Part 89: Nail Polish


Unlike you, who, I don’t doubt, spent the weekend poolside with a crowd of friends – sipping margaritas in swimwear as the sun turned the chlorinated water soaking your skin to a shimmering film, I have spent the past few days alone. Activity included lying naked on the rug in my living room, watching QVC and gnawing on a French stick, which grew ever more stale as the hours crawled by.

The straits are dire. My bank account is scarlet. My social life is barren to the point where calling it barren is an exaggeration bordering on the extreme. Fortunately, I have a generous and caring mother who insisted on wiring over £5 so I could purchase a cheap bottle of white to take the edge off my despair. Perhaps she was also hoping to atone for the sin of calling on Friday night, drunk and gleeful, to tell me that her colleagues had seen my picture on her iPhone and mistaken me for her older sister. What larks.

Of course giving wine to a daughter whose mental health is so fragile she has failed to bathe or dress herself for thirty-six hours might not be textbook Good Parenting. But at least the ingestion of alcohol forced me to look away from the TV and attempt to compose text messages to all the men I’ve ever slept with. Just jokes. You’ll be pleased to hear that I was diverted from that particular endeavour at a crucial point by the notes in the notes app on my phone. I found large amounts of fascinating stuff there, including one note that was actually quite beautiful. It’s the opening for a poem I might write (or, potentially, it’s a line from poem someone else has written that I’ve unintentionally plagiarised. A thing which has definitely happened before). It goes like this:

I miss you every day. And every day, thorns grow into my heart like creeping vines.


Every time I look at it I feel sad and melancholy. My mind makes pictures of the faces of all the people I’ve ever loved and lost, my heart withers and I immediately need something superficial and soothing to calm the void threatening to tear strips from my gossamer soul.

All I can say, after the weekend I’ve had, is thank God for nail polish – say what you like about it, but it is far more effective than therapy, in my experience, for temporarily sorting your life out.

And nail polish is not just a savior because it comes in bright colours. Or because of the solvent effects of inhaling its fumes.

We are not gibbering, mindless children.

Rather, as I discovered on Saturday night, it is the process of nail varnish that encompasses its profundity, and provides meditative respite for the disturbed mind. A process that involves holding one’s breath so as not to smudge the second layer recently applied to the index finger, blasting the tips of one’s tootsies with a hairdryer – realising this has caused fatal wrinkling and starting over again,lying upon the sofa with one’s hands held out from one’s body, fingers tensed, waiting, waiting, waiting – until no more waiting can be born, reaching for the remote control and finding a barely perceptible dent has appeared on the newly sky-blue nail of one’s opposable thumb.

Nail polish teaches us a very useful thing, which can be applied to all areas of our lives, but most obviously to dating. That thing is patience. And the fortitude to keep on keeping on when it all goes tits up. As it inevitably will, before – AT LAST! – perfection.

Nail polish also teaches us that the process of creation is far more pleasurable than the result of the creative process. Which is an insight that I’m sure can be applied to single life if you think about it really hard, in a distracted manner.

Finally, let us not over-look the fact that nail polish teaches us how to be ambidextrous so that we don’t wander around with one hand looking as though it has been painted by a club-fisted cave person. (That last lesson is not really applicable to single life, but you never know, it might come in handy if you happen one day to acquire an insatiable lover.)

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