I’ve been trying to be smart about money lately.
(Yeah, I actually typed those words.)
It’s something I should have been doing all along anyway, but lately with uncertainty about my job, and with the holidays coming up, I’ve been cutting back on the non-essentials.
Like getting my nails done. I like my nails to look neat and clean, and my cuticles get a little gnarly, so I was going every other weekend for a mani/pedi.
Plus, it’s an hour to myself to sit and relax, reading a trashy tabloid while someone massages my hands and feet. And even though the place I go isn’t very expensive, it adds up. So I’ve started giving myself manicures and pedicures at home. Now I remember the real reason I’ve been paying money to have someone do my nails: I suck at it.
I look at it like painting a room—it’s all about the prep. I’ve been getting my nails done for so long that I know all the tips and tricks the manicurists use, but somehow the whole thing never comes together for me.
I don’t keep my nails long—I like a little length, but not much beyond the top of my finger—and I like just the edges rounded a bit (not square and not oval). But when I’m done wielding the nail file, it looks like I hacked at them with a saw. The nails are a little asymmetrical and they’re always still a little raggedy.
I soak my hands in warm, soapy water to soften up the digits, I push my cuticles back and I slather on lotion. I dab a little rubbing alcohol on each finger to absorb the oil from the lotion, and make sure everything is dry for the polish.
And the polish is where everything really goes wrong.
I will usually go wild with color on my toes and keep my fingers more natural unless they’re a nice length and look somewhat even. Otherwise, my hands look like Britney Spears’ in her crazy days…
But whether I use a more natural color or something bolder like Opi’s Lincoln Park After Dark, the result is the same—the polish looks like Ray Charles was turned loose with some spray paint.
I apply the base coat, and no matter what I do, no matter how flat and stable I keep my hands, the base coat seeps into my cuticles and builds up in the edges. I try to smooth it out, or clean it out with an orange stick, but it just stubbornly slides back into the cuticles. I wait a minute for that to dry before I apply the main color, but it doesn’t matter. The base coat slides down the same way, collecting into the cuticle. And if I’m using color, especially a dark red, the color settles in making my cuticles look like I’ve been gnawing on them for lunch—they look red, dry and ragged.
I apply the polish the way the pros tell you—just three swipes of color: start in the middle, then do one side of the nail and then the other. I try to keep the right amount of polish on the brush, but no matter how many times I swipe it against the opening, it’s too much. It glops and goops. I try to clean that up between coats, but if I use polish remover and a little brush, the remover oozes into the polish, making it an even bigger mess.
The next coat is supposed to add more coverage and smooth everything out, but it always seems too thick, too viscous. And then I have to wait an eternity for that mess to dry before I can even tackle the top coat.
When all is said and done, I’m left with nail polish that peels and bubbles, cuticles polished like an old window painted shut, and raggedy-ass nails.
And, of course, the more it peels, the more I peel it. And the more raggedy my nails get.
Manicures and pedicures are suddenly starting to feel less frivolous and more of a necessity. I may have to do the unthinkable and cut back on my Starbucks. Or food. Or something.