Hi, my name is Nora, and I’m a recovering nail art addict.
Over the past several years, particularly since I started working in fashion, I’ve accumulated a collection of well over 100 bottles of polish, along with various kits and tools for following the multitude of nail art trends we were convinced would somehow make the perfectly plain concept of “finger nails” more exciting. They did–and I bought into them–every last one. Who wants smooth, clearish nails when you can have fuzzy nails? Sparkly nails? Leather nails? Plaid nails? Velvet nails? Sandpaper nails? Nails with weird blobs on them created by magnets? Nails covered in fish eggs or tiny three-dimensional teddy bears or hell, broken glass? I certainly didn’t–and I was willing to forgo every last inch of my apartment’s meager storage space to accomplish it.
My problem with nail polish began innocently enough when I was around 10 years old. Fueled by summer vacation boredom (remember that? Me neither) and my babysitter’s back catalogue of YM issues, I developed a bizarre obsession with drawing watermelon slices on people’s toe nails. I don’t know what possessed me–I’ve never particularly liked watermelons–but I’d be damned if every female in my life wasn’t sporting those sticky little slices on their feet. I was always really crafty as a kid, repurposing my dad’s discarded beer bottle caps into refrigerator magnets and custom-making miniature polymer clay Furbys for my classmates (NO SHAME). But doing nail polish art allowed my creativity to soar to another level.
Over time, I perfected my watermelon-painting technique: White base–lighter colors are easiest to paint over and create a clean canvas. Add a thin stripe of green along the cuticle, followed by painting the lower 2/3 of the nail a deep pink. Finish off with a tooth pick dipped in black polish to make the seeds. Et voila–fruity patooties. Soon, watermelons gave way to more abstract fireworks-inspired nail designs–a black base with neon dashes drawn on with a toothpick. Flowers were also a popular request amongst my non-paying clients. I went nuts when CoverGirl released its Crackle polish topcoat, which the beauty blogger world seemed to have all but forgotten about by the time OPI released a carbon copy of it about a decade later. Star-shaped glitter, decals, and multi-colored tips were all fair game. I tried in vain to poke holes through the top of my nails to attach single chain link hoops through them–stick on earrings were a less terrifying alternative.
Then, just as I was entering the fashion world two years ago, the nail art game exploded. Suddenly every new, ridiculous trend was right at my fingertips–oh snap! I had the limited edition nail sequins and chalkboard varnish and the speckled bird egg polish the Internet was going nuts over. I spent 20 minutes trying to capture the ultimate Instagram shot of my Ciate mini laquer advent calendar. Once, I spent several days running into every craft store in the city looking for something called ‘flocking powder’ in an effort to procure felt nails on the cheap–and I never found any. My fiending for nail art only grew worse. No longer able to fit in their designated cases, nail polish bottles were littering my living room, I was hoarding decals and caviar and “nail lingerie” (cringe ugh!) like it was going out of style–and then one day, it totally was. Karl Lagerfeld put models wearing French manicures down Chanel’s runway: Nail art backlash had officially begun.
For me, my addiction began to dwindle around the time pointy Lana del Rey nails took over my life and destroyed my ability to type like a normal person. Wacky polish just doesn’t suit long nails like it does filed ones–but after years of digit doodling and piling crap onto my fingers, I welcomed the intervention. For months, I resisted the urge to revert back to my gaudy, manicured ways, trading gimmicky polka dots and glitter for strengthener and neutral polish.
But it wasn’t easy. Nail art samples kept pouring in at work–entire collections of stickers and toppings that made me wonder whether I’d made the right decision. Someone even decided a nail art festival was a good idea. It was hard to stand my ground–and my mound of nail art continued to collect, like a dirty secret spiraling out of control.
Even now, it’s hard to say no. What’s a girl with enough nail varnish and pink leopard print nail stickers to last her three dog years to do? Sure, I could dispose of the paraphernalia, but my hoarding tendencies (I’m still holding onto a small rock with “1996″ written on it in Sharpie for reasons even I don’t understand) make the thought of it unbearable. Even in my addiction’s darkest hour, I was too paralyzed by anxiety to ever actually use most of my collection. Like, what if I suddenly get invited to a tie-dye convention, but I’d already used up all my tie-dye decals for a music festival? Or what if Alexa Chung decides that covering your nails in tiny black bats is cool again, but mine are buried somewhere in a landfill in suburban New Jersey?
If everything old is new, it can’t be too long before wearing sushi on your nails is cool again, right? Right????