Sunday, October 26, 2008

On the Incompatibility of Hammers and Nails

I confess. I am useless.

I swear, I am not a girly-girl, yet I do not like working on the house. I DO like having long nails.

Not this long:

But long enough.

You see, I have so few talents in this world. In fact, they are so few I can enumerate them in toto here:

1. I can stand on one leg for a seriously long time. In fact, I challenge anyone to a balancing competition (yet, I cannot bear ladders or walking around on the roof.)

2. I can spot dog droppings on a sidewalk from a freakishly long way away. While I cannot read a city map to navigate, I am nonetheless a useful traveling companion when sightseeing in European cities. The truth is, I cannot even fold a map, European or otherwise. But I can steer clear of droppings from dogs of all nationalities.

3. I can grow really long fingernails. I also grow thick and healthy hair. I guess I have a talent for anything involving keratin.

Upon leaving the nail salon the other day, I thought, “well, now I can’t get anything done today.” That meant no gardening, no serious cleaning, not much of anything that would threaten the fresh finish on my fingernails.

So, while I may be a well-balanced, luxuriously groomed and uniquely useful traveling companion, I am utterly useless at helping remodel a house.

The application of unnatural color to ones fingernails and toenails is a curious thing. I don’t know how long it’s been in fashion but I’m guessing it’s an invention of the 20th century. But this artifice renders a woman completely useless. At first, I was tempted to think of this in terms of being a gender issue, like foot-binding, in which a physical trait is altered for the sake of beauty, to the detriment of the woman's ability to fully function. However, the comparison falls apart when you consider the crippling effects of foot binding vs. chipped nail polish.

In reality, this is a class issue. Painting one’s nails is a way of announcing, “I don’t have to work.” Literally, “I don’t have to lift a finger.”

Thinking recently of our contemporary disdain for work I realized that there is a long history of disrespect for those who work.

In earlier times, European courtiers wore pale white makeup as a way of distinguishing themselves from the working classes that toiled in the fields. If you had white skin, it meant you had the luxury of staying out of the sun. But the makeup contained lead, which ended up poisoning the courtiers.

In contemporary society, we go to tanning salons as a way of distinguishing ourselves from the working classes that toil in offices under fluorescent lights. If you have tan skin, it means you have the luxury of spending time on the beach or sporting outdoors. But he tanning beds emit UV rays, which ends up giving us skin cancers.

Those who work are never respected; leisure class indolence becomes fatal fashion.

When the revolution comes, I just hope I don't break a nail.

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