By Alex Garlan, ELE Health & Beauty Writer
A few weeks ago I spent far too long looking at my local nail place’s instagram, by 9pm that night I was texting Clare asking how long nails could be, and by 11am the next day I had some ABSOLUTE TALONS. My natural nails weren’t very long, so I went with SNS and an acrylic tip to get the length that I wanted, and seriously, photos don’t do justice to how long these were, the rounded tip makes them look shorter but check out the side profile on my thumb.
Leaving the nail place I was so excited about my new look, I jumped in an uber heading to the gym and ran into my first problem. With long nails you can’t press deep buttons; elevator buttons are fine, your laptop keys are ok but not great, toilet flush buttons and seat belt releases are big problems. I was trapped in my uber and it had only been 20 minutes. Luckily for me I had watched approx 300,000 YouTube videos about people getting long nails for the first time and my knuckles were to the rescue.
I found myself simultaneously loving and being embarrassed of my nails. On one hand (get it?) they made me feel feminine; I don’t have nice hands, they’re small and fat (regardless of whether or not I am at the time), and having long nails made them seem like the hands of a woman, not the hands of a chubby tween. But at the same time I was embarrassed by the things I couldn’t do. I couldn’t type properly, I struggled with gym equipment because I couldn’t make a fist, and when I wasn’t dressed effeminately I felt silly, like I had on part of a costume with my gym clothes.
The two weeks I had long nails were full of contradictory responses, women who knew me hated them, one friend saw them and interrupted a conversation just to tell me ‘they’re so not you!’. Meanwhile the men in my life found them attractive, when pressed their responses were that they were girly and sexy.
My biggest concern once I had my nails, and something that I should have considered before getting them, was that I was appropriating a culture that isn’t mine. The nail salons in my area have been doing nail art for black women for years, now as the area gentrifies and the stigma around long, adorned nails dissipates, white women are coming into these same salons and asking for what had been traditionally black designs. I was wearing nails that not too long ago white women would have been shaming a black woman for wearing.
When the two weeks were up, I was glad to have my acrylic tips removed. I had broken two nails, one you can see below (sorry for the post-acetone-soak dry skin), lit an acrylic tip on fire (as per photo of thumb), and ultimately participated in the appropriation of black culture. Today my nails are red, they’re much shorter, down to my natural length, and while they aren’t as feminine or sexy, they’re mine, I’m not committing a cultural crime, and I can flush all the toilets I want!