching!) During this early stage of low-grade torture, you stick your hand into a bowl with blue-tinted water while softly playing with a small pile of mancala pieces that are there for no apparent reason. Is this some sort of mind game? Some sort of trick? Why doesn't anyone play mancala any more?
Neuroses Richter Scale Rating: 2. You can still use the other hand to pretend to check emails you have not received in the past three minutes, so there's a minimal amount of mental escape.
Cuticle clipping. My Grandma Leila always says, "bring your own nippers so you don't get an infection," and my mom always says "If you get an infection, it can go straight to your heart." So, naturally, I've paper-mache'd those answers together to convince myself I can die from bits of dead skin being nibbled off my now-perfect nail beds. Since I can't chase every nail appointment with a Benadryl, and because this painstaking manicure process isn't really worth it without, I go for the cuticle snips, but fret the entire time that this will be the start of my Paula Abdulian saga.
Neuroses Richter Scale Rating: 9. You're pretty much just waiting for this woman to fuck up and give you heart disease by way of hand pliers.
Base coat. Judge the brand they're using, regardless of if its a recognizable one. Stress about if they've just refilled the bottle with a massive plastic jug of generic top coat and it's a watered down substance. Worry about the fumes one must intake while breathing in a gallon's worth of polish. Daydream about sticking each fingertip into it and insta-drying your nails because you don't know how solvents work and didn't pay attention in Chem lab. Wonder what happened to those nail polish removers that came as a foam tub you stick each finger into. Realize they'd only be off the market if they were cancerous. Oh my god, they're totally cancerous. Panic.
Neuroses Richter Scale Rating: 4. It's probably the cheap shit, but tell yourself "it's all about the technique." It'll chip later that day and you're already here, just give in already.
Color Polish Application. Also known as the "oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god did I pick the right color oh my god oh my god is it going to look better after a second coat oh my god oh my god why did I choose glitter I knew it wasn't going to show through fuck fuckitty fuck fuck" step of this process.
Neuroses Richter Scale Rating: 5. Double it if they don't polish the love handles of your nails — that itty bitty part right up against the sides — and you sit contemplating for a full five minutes if you're going to be the type of New York woman who cattily says "Uhh, can you fix that?!" or suck it up and feel bad for the next hour that you'll forever be a marshmallow.
Top coat. Regardless of if you spend $4 on cappuccinos each day that you never finish, you will stress maniacally about if you should splurge for the $1 quick dry top coat surcharge or not. The quick dry topcoat business must be quite a lucrative one - $1 per use out of a bottle that costs $7?! - but by being neither quite cheap enough to sneak my own bottle or value patience as a virtue, i just give in guiltily. Though, if I could invest my Ziplock storage bag of quarters into any industry, IIIII'd go for the insta-dry one.
Neuroses Richter Scale Rating: 6. You could use that ambiguous can of Nail Enamel Dryer or the bottle of oil that nobody understands on top of the dryers, but if you really love yourself and your new nails, you'll splurge on the no-smudge guarantee.
Gel Manicures: Oh god.
Neuroses Richter Scale Rating: 10. Just assume that you're dipping a toe in the cancer pool by heating your phalanges up inside a plastic reflective box. Similar to a low-grade microwave, it still somehow seems less food-grade safe than an Easy Bake Oven. You will never remember to put on sunscreen beforehand, you'll panic when parts of your fingers emerge UV-burnt, and you'll convince yourself you can feel the disease entering your lower organs. Bonus points if you try to cover your reproductive zone with nearby objects as though you're taking a dental X-ray and your million-year-old leather purse is made out of lead.
Hand dryers. Death by boredom. If my life ever became a Law & Order storyline, it would be from going berserk out of boredom while literally watching paint dry, and I work in solitude all day long. Granted, you get to experience what it feels like to have a woman tell you by way of shoulder pulses how much she can't stand your existence, but once that charade is through, you sit. You sit, and you sit, and if they're attentive, they make you sit some more after you try to sneak out, not giving a fuck any longer about what your tiny fingertips look like as long as you can look at them in the fresh outdoor air. Just let me outside already. Please? Please.
Neuroses Richter Scale Rating: 5. Increase by one for every body part that is glowing from the purple heat of a UV light. Add three points for chiming in on a conversation the person next to you is having, times it by four if you've been listening since the beginning of your manicure and have just been pretending you're aloof. Multiply by infinity if you run straight through the glass wall because you just can't handle it any more. In that case, like Scorpion in Mortal Kombat, you are my hero.