I’m not sure when my love affair with nail polish began. Maybe it was watching Sally Bowles’ glittering talons in Cabaret, decadent even in the poverty and deprivation of Berlin in the 30s. Or maybe it was because painted nails were banned at school, and there’s always frisson in the forbidden. Regardless, for me nail polish was love at first sight. And since I left my strict school at 16, I honestly don’t think there’s been a single day when I’ve left the house without nail polish on. And any time friends visit my house, the box is soon lifted off the shelf and “nail polish night” begins.
It’s gone from a symbol of teenage rebellion to an elaborate ritual, and I think the ritual is half the fun. Cleaning off the old polish, trimming and shaping the nail, preparing the surface with a base coat, choosing an appropriately stylish colour, and finally adding a quick dry top coat. Sometimes I go around the edges with a make up brush dipped in nail polish remover to get the splashes off, or just peel them off in the shower the next morning. Either way, it takes about 45 minutes, and it’s some of the only time in the week that I sit still and take a moment to reflect. Sure, I could do that without nail polish – but I don’t think I would. In our busy modern world it feels unbelievably indulgent to spend 45 minutes doing effectively nothing once every five days. But that’s part of the joy of it.
Nail polish is completely pointless, like make up I suppose. But while make up tends to be done at the beginning of the day or before the night out, nail polish is best done at the end of the day, before bed. It can be a time of reflection, a time to look back over the day, a time to be still and quiet. It’s always the same process, and yet it’s always different. Every week brings a new colour, a new style.
Unfortunately, having waxed lyrical about how wonderful nail polish is, it’s also become a problem for me. I can’t fail to notice how thin and flaky my nails have become, how easily they split, and how often when the nail polish chips it takes a sliver of nail with it. They aren’t glamorous talons any more, they’re ever shrinking stubs. So I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that I need to take some time out from my ritual of glamour and let my naked nails see the sun for a few weeks in the hope that it will tempt them back to strength. It’s going to be funny going out without my armour.
It’s going to be even stranger living without my ritual. I shall have to think of some new stress-busting evening activities. Any recommendations gladly accepted. In the meantime, RIP nails, and may you grow stronger soon.