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My Extra Long Nails Have Made Me a Whole New Person

·4 min read
Getty
Getty

Minutes after dropping more money on extra-long nail extensions than I did on two weeks of groceries, I felt a pang of buyer’s remorse deep in my stomach. It wasn’t because of the expense. I had just discovered, upon heading to the salon bathroom, that my Edward Scissorhands kept me from pulling down my pants.

I tried wrapping my fingers around my belt loops and pulling, but the extensions kept me from getting a firm grip. Then I tried wiggling my hips and dragging my jeans down with my wrists. After a few tries, this did the trick. I finally got my pants off—and then found my next battle to be with a piece of toilet paper I needed to rip off of its roll.

Masks Are Coming Off, and Lipstick Is Back!

I love my new nails, even though they keep me from getting anything done. I can’t open packages. I have the best excuse for ignoring the dirty dishes in my sink.

When I dropped my MetroCard on the ground and tried to pick it up from the subway floor, my nails kept mashing into the tiles. I couldn’t grab it. “Just let it go,” a woman called to me as she entered the turnstile, sporting a rainbow-colored manicure herself.

Typing—that thing I do for work—has become very difficult. I now have to hit my keyboard with the middle of my fingers, rather than my tips. After years of making fun of Nicole Kidman’s Grinch-like clapping at the Oscars (you know, the GIF where she looks like a seal slapping its flippers around), I now fully understand her pain. Nicole, I am sorry.

My manicure left me feeling indolent and incapable of completing the most basic adult tasks, but I don’t regret a thing. For as long as I can remember, I’ve chewed my nails to bits. Not even COVID could cure my habit; I stopped touching my face when it was asked of us last March, but I continued to bite my fingers.

So whenever I see a woman with stiletto-esque extensions, I am impressed. On Instagram, I watch friends and acquaintances show off their manicures, clasping books or coffee cups as accessories.

They look so put-together, performing that type of easy-breezy femininity I am old enough to know does not actually exist. I realize that just about everyone feels burned out and exhausted these days, but those nails communicate a fashionable resilience. It reminds me of being a child and walking by beauty salons, staring into the store windows in awe and hoping that someday, I’d be there too.

There is a prize that comes with committing to these established, if tedious, beauty rituals: leaving the salon with pristine nails. I carry myself differently now. An itchy nose is a chance to show that I am a woman who takes care of herself. Any time I gesticulate is an opportunity to remind others: I still care about how I look.

A McKinsey report from last year found that sales of nail care products were way up. Amazon alone saw a 2020 sales spike to the tune of 218 percent. Even as people lost interest in makeup given the laissez-faire standards in quarantine, polish sales were up 24 percent, according to data published in the trade publication Cosmetics Business.

I would be remiss if I did not note the Lizzo Effect, which might not be an official, studied thing but is very much a force in my life. A few nights before I got my nails done, Lizzo posted a video showing off her extensions, done by artist Eri Ishizu (who is also responsible for J.Lo’s manicures).

The clip was part ASMR, part art, and pure hypnosis; in it, Lizzo clicks her nails together over and over again. The taps are loud and a little cartoonish, but so satisfying to hear. It’s as if Lizzo is speaking in a range only other manicure people can hear too—she looks good, and she knows it. So do we.

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As my nails tech glued on my gel extensions, she told me that her last client kept asking for longer, pointier nails. She was on her way to a first date and said, “I need them to be sharp, for protection.” And so I also asked for a razor-edged manicure.

Creeps beware: I may not be able to eat nachos without getting a nail bed full of sour cream. I find it hard to blow my nose without inadvertently sticking a nail up my nostril. I prioritize phone calls over texts as it takes me around three minutes to type a single sentence. But make no mistake: my nails are prepped for battle. And they look fabulous, too.

<div class="inline-image__credit">Alaina Demopoulos</div>
Alaina Demopoulos

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