Ouch! I Broke A Nail!

It’s possible that you thought Fakename had run out of trivial subjects to discuss, but you would be very, very wrong. 

So today’s topic is:  long fingernails. 

I come from a long line of short-fingernailed women.  My grandmothers were both country women who had to, well, do stuff with their hands.  My mother was a nurse.  When I was quite a small child, I asked her why she didn’t have long beautiful fingernails like I saw on TV, and she said, “Because I’m a nurse”.  That made perfect sense to me.  She had working hands.  To this day, long fingernails scream to me “IDLE RICH”.  Or today, it’s more properly “emulating the idle rich”.

When I was five, I started taking piano lessons.  When I was nine, we moved to North Carolina and I got a new piano teacher who was a fanatic about nails.  But she didn’t have anything to worry about with me.  I had already internalized the importance of short nails, because I’d found that I couldn’t “feel” the keys if my nails were too long.  Your sense of touch is in your finger TIPS, not in your finger pads.  Go ahead, give it a test.  Touch your knee with a fingertip.  Now touch it with the fingerpad of the same finger.  I’ll wait. (Cue “Jeopardy!” theme.)  See what I mean? 

When I was fifteen, I started playing guitar (badly), and you most certainly cannot play a guitar with long fingernails. 

Now let us fast forward to me being in college.  I had stopped playing piano and rarely played guitar either, so I thought I would give growing long fingernails a shot.  I was delighted to learn that I had very strong nails that were not prone to the expected maladies, especially, splitting. 

Nevertheless, the first thing I discovered was that nails took an awful lot of time.  I just couldn’t get used to the concept of focusing an inordinate amount of attention on something dead that was constantly getting in your way.  Of course I continued to do it anyway, since as we all know, individualism is critical as long as you do it the same way everyone else does. 

Then when I was in my early twenties, I broke a nail while reaching into the washing machine for a load of wet laundry.  YEEOWW! I said, along with other unprintable things.  Because in spite of breaking a nail being a sort of metaphor for “idle rich”, in real life it hurts like a (fill in the blank).  Because nails don’t break at the tip.  They break all the way down to the quick.  And it looks really stupid to have three long, polished, perfectly manicured nails next to a bloody, bandaged stump. 

That was IT for me.  I cut off all my nails and have never gone there since. 

So fast forward again to the early ’90’s:  We used to have a type of cash register (which in my biz we call “fee computers”) which required an overlay.  I was never quite clear about how they worked, but I do know this:  the fee computer would not work without the overlay.  All our cashiers were in a contest to see who could grow the longest fingernails.  Since they couldn’t use their fingertips to operate the fee computer, they would use their fingernails.  Over time, or with one particularly sharp jab, the nail would sever the wires in the overlay,  and each one was $300.  I also was never quite clear about why we couldn’t regulate the length of an employee’s nails.  We told them what they had to wear, how long their hair could be, and what kind of jewelry they could wear (if any).  Human Resources–who understands it?  In the end, we solved this in a low-tech manner.  We provided them all with (unsharpened) pencils, and they would punch the keys with the eraser end. 

This year, when I went to the Tax Collector’s office to pay my property taxes, I was looking forward to seeing Talon Woman, whom I’ve seen every year for the last ten years.  These days, it’s very hard to tell if people’s nails are real or fake, but in her case, there was no doubt they were real.  Her nails were so long they started curving under, like they were lost and seeking to reconnect with her hand.  But she wasn’t there.  She probably had to retire after putting out an eye, or both, while trying to apply makeup. 

She of course was completely incapable of operating her computer with her hands.  So guess what?  She used a pencil eraser. 

All this is to say that state-of-the-art technology is not always the answer.  Sometimes an easel, a paper pad,  and a Magic Marker work better than a laptop, especially when the laptop unexpectedly balks and refuses to open PowerPoint.  My rule is:  always have short nails, and carry a pencil eraser.

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