Before this experiment began, I did not remember the last time I saw my own bare fingernails. Yes, I had a more grungy phase where I let my nails chip and found this to be rebellious--but that's about it.
Ever since I posted about the toxic chemicals used in nail products--including harsh effects on both human health and the environment--in the pedicure predicament, I knew the time had finally come to address the elephant in the room. And so began my cuticle cold turkey.
Before I get into my thoughts of being mani/pedi-free (and nail polish all together) for three months now, I thought I would address the need for poisonous pedicures in the first place.
1. Classism. Whether or not one chooses to use words such as "lady-like" or "classy," the fact of the matter is that outsourcing your manis and pedis makes a statement about a) your extra resources and b) your extra time.
2. Sexism. Related to classism, gendered relations of power create a standard wherein culturally praised "femininity" entails specific (costly and waste-producing) hyper-grooming (I say "hyper" because I think a certain degree of grooming is inherent in any social creature, including animals). While regulation of the body may be mirrored in men (see re-thinking the beefcake: weight lifting and the regulation of male bodies) the manicure mandate has no hegemonic male counterpart. While men may receive manicures and pedicures, I believe there is a different social psychology behind it that can be debated later, if my readers so desire.
3. OCD. I think the ocd/conception of hygiene/need to control element of this issue is likely related to class, but it creates its own life force all together. Most of my manicure compulsions have to do with control, perfection, thorough removal of cuticles and dead skin, completely evenly filed nails, no flaws expressed through the chipping of nail polish.
4. Let's not forget, happy colors make people happy. I do believe this is similar to sunny weather.
Throughout my experiment, I have found that all four factors have come into play. I made a rule that I couldn't tell many people about my experiment, because then it was like I was just making excuses for the deplorable condition of my nails. It's been interesting to track my own thought process over the months. In the very beginning, I was dreading bare toenails more than bare nails. I think it had to do with the idea of making my feet "cuter." You know, because they are so gross and germs jump all over them when you walk in flip flops...or perhaps because my mother always respected women with painted toe nails in open-toe shoes. Who knows.
But surprise, surprise--once I finally took off the polish, I realized that I had really cute, fresh, happy-looking feet, even if my toes were not painted. In fact, I was very fascinated by the look. This even forced me to get over my foot phobia and touch my own feet (raw shea butter to cope with the lack of pedicures).
This lasted for a good 2 months. Now we're in month 3. I have to say, life is more peaceful without having to worry about chipped nails and making appointments and scheduling the gym around my appointments. But the whole fascination with the natural is getting old. I got a cuticle infection on one of my fingers because, let's get real, I'm not very skilled at cuticle removal. I occasionally and increasingly envy a good cherry red polish with a perfect file. And now, all sorts of thoughts are creeping in.
What about all of my job interviews coming up? What about when I meet people I want to impress? What about when I'm stressed studying for finals?
I'm thinking about breaking. What kind of break? Should I bring my own eco-friendly products? Should I go for the maintenance, but not apply a polish? Will I eco-justify an occasional mani-pedi as better than a biweekly visit?
I haven't decided. I'm letting the chips fall where they may. But let me just say, I never thought I would make it this far, and am definitely happy that I have broken the "need."
In any event, if you are addicted to nail polish, I encourage you to take the challenge and let The Colonic know how it goes.