I love beautifully manicured nails. I marvel at the idiosyncratic expression of personality – green with a blue ring finger; pale pink and perfectly oval; short with the delicate white tips and pink nailbed of the classic French manicure. So much thought, planning and creativity woven into 10 tiny chards. It is a marvel and one that seems to be almost ubiquitous. Doesn’t matter what a woman is wearing, dressed up, dressed down, the nails are the thing. But why?
Since the early 2000s nail salons have proliferated and I can’t find a good reason why though I’ve come up with a theory: First, it’s a treat – regardless of where we are on the corporate ladder we’re working long days, and then going home to the second shift. It’s exhausting so going to a nail salon is good for a little ‘me time’ followed by the pleasure of those perfectly groomed nails. Secondly, could it be that we’re looking at our hands like never before? Hard to avoid when we’re all madly typing all day and so there they are right in front of us. Finally, nails are the great equalizer for women across the economic spectrum. I may not be able to afford that handbag but I can certainly have the same finger tips as my more affluent sisters. It’s a bit like living at home with your parents while owning a BMW. The world sees your BMW, they don’t see you still sleeping in your childhood bedroom.
Clearly, we have diverted funds to support this nail obsession, not to mention time. About an hour in total, depending upon your travel distance and, let’s face it, most neighbourhoods now have a couple of nail salons in close proximity. So, let’s say an hour a week and then about $30 a pop – I think that’s reasonable for hands and then double it for a pedicure. A manicure lasts nicely for about a week (with plastic gloves or don’t do any housework which is fine with me) and you can push it to two if you touch up on your own. To be conservative, $780 every year (twice monthly) and an hour each time, and fair to say a rather fleeting investment. It gives me pause to consider what this money and time might be invested in that would have lasting effects. What if with that $780 you bought a simple and classic navy suit. Something loosely cut (even from the men’s department if you dare like me) that you have altered a bit (a few darts at the back to nip in the waist, raise the sleeves a tad) and can you imagine how powerful and commanding you would look in the subway, the office? It’s the simple deception men have going for them – and don’t we know it – the suit does make the man, of course, it’s no promise that the man is up to the suit but the impression has been made. And as we all know in marketing, perception is almost everything. I would go so far as to say it’s one of the reasons we are inevitably put in the position of having to be twice as competent to counteract it. If not a suit, then how about a pair of leather oxfords (black or brown) to wear with a plain pair of trousers, or an a-line skirt (I love that look), so that you’re comfortable and effortlessly grounded, doing no damage to your plantar fascia – now that’s an investment in your present and future.
And then let’s tackle the time issue. With most of us doing the second shift whether we have children or not, exercise time is often last on the list, considered something of a luxury. What if you split that bi-weekly hour at the nail salon into two focused walks – by that I mean, you go for a walk by yourself – or add that half an hour to another and go for a solid 5 km walk every week. The health benefits are crazy since walking is the new running (I think there’s lots of evidence on that and more to say in another post on the extraordinary benefits of walking).
The question is – how ingrained is the nail obsession and are we willing to break in favour of something more active and potentially more rewarding?