Polly Gillespie struggles with fake nails as she ponders beauty and feminism

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1 January 1970

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Polly says she’s a strong, independent woman until she’s hindered by her nails. She explores beauty, feminism and why she’s not giving up her nails.

I am a strong, capable feminist who doesn’t need the filters, lashes and gel nails.

Stop press!

I am a strong, capable woman handicapped by her gel nails to the point of absurdity.

In 2021, so many women have thrown away the make-up, hair extensions and bikini waxes. Natural seems to be trending.

Meanwhile, on social media, other women are showing off their “beef lips” (if you haven’t seen this bizarre beauty trend you must google it immediately, then roll your eyes), Russian faux lashes (around a thousand lashes per eye – how in God’s name do they keep their eyes open?), fake tans and sparkly filters.

I guess I fit somewhere in the middle. But I’m still a feminist. It’s my choice to waste my money anyway I please – thank you, Kate Sheppard! However, when it comes to nails I have completely lost my mind and my ability to perform basic tasks.

It’s my choice to waste my money anyway I please – thank you, Kate Sheppard!

During the big lockdown last year, I was deemed an essential worker. This meant I stuck to the rules of washing hands and sterilising every few minutes. Removing all my clothes at the front door, showering, and re-sanitising my hands and shoes. I was possibly the most sanitised human in Wellington. When I do something, I do it 120%.

I was the Queen of Sterilisation. Had there been a pageant, I would have been in the finals and podiumed I’m sure.

This extra sanitisation did bring with it problems. One very trivial issue was dry nails. My nails became so saturated with alcohol-based hand sanitiser that they literally cracked at the slightest tap. Not great.

When lockdown ended I headed to the nail salon. A good one, might I add.

Not one that uses the same emery board on everyone, and slaps your hand to get you to relax your fingers. I had decided on SNS nails – otherwise known as a “dip powder manicure” – to disguise my cracked and crumbling petrified natural nails. SNS was the big thing, and I wanted to look glamorous, as opposed to a poorhouse bottle washer from a Dickens novel. Just 45 minutes later, beautiful natural-looking nails. Now I’m hooked.

I only have to endure the 45 minutes of boredom, watching obscure K-pop videos on a large screen, every three weeks. Ah! But alas, I have bought into the fake nail trap. I am that woman. Yes, I’m the woman who can’t send a text without managing to turn a simple message like, “Kids it’s Hells Pizza tonight. I’m tired but I love you!” into, “Dogs it’s Hall Police raid tonight. I’s tried but I live found.”

I’m also the woman who can’t pick up change off the check-out at Countdown without 30 seconds of scratching around like a panicked chicken, and I can’t pick an Eftpos card up off the street in downtown lunchtime foot traffic without causing a minor scene and eventually kicking the card in an attempt to grab it mid-air.

I long to not care about hair, nails, bikini waxes and lash appointments, but clearly I am not liberated yet. I suppose I have a few more years of trying to straighten my hair without frying it.

I imagine it will be some time before I go to the door without at least a lick of lipstick on, and it would seem I’ll sacrifice all dignity to have nails that only add to my already genetically established clumsiness.

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