February 16, 2010


For the last three weeks, the nails on my right hand have been breaking at an unprecedented rate. I’m no fan of long nails, but I need at least two to play guitar adequately. My index finger and my…er…other pointing finger, the middle. Sometimes the ring finger, but it’s not strictly necessary.

The middle finger has been the persistent offender. Just when it reaches a useable length, it softens and tears, requiring me to file it down to the finger tip. That’s not good. I can’t get a good go at the string and plucking with the fleshy part of the tip usually results in: ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.

Yesterday, I faced the reality that I would need to have fake nails applied on these two fingers. Not stick-ons, mind, but full blown acrylics nails. As some of you may know, this involves snipping the existing nail back to the very limit of how short a nail can be clipped. The nails are then roughened up with something akin to a Dremel sanding tool, the cuticle is pushed back, and the flesh on the sides of the nail is forced as far from the nail as possible. A clear liquid is applied, and the technician then mixes up a concoction of powder and acrylic. A false nail is pressed onto the tip of remaining natural nail and the concoction is then applied over the the entire nail. The nail is clipped, shaped buffed and polished.

Here’s my issue: I only need two nails done, and I need them to be exactly the right length – not too long, but enough to pluck the string without causing a paralyzing blister on the finger. Try explaining that to a gal who is accustomed to affixing fashionably long and sometimes decorated nails. My request was met with a uncomfortably long stare. I might not have been regarded as being from Mars, but I was certainly placed firmly in the Land of Sensible Shoes. And in that of the fashion impaired, decidedly.

To my surprise, and I’ll bet yours, too, the technician to whom I was led, was a young man wearing baggy jeans and a grey hoodie with a sports team logo on it. He looked as though he would have preferred to be watching Oylmpic hockey. Turns out he was the assembly man only. He clipped, roughed up the nails, slapped on primer, positioned the artificial nails (which involved much pressing and pushing and jamming them under the flesh on the side of the finger, finally lacquered them with acrylic, shoved a light over then to dry, and clipped them again to the desired length. Frankly, the look of them frightened me.

Then re-appeared the previously puzzled gal who met me when I first entered. The young man slouched away wordlessly, and she sat down at the manicure table. She wielded an enormous block of emory and looked at my fingers with the intensity of a crow at a corncob. That’s when terror hit me.

She grabbed my finger and twisted it – I said: ow, ow, ow, ow, ow. She paused, lifted her eyes to mine and said “Relax your finger”. I said “It is relaxed”.

She again said “Relax your finger” I replied “It is relaxed”.

I could sense her growing impatience. She began to file with zeal and real intent. To get to the edges effectively, she twisted my finger again. “Ow, ow, ow, etc. said I. “Relax your finger” said she, in none too friendly terms, I might add. “It was relaxed,” I replied “until you started twisting it”.

She dropped my hand and looked deep into my eyes. Firmly, quietly, and through her teeth, she said “Relax your finger”.

Things never improved. She twisted and filed, filed and twisted until both fingernails were cemented to my fingers. The looked good. Better than my real nails, which are ridged and what I would call almost clean most of the time. I was happy with the result.

The technician looked at me and said “You want pink”. “No”, I replied “I want nothing”.

“You want pink” she persisted. “No…” said I.

On and on this went until she gave up and said “You want clear”. “Ok”, I said. But when she pulled out the clear polish, I had a sudden change of heart (my right, I feel) and said, “No, I want nothing”.

She threw my hand down on the table and said, brushing her hand vaguely toward the back of the shop, “Go wash”. I did.

I paid her, and as I was about to leave she beckoned me back and offered me a squirt of hand lotion. I accepted, feeling that is was some gesture of begrudging acceptance and that she had finally realized that “Ow” means “Ow”, and will, in the future, respect it. And that not all women want long fingernails with tiny flowers painted on them.

Now that the task is done and I have the two acrylic nails, I find one of them slightly short. Of course, it’s the one which most offended in the first place, the middle finger. Would that I had relaxed it and used it to its best purpose.



One Response to “Relax”
  1. Jane Greening

    Ow. But for now…just relax.