Carrie Bradshaw (yes, she is still very real to me) once wrote about a woman’s right to Choos and like so many of that character’s tongue in cheek headlines, the flippant one liner had a more serious message. Not serious like Syria or food banks but it was important to her. I always tend to feel that writing about the frivolous fripperies of fashion (all the Fs) must seem so silly and banal to other people with ‘proper’ jobs. You know, life-saving, life-changing, life-nurturing professions like doctors, teachers, politicians. It wasn’t so bad when I was a business journalist, reporting on retail and fashion. But now I’m just burbling and blathering on a blog (all the Bs).
But having an interest, even a mild obsession, with fashion doesn’t make you an air head. Let’s just look to Anna Wintour and all her countless counterparts in the fashion industry to smite that myth. And yet still, there are times when I sit down at my keyboard to write about a new trend or new collection, a new product launch that maybe we need, maybe we don’t. And I think, does anyone care? What difference does this really make? What’s the point? And then I think who am I/they to judge anyway? Surely this is about a woman’s right to choose (or Choos depending on her predilection).
One of the simple changes I made to my life when I turned forty last year was, wait for it, I started getting my nails done regularly. That’s it. I didn’t start meditating (though that really is on my list), I didn’t climb a mountain, I didn’t turn vegan. I’m sure all of those things would have been beneficial and maybe one day I will give them a go.
But for years I’ve hated my nails. They’ve always been weak and over time become damaged and ridged. I also had one particularly ugly one left from a rather gruesome accident when I trapped my finger in a folding stool as a teen. Even when I tried to paint them myself they always looked a mess. Whenever I looked down at my nails I always sighed inwardly and hid them. Even when I got dressed up and made an effort with my makeup I felt my nails were always letting down the side.
But like most regular beauty treatments, getting my nails done seemed like an exorbitant amount of time and money to ‘waste’ on myself. It always seemed vain, self-indulgent and ridiculous. This coming from the woman who gets her hair highlighted regularly (but that really is a basic human right when your hair is as oily as mine).
And then I went on holiday for my 40th and decided to get a shellac. It transformed my nails into smooth, shiny, near perfect specimens that left me beaming with pride every time I splayed out my fingers to admire them. This will sound odd to some but having good nails made me feel grown up in a good way; sorted, tidy, replete and polished (literally). Yes, all that from a bit of coloured goo in a bottle – amazing!
Why couldn’t I feel like that without it? I have no idea. And let’s be honest, it hasn’t changed my life. I can still run late (sometimes for the nail appointment itself ironically). I still mess up and have off days. But having nice nails is just one thing that makes me feel that little bit better about myself and that is worth a lot to me. And the same goes for an item of clothing that transforms your mood and self-esteem.
I’ll never understand why some people dismiss self-image as irrelevant or dumb, vacuous and silly. Clothes, makeup, whatever – it’s literally the armour we don to help us be the best we can and get through the day. And women, men too, have been doing it in some form or other for millennia.
So the question isn’t, why did I begin having manicures when I turned forty but more why did it take me so long to start? And that has become a bit of a life lesson for me. Self-love, whatever guise it takes – even barbie pink nail varnish – is so very important. And you don’t have to justify it to anyone.