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facts & arguments

Taryn Gee/The Globe and Mail

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At the ripe age of fortysomething, I have taken a scary step that I hope will start to cement me on the path to full-fledged womanhood. For the first time, I decided to get my nails done.

What the heck took me so long? My dirty little not-so-secret: I have been plagued by a nasty nail-biting habit all my life. Why "not-so-secret"? Well, if I really believed that no one ever noticed the bloody stumps at the ends of my hands, I was completely deluding myself.

So, what changed? Recently I decided to change another even filthier habit. So I enrolled in a quit-smoking study. One of my rationalizations for continuing to smoke – yes, we smokers all have these myths – was that if I weren't smoking I might end up chewing off my fingertips altogether in the ensuing orally-fixated stress.

So, what better time to invest in some fake nails that (I hoped) would prevent me from chomping on whatever was left of my nails rather than sucking viciously on a yellow-stained filter?

Seems logical, right? Unless you're me, that is. Here's why: I have spent most of my teen and adult years eschewing outward signs of femininity such as makeup, hairstyling and – yes – putting polish on my nails. I like to couch this in anti-consumerist, pro-feminist terms, but the real reason is twofold: I am lazy, and I am cheap.

Also, I have a pathological aversion to spending time on self-beautification projects. My time, I feel, is far better spent reading trashy novels and playing Fruit Ninja on my iPhone than sitting in some salon making small talk.

Some of my friends actually find this relaxing and look forward to seeing their hairdresser/manicurist on a regular basis. I have never understood this. If the barber makes me wait for more than five minutes, I'm out the door and letting the hair grow for another month. I would as willingly be hog-tied to a dentist's chair in a gynecologist's office as walk into a manicure salon.

Or so I thought. Recently, on impulse and all fired up with self-righteous, about-to-quit-smoking energy, I strolled into a nail salon that I happened to be passing. (In place of "strolled into," read "walked in, started to hyperventilate and suffer hot flashes, walked out of the shop again only to walk back in 30 seconds later.")

I was the only customer in the place and so received a very enthusiastic greeting. Too enthusiastic, perhaps, for my comfort level. My anxiety heightened when all the women decided to take their coffee break and hang around the station where I was being fitted with fake nails.

Much giggling and tee-heeing ensued in a language that I don't speak. So, in my tortured brain they were all staring at the sorry state of my nails. I imagined that their conversation went something like this:

A: Wow, how can anyone let herself go around like that? She should be ashamed of herself!

B: Well, just take a look at the hairstyle she walks around with. That should give you the whole picture.


C: Do you think she's doing this on a dare?

D: Nah, her boyfriend must have dumped her, so she has to find a new man now.

A: Good luck with that!!!


It took every ounce of fortitude I have to keep myself sitting in the chair. If I didn't already have six fake nails the size of a falcon's talons stuck to my pathetic fingers, I would have run out screaming and hidden my scruffy self in my apartment for a few weeks.

But, against all odds, I persevered. The experience itself was not as much of an ordeal as I had expected. The weirdest part was the length and shape of the fake nails when they first went on – approximately four inches (10 centimetres) and curved like scimitars. I contemplated leaving them like that just to make a statement, but then realized that the statement would just be something like: "Wow, that chick with the messy hair obviously hasn't left her basement room for months before today."

The part that was most fun was getting to pick the nail-polish colour. I chose a bright purple with sparkles. Look out, world, here I come!

So, I survived the experience of joining the World of Real Women. Here's what I have to report as a result.

Pros: I no longer have to hide my nails. I also (blushing) feel kinda pretty.

Cons: I have to watch out not to do serious injury to either myself or my partner.

So, will I continue along the path of longer, glitzier nails? Actually, I do think so.

Besides, I'm rather enjoying the replacement habit I've picked up of scratching my scalp. It just feels so good, like a head massage all the time.

Kristina Brousalis lives in Mississauga.