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Haute Stuff: A battle with nail polish

It’s when I get home 20 minutes later that the disaster begins. “I paid $10 for this nail paint!” I howl. “Why is it so damn insubstantial??”

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By Dessa Bayrock (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: June 5, 2013

It starts when I see someone wearing robin’s egg blue nail polish on the street.

“That’s a cute colour,” I say to the friend I am with. He makes an indeterminate noise. He is a man. He doesn’t care.

A few days later I am with the same friend in a drugstore, trying to decide between two extremely similar nail polish colours.

“What do you think?” I ask, holding them next to each other.

“Mmmmm,” he replies.

“This one’s kind of turquoise, but this one’s a little pastel-y.”

“Mmmmm.”

I pick the one with turquoise undertones. I pay $10 plus tax and leave the store clutching a tiny bottle of over-priced paint.

For a brief second I have a moment of doubt, but I shake it loose. It’s true that I’m a tomboy, and I have painted my nails exactly once in living memory, but for some reason this colour has planted itself in my brain like a seed and I am determined to let it grow.

It’s when I get home 20 minutes later that the disaster begins.

“I paid $10 for this nail paint!” I howl. “Why is it so damn insubstantial??”

I am painstakingly applying the first coat to my left hand, and it is completely transparent. Instead of a cute and solid blue on my fingertips, I look like I’ve been sitting in a snowstorm and my extremities are beginning to lose circulation. It is a vague tinge of a colour. I am understandably disappointed, but also determined. This is part of the journey to becoming a woman, I tell myself. Learning to apply more than one coat of nail polish.

I apply. I wait. It dries. I apply again. This is my Everest, I tell myself. This is my great challenge, and I will rise to it, and I will be a hero.

I don’t wait long enough, and the second coat messes up the first. I grit my teeth and daintily apply a third. The result is perfect, lustrous and smooth. I am a genius. I am a hero. I am victorious. I am feeling both cute and feminine, and it’s a pretty heady feeling.

My ego is the size of Pluto until I realize I still have another five fingers to do – and I’ll be painting them with my non-dominant hand.

How hard can it be? I ask myself, over-confident and relaxed.

Nail apocalypse results as I learn just how non-dextrous my left hand truly is.

First of all, the nail polish on my left fingers is not quite dry, so I put a gouge in my thumb coat before I realize what’s going on. Cursing to myself, I fix it. It does not remain fixed. I ignore it. It somehow attracts fibres from god-knows-where and takes on a furry appearance. I continue to curse, which doesn’t help the situation.

By the time I finish my right hand half and fix the damage to my left an hour later, my ego has shrunk to a pinprick. My left hand is still smooth and passably perfect. The right is bumpy, rough and crudely painted. In desperation, I hold my imperfect right hand and the stupid, overpriced bottle out to my male friend. The terror in his eyes is outweighed by the pity, and he gently takes both and gives it his best shot. It doesn’t help. I pretend it does for both our sakes.

I have devoted close to three hours of my time to this damn nail polish and I am ready to smash the robin’s egg paint bottle right in its stupid robin’s egg face. It is destroying me, but I am determined to have the last laugh. My nails will be perfect! My nails will be cute! I will be feminine, and I will strike jealousy into the hearts of other females!

Before I go to bed, I completely remove the polish from my right hand and I give it one last go. I am patient, but I am mostly exhausted. And at one in the morning, I reach an uneasy peace with two coats of left-handed painting.

It lasts exactly three days before I get sick of the colour.

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