I've read Oscar Wilde's words about "bright golden hair, tarnished with rust"; I love Sylvia Plath on too-red tulips and Emily Dickinson on borrowing daffodils. The poems of T.S. Eliot are a triumph, and because I am human, I know firsthand that Sappho's Fragment 31 will make you weep.
Still, I maintain that this is the most beautiful line of verse in the history of the entire world:
"Fan will shut off automatically when you move out of your hands; your nails will be completely dried to a hard, long-lasting, lustrous manicure…"
It's true! Is there any better feeling than taking your tired hands, tawdry with germs, grubby from the day's chores, and exhausted from texting "hahahaha" as your mouth sits in a contradictory moue, and blessing them, like the walls in a blue-chip art gallery or a leafy tendril in a Van Gogh still life, with a thick coat of paint? I look at those stock photos of a disembodied hand, the fingers lacquered with a rich and pristine red and clutching a single rose, and I think, honestly: maybe this is better than Vermeer. And name a more economical indulgence — I'll wait! Don't you feel adult when you glance down at your perfectly groomed hands writing that email about someone stealing your yogurt from the office fridge? You look like the most popular girl in school!
But like a perm or "my cool" that time I passed Chloë Sevigny on the street, a manicure is hard to maintain. If our eyes are the windows to our souls, our fingers are the magic wands to our opinions, our ideas, and our flirtations. We use our fingers to type, to text, to wave, to meet people, to dig through our handbags for keys or a weird protein bar that tastes like a product aliens use for twelve-hour all-atmosphere volume. With all that action, it can be hard to keep up appearances. One chip, you see, and the whole charade is up. Suddenly you're a woman who wants to hide her hands, and that's the last thing we want in this express-yourself world.
But I've got one word for you, and it's not plastics — it's Rihanna. Rihanna is a manicure pro, and if she can handle the Long-Lasting Lustrous Manicure Lifestyle and accommodate the tactile savvy required of a dope social-media presence and be Rihanna, I'm confident we can all do a sliver of the same.
Get on the circuit! The Long-Lasting Lustrous Manicure Lifestyle is not one to dip in and out of. Decide you'll always have a manicure, and it becomes just another aspect of your beauty regimen, like applying sunscreen or screaming without moving your forehead (which is something my friend's pristine WASP mother once told me would combat wrinkles). It can even relax you, and not only because spending an hour hovering over a bottle of nail polish filled with surprise chemicals can make you feel a little groooooovy. Maybe you paint your paws while reading the newspaper every Sunday morning, or maybe you spin by your local salon for a handsy moment after that dreaded weekly Wednesday-afternoon meeting, but make it a decadent swish in the column of life we call habits, and you're already on your way to a hit single, or at least sending texts with a more elegant flourish.
Keep everything neutral! HOT THROB PINK and FIVE ALARM RED and SUPER SLIMY CHARTROOZE are cool colors worthy of any fine human reading this sentence (bless your patience, your fingers will thank you!), but a ballet-slipper pink or a warm nude will make nicks and chips less obvious.
Start wearing gloves! I'm not recommending you get all Victorian here — mostly because if I were to advocate for the return of a Victorian accessory, it would obviously be the tussy-mussy — but the gravest danger facing manicures today is washing your dishes after you've eaten takeout Thai or a decadent tea sandwich or whatevs. Slap on those rubber gloves!
Use those fingertips! You can wear gloves sometimes, but for the most part, your hands are committed to the nudist way of life, liberated and exposed to the elements, whether those be H2O or "Oh my God, do I have to dig through six entire drawers to find a pair of matching socks that make me feel like Courtney Love?" That means using your fingertips instead of your nails to do menial tasks, which sounds as easy as riding a bike, except try doing it while riding a bike! It just takes a little discipline, which I'm sure we all have in spades. The Long-Lasting Lustrous Manicure Lifestyle is a crime scene, baby, so put your fingerprints all over everything!
Never touch anything! Honestly, if you want a truly pristine Long-Lasting Lustrous Manicure Lifestyle, you should just never touch anything or anyone, opting only to interact with people by doing André 3000's "Hey Ya" finger wave and opening your front door by, I don't know, blowing on it like a cartoon wolf. It might also help to have kinetic powers. I hate to end things with an unrealistic beauty expectation, because isn't that just the story of human history?! The thing about a manicure is you can always fix it! As Rihanna once sang in a lyric I'm suddenly confident was about manicures, "So live your life!"
Rachel Seville Tashjian lives in Soho.