I catch a glimpse of my freshly painted nails in the glass. They pop out from my jagged reflection, glistening with all their chromatic power.
I’m tidying my clothes, and there they are again, neat and fierce, perfectly complementing my shoes.
I’m typing on my computer and my colored nails give the action a sharp deftness, a whimsical spin. A purpose.
Nail painting is a multimillion dollar industry, whether through the indulgence of a spa treatment at a salon or the messy satisfaction of doing them yourself as you and your girl friends watch TV.
Cynics might say that it’s narcissistic, vapid, or even dangerous. And yet nail polish provides not only a bonding experience and a popular self-care ritual, but an outlet for female empowerment. It’s like, look at these colorful weapons I have on my hands.
After all, it’s ostensibly pointless to have painted nails. It takes extra time and care to have them, yet at the same time, it’s incredibly easy. It’s a method of self-expression that has immediate, visible effects. To take the extra time for something pointless implies that there’s an unspoken power we can tap. While natural, unpainted nails look nice, painted nails represent a kind of “fuck you” response to the critics. A celebration of our bodies’ beauty. An affimation of our own identity.
Painted nails also draw attention to all the things our hands can do: Type out killer presentations or emails or Medium posts. Make a garden or a gourmet meal. Hold our children or pets. Stroke our lovers. Drive our cars. Run our fingers through our badass hair.
Our hands are everything. Why wouldn’t we want to show them off?
Rachel Wayne is a writer and artist based in Orlando, FL. She earned her master’s in visual anthropology from the University of Florida and runs the production company DreamQuilt. She is an avid aerial dancer and performance artist, and also dabbles in mixed-media. She writes nonfiction stories about herself and other awesome people, as well as essays on feminism, societal violence, mental health, politics, entrepreneurship, and whatever cultural topic strikes her fancy.