I’ll Be First in Line

Some women crave diamonds, skinny waistlines, or large breasts. Not me. All I’ve ever wanted were long, flaming-red fingernails.

Some women crave diamonds, skinny waistlines, or large breasts. Not me. All I’ve ever wanted were long, flaming-red fingernails.

My obsession with nails started in my pre-teen days. I inherited hand-me-downs from five older sisters. They gave me their left-over “kissin’ pink” or “hot stuff red” polishes. I’d sit for hours coating my stubby nails. When I ran out of one leftover color, I’d finish up with another. Though colored polishes helped build my self-esteem, they couldn’t compare to those sleek one-inch nails I dreamed about.

At 16 and working part-time, I was able to purchase my own nail products. It was devastating to find that even using the good stuff, my nails were still short and broke easily.

On one of my shopping sprees, I thought my dreams were realized. Some manufacturer had produced plastic glue-on nails. I purchased the kit, after which I paraded in front of the mir­ror, hands swinging proudly. Within one hour my fantasy ended — my mother insisted I help with the yard work. She hadn’t any compassion when I explained my life-and-death situation.

After raking leaves and weeding flower beds, my precious belongings were lost forever, one by one, in the mulch. It was then that I vowed never again to try for those flaming-red nails.

While raising children in the pre-Pampers era, I told myself, maybe, just maybe, after the kids were grown, I’d try to grow nails once more. When that time finally arrived, I bought all new brands and varieties of gro-nails, vitamins, Knox tablets, hard-as-nails polishes — anything I could get my hands on. Surely, in middle age, I was going to finally have one terrific set of nails.

Some women exercise vigorously, some sew, some cook. I worked, too — on my nails. I gave them two weeks of sheer pampering. The thought of having the nails I’d always dreamt about made it all worthwhile. At first, I kept them in hiding. At the end of two weeks, I brought them out. I had nails!

Parents call their friends to announce when babies are born. I called my friends and shouted, “I have nails!” Maybe not those sleek one-inch fashion nails, but they were close enough.

After I had unveiled my nails, I was shocked to find there were many things I could no longer do. I couldn’t snap snaps, button buttons, or close jewelry clasps. My husband had to help me dress. At work, I made so many typing errors that my boss complained. I couldn’t pick up a needle and thread to sew on a loose button. I couldn’t even scratch my ear properly.

My euphoria lasted one week. Even though I couldn’t handle some problems, I was still ecstatic about my beautiful nails. It was worth the sacrifice.

But once my nails started chipping and peeling, and all the primping and pampering didn’t help, I knew exactly what to do. I threw out all the polishes, vitamins, and cures I’d purchased over the years. They filled a large wastebasket I was going to starve my nails; I’d been feeding them far too long.

It’s been a month since I’ve been on the “starve the nail” kick. But I know myself all too well. If some scientist invents a fool-proof nail-growing potion, I’ll be the first in line tomorrow morning.

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