“YOU ARE KEEDDING ME,” said the Russian manicurist when I told her it had been 15 years since I last had my nails done. That any woman could go so long untended was beyond her ken.
This was the other week in Chicago, before a wedding, and hey, what more frivolous way to blow $25? Before I got married was the last time I had a salon manicure, and then I seriously compromised it by cleaning the bathroom (the wedding was at home).
I didn’t grow up believing in manicures. Neither my mother nor grandmother ever had them. They played the piano and wrote (i.e., typed) for a living, which is probably part of the explanation. I was taught that nails should be clean and short, end of story. Red talons were for do-nothings and floozies.
But when inexpensive nail salons popped up everywhere, and new colors and styles (remember the craze for French manicures?) became a fashion thing, the situation changed radically. These days, you can’t tell much about a woman’s seriousness or taste or income level by her nails alone. Manicures have been democratized. Like tooth whiteners and highlights—once the province of Hollywood stars and heiresses—they are now a fundamental Beauty Right.
I had a brief shining moment of manicure indulgence when I was a women’s magazine editor; someone actually came to the office to minister to staff members. (Those were the palmy days, before budget cuts and layoffs, when magazines were the alpha-dog medium.) After that, my nails were, so to speak, on their own, and they have been ever since…until a couple of weeks ago, when I acquired these pearly digits.
Drat, there’s a chip. Also, my cuticles are creeping upward. Do I still have polish remover in the house? Where’s the nearest salon? And: How can I get my hands on one of those sold-out beigey-gray colors that are so chic this season?