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Dr. Manicure, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Paint My Nails
By Melina Bee
A couple years ago, my workplace had an intern, let’s call her Summer, who only lasted a week at the agency but impacted my life forever. She got me really into nails, ultimately teaching me how to love my hands and perceive my entire being in a new light.
See, I've never really liked my hands. They are ridiculously small, even for a person of my petite stature. My fingers have always seemed short and stubby. I hoped to be reborn with the hands of a mannerist portrait. It turns out I just needed to rebrand myself.
In 2017, right before I met Summer, my life had basically fallen to pieces. I realized my career was going nowhere and went through a brutal breakup with an abusive live-in partner. For what seemed like the millionth time in my life, I was back at the drawing board feeling like a total loser. My nails were always bare and kept very short.
Summer was a stunning 22-year-old blonde with avant-garde clothes from Need Supply and a circle of eccentric, artsy friends (also a sugar daddy forty years her senior, btw). One day in the break-room, she said she liked my outfits and we got to talking about style. At one point she suggested I’d look great wearing lots of rings to which I laughed and said, “I’ve always hated my hands.”
“You just need to get your nails done is all,” she replied in her casually cool, young blonde way.
A week later we met at a salon where I got my first gel manicure right before heading to Portland, Oregon for a week. Although I still didn’t like my hands, I decided the pop of color did make me smile and just kept getting manicures all summer. That August I discovered Weeknd Nails on Instagram and got an amazing freehand design to celebrate the solar eclipse which I got to see in Nashville. My life still was still a mess in many ways, but at least my nails looked great!
By the time summer turned to fall, I’d left my job and decided to switch fields entirely. I was now a freelancer aka broke as a joke and unable to afford professional manicures. However, at this point, I realized how differently I felt with my nails done. My life wasn’t perfect or even very put together but my nails, it seemed, could be!
Thanks to YouTubers like Christine and Suzie, I learned how to take care of my nails and grow them to a glamorous length. Like Christine, my nails have a very pronounced “C-curve” which combined with lacquer and length make them look fake in the best way possible.
Finding myself on another flight to Portland in June 2018, I snapped a similar image of my nails as I had exactly a year earlier (see above photo). After posting the new image, a longtime friend mentioned that I “seemed to occupy [my] hands differently.” I couldn’t agree more.
I’d gone from hating my hands to somehow being known locally for having, well, amazing, fake-looking nails. On our first date, my now-boyfriend wanted to know if he could ask “a personal question”: “Are your nails real?”
The shift in how I embody my hands is a metaphor for my life’s second act. As my interest in nail art and commitment to nail care developed, so too did my career. I had inched my toe into the communications/marketing world as a freelance writer but truly got my foot in the door of this new industry last August when I landed a job as a content manager at a local college.
While my overall life and career aren’t where I want them to be, I remain inspired by my nails to keep trying. Like good nails, a successful career requires diligent and frequent care. If I was able to embody my hands differently, surely I can embody my life differently as well—right?
Keep up with my nail adventures here on Quail Bell and on Instagram.
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