2 min

Tough as nails

In times of crisis, nail polish sales soar

I’m a lazy person and if there’s one thing that lazy people cannot afford, it’s vanity. It takes too long and requires too much effort.

I have no qualms about leaving the house in sweatpants, with no makeup, and with my hair tied back.

When I did my nails last week, all of my friends commented. It wasn’t even a proper manicure —I didn’t push back my cuticles or trim off hang nails. I didn’t even exfoliate. I just slapped on some paint and it turns out that’s an effort I haven’t put in for a long time. My friends ooh-ed and aah-ed, making me realize just how long it had actually been.

I used to care about personal maintenance. I used to have a regime. Since I decided to live in the West End (which takes bundles of cash) and since I decided to finally buy myself the hearing aids I’ve needed for nearly a decade (which also takes bundles of cash), my priorities have shifted from self-care to chasing paychecks.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some might even argue that living within your means is a form of self-care. And I’m proud to say that I have paid —in full —for the equipment that allows me to hear birds chirping and watch John Stewart without closed captioning.

Somewhere in all of this, my femme identity fell to the wayside. While rolling up my sleeves, I had neglected my fingertips.

People were concerned: “Is everything okay?” they’d ask.

Maybe it’s because I showed up to every event in the same jeans and plaid shirt and sneakers. Maybe because these days a ponytail is the only hairstyle I attempt.

I’ve managed to challenge the label so much that I’m now asked how I self-identify.

I am what I am regardless of whether I have waxed my upper lip or shaped my eyebrows. Still, it feels good to be treated as if I’ve taken the time to indulge.

A dear friend of mine suffers from chronic pain. She can also wear an evening gown like nobody’s business. Her femme accoutrements have become a shield, a way of insisting to the world that all is well (because if there’s one thing she cannot tolerate, it’s pity).

“If a woman is wearing lipstick,” my friend says, “she’s obviously got it together.” Is it really that easy to signify to the world that we’re on top of it? Apparently.

These days, in the midst of economic crisis, election stress and looming environmental catastrophe, nail polish sales have sky rocketed. When newspaper headlines infer the end of days, it’s no wonder we flock to signifiers that allow us to project that everything is going to be just fine.