I think the stories we tell about ourselves are fascinating. Where do the come from, these things that we know to be true about who we are? What makes us describe ourselves in a particular way? Why do we ascribe significance to certain activities above others? How long have we been telling these same stories? Do we ever challenge them?
I had always said that I wasn’t the manicure kind of girl. I dismissed any suggestion of nail based activities outright. And to be honest, I kind of looked down my nose at people who would pay money to have their fingernails shaped and painted.
“Not a manicure kind of girl.” What does that even mean? Why did I consider what someone does to their fingernails so integrated with their identity? And what did I think my unkept hands say about me? Perhaps I was buying into the myth that paying attention to your appearance is unintellectual, or unfeminist. In which case, why would I argue against people who suggested I was buying into capitalist patriarchal propaganda by wearing make up or shaving my legs and then level the same accusation against those who had manicures?
This turned out not to be true anyway. Although I turned down a manicure (off course. Who do you think I am?) on the day before my friend’s wedding, I went along to the salon with the bride and other bridesmaids because we were spending the day together (and to have someone attempt to tame my unruly eyebrows). But while I sat with my magazine and waited for them to finish, I started to feel slightly envious of the attention their nails were getting. Could I really be the kind of girl who has manicures, rather than the one who always does a substandard job on her own? I’ve never had nice nails, always felt slightly embarrassed about them. Perhaps there was a way round this, and it had been starting me in the face all along.
Fast forward to the end of Alive in Berlin, and perhaps it was all Ben Austin‘s talk of divine goddesses, but I thought that getting my nails done might be a nice treat for the end of my holiday. As I was thinking about this, I walked past a nail salon. Maybe it was a sign? I hovered by the door for a bit before deciding it was a stupid idea and moving on. Then I passed another. It must be a sign. I walked in.
I sat down, they brought me tea (always a way to win me over) and started the mammoth task of making my nails look presentable. I picked out a bright pinky orangey colour unlike anything I’d usually go for and sat back and tried to relax. And you know what, I actually quite enjoyed it.
Unfortunately, she told me they were try before they actually were and I managed to destroy pretty much every one of them undoing my jacket pocket to pay. Had the beautician known any English, or I any German, I might have tried to protest. But instead I paid 15 euros for nails that were already chipped. What an idiot.
Still, I don’t see the value of the experience just in the nails alone. Because now I have a new story to tell. It turns out I am the kind of girl who gets manicures. Very very occasionally.