Nailing It

It’s supposed to last for TWO weeks.

[Insert grating whisper not unlike the one used by older Jewish women when speaking of a bad disease] Have you tried it?

It’s REALLY hard.

It dries immediately.

My best friend’s uncle’s second wife’s niece’s hair colorist’s cousin did it and LOVED it.

You have to use special stuff to get it off.

You’ll never look at your hands the same way.

I can’t wait to do it.

These comments might refer to any number of sordid goings-on. A hallucinogenic drug binge, perhaps, or some sort of Kama Sutra-like sexual escapade that should not be attempted by anyone who isn’t double-jointed or in the Swedish porn industry. What they do refer to, however, is the far less gasp-inducing but much-heralded gel manicure.

Ah, the gel manicure – or in some salons, the Shellac manicure – has been all the rage in these parts for the past few months. I dare you to find a manicure venue whose walls are not adorned with an advertisement for this procedure. When you are unable to do that, you will note that without fail, the ad features the long, thin, flawless fingers of a woman who doesn’t have kids, doesn’t work and doesn’t have any common sense when it comes to choosing a nail polish color. Furthermore, the woman seems to have an obsessive-compulsive need to caress pearls. As we all keep a stash of pearls and other rare gems at our desks, this makes total sense.

If you’ve ever had a standard manicure, you know that you’re lucky to make it in your front door with all ten nails in tact. On the other hand (no pun intended), the gel manicure is supposed to last up to two weeks without chippage, justifying its cost, which is three to four times what a standard manicure costs. It has been billed, if you will, as the cure to the common ‘cure.

Now, I’m a product whore, as you know, but I have some ground rules. I try to avoid eateries whose menus feature photos of the food (with some notable exceptions). I don’t patronize “barns,” “marts,” stores with symbols in their names, or stores whose names use ‘n’ instead of “and.” I also stay away from products with annoyingly spelled names. “Shellac” should have been no exception.

Duped by the perfect-nailed lady in all the ads, I figured it was a great way to ensure well-groomed hands for the duration of our 10-day trip to Italy in May. What woman hasn’t dreamed of a manicure that lasts for two weeks?! It was fabulous! Before we left, I did a test run with Kiki in tow. We both chose what looked, in its little silver pot, like an appealing dark bronze. What it looked like after being applied was, quite simply, hideous orange. The Shellac goes on dry, so we were able to marvel immediately at what we’d just done. I was embarrassed just sitting on the subway, but I told myself the ads were most likely bullshit and there was no way in hell the polish would last for two weeks. It did.

Fine. So we’d made a bad call with the bronze. But the procedure itself seemed to be all it was cracked up to be. Providing I went in with the knowledge that all colors appeared darker in the pot than on the hand, why not do it again the right way? For my second round of Shellac, I opted for a more natural, pinky white shade and then boarded the plane to Italy. Within a day, the so-called unchippable polish did in fact begin to chip.

Frick on an Italian stick. Where am I going to find a cheap Korean nail place in the middle of Florence? Where are the damn Medicis when you needed them?

The sad reality was that I was NOT going to find a cheap Korean nail place. And I was determined not to pick at the chips this time. I stopped in at Kiko, a Milan-based make-up store, and purchased a color that looked similar to the chipping Shellac. Back at the hotel, I did some patching and thought I’d be okay. But each day, the chips got bigger, and finally, I could no longer control myself. Like Aron Ralston, the unfortunate climber and hiker who resorted to cutting his own arm off to escape from a canyon, I had no choice but to resort to peeling off the Shellac remnants. It was tragic, but maybe I’d get a book deal out of it.

It's hard to see, but they are disgusting.

Back on American soil, my nails were a disaster. Once so hard I could barely bite them without breaking a tooth (a genetic trait I got from the Hungarians – thanks, Grandma Hannah!), they were now paper thin and disturbingly soft. In fact, my left pinky is folding as I type. At first I assumed this was due to the fact that I’d picked, rather than safely soaked, the Shellac off. I’m sure that didn’t help, but after consulting with many others, it seems that damaged nails are a common side effect of the gel manicure.

Fuck you, obsessive-compulsive, pearl-caressing lady with perfect but ugly-colored nails. You are dead to me.

About a week later, my sister-in-law, who lives across the river in New Jersey, proudly showed me her shiny new gel manicure. She was so hopeful and so excited, as I had been a few weeks earlier, that I did not have the heart to tell her what might lie in store. I hoped it would be different for her. Sadly, it was not.

I know there is a valuable lesson here. I’m not sure what it is, but I know it’s there.

This post is dedicated to my SIL, Christine. May the former beauty, strength and glory of our average fingernails be restored one day soon.

See also “Tales From the Tundra: Another Nail in the Coffin.”

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Nailing It

44 to Go

Rob, Dave and traditional pre-wedding peanut butter sandwiches

I have never been a wedding crier.

Maybe I’m too distracted by the prospect of mini hot dogs, looming on a butlered tray just a few feet away, to access the emotion.  Maybe I ration my supply of tears, saving it for sad people eating sad little homemade sandwiches out of sad little tin foil squares on sad little park benches.  Maybe I understand that conjuring tears during the matrimonial ceremony does not actually prove that you are the bride’s bestie. Or maybe I’m just frigid. I don’t know. But in the 18+ years since the first wedding I attended (shout out to my cousin Randi), there have been only two ceremonies at which I’ve cried. My own, and the one we went to on Friday: Dave and Rob’s.

Because Texas is one of the 44 remaining states yet to legalize same-sex marriage,  Dave and Rob tied the knot in our nation’s capital last week.  And as they have traveled a total of 5,016 miles to attend not one but TWO of my weddings, there was no way in hell I was missing theirs.

Somewhere out there is a picture of them successfully lifting ME at my wedding

As you would expect of a wedding planned by two gay men, everything about it was perfect.  Prior to the ceremony, I presented Rob and Dave with the peanut butter sandwiches I’d packed at home.  We had partaken of this tasty and nutritious pre-marital snack before my own nuptials, and so too would we partake of them on this momentous occasion. Side note: are peanut butter sandwiches still safe to eat after 18 unrefrigerated hours? Let’s just go with “yes” and put the cholera concerns behind us, shall we?

Rob’s cousin Liz, an ordained minister, performed the very tasteful ceremony on the roof of a friend’s apartment building. From there, you could see Rock Creek Park,  the National Cathedral, the Capitol, and a strange white orb no one could identify. Side note: I am thankful that the large-footed Universal Life Minister who married Keith and me does not read this blog, as much of Dave and Rob’s ceremony, I am honored to say, was taken directly from inspired by the one he performed for us.

Additionally, Rob carefully chose a reading for all the attendees.  This is the one Keith and I read:

May the door of your home be wide enough to receive all who hunger for love and all who are lonely for friendship. [Specifically, short Jewish girls from New Jersey.] May it welcome all who have cares to unburden, thanks to express and hopes to nurture. May the door of your house be narrow enough to shut out pettiness and pride, envy and enmity. May its threshold be no stumbling block to you or old feet, and may it be too high to admit complacency, selfishness or harshness. May your home be, for all who enter, the doorway to richness and a more meaningful life.

I don’t think I had ever seen either of them cry before, although I suspect they did on several occasions in Philly, when all the Yeungling was gone.  But at some point that day I saw a tear run down Dave’s cheek. You know how you suddenly feel like barfing when you see someone else barf? Same idea.  The no-cry policy had been broken.

Watching this wedding was just, in a word, awesome. It’s always nice to see your friends happy, of course. It’s always nice to attend a wedding at which you can clearly see the love between the two parties. (Trust me, this is not necessarily the case.) But at this wedding, you could see first-hand something else: progress.  This wedding could not have happened even a short time ago, much less 30 or 40 years ago when Dave and Rob were little kids, in the middle of nowhere, alone with the knowledge that they were “different.”  I think we all know what “different” feels like in one way or another.  Still, no matter how much of a freak I’ve felt like throughout my life, I can’t begin to imagine how hard their “different” must have been for them — and still must be, at times.

I am hardly the most politically correct person on earth. I know that many people are uncomfortable with who Dave and Rob are, and what they did last week. But I also know that they are two of the most remarkable people I have ever met. They are hot, hilarious and full of wisdom, and their goodness is extraordinary. A minute after meeting them, you feel you have known them all your life.  They are the best hello and the hardest goodbye.  Because of them, I know that I will always have a home, no matter what happens or where I am. Because of them, I know that family is not merely defined by blood. Because of them, I know that the people who are the least like you may be the people you have the most in common with. So while I understand this is a sensitive topic, I do not understand how you can look at Dave and Rob and say they deserve less than what we all have.

Dave and Rob, I love you and wish you a lifetime of happiness. You have made my life better in countless ways — and saved it more than once.

44 to Go