The worst insult is calling a woman “fake.”
I was on the receiving end of the word a few months ago, courtesy of a guy I was seeing.
At the time, I was a peroxide blonde, wore eyelash extensions and was wearing faux nails. I was also wearing Spanx, but he didn’t have to know that.
“There’s nothing real about you,” he told me.
He wasn’t trying to imply I was a fairy princess or that I was too good to be true. He meant it as an insult.
We assume “faking” any part of ourselves is all about hiding an insecurity.
Women who dye their hair, wear “too much” makeup or get plastic surgery are seen as traitors to their own skin. We’re bombarded with messages to love the skin we were born in, so why try to change it?
Sometimes, though, it's not about change. Certainly not when it comes to my fake nails.
My grandmother prides herself on her natural nails. She rarely wears polish, but when she does it’s a subtle nude. In her eyes, there is nothing more wasteful than gilding a lily.
My natural nails, however, never really measured up. They couldn’t grow past the tips of my fingers and somehow always had a yellow tinge. Telltale white lines marred their surfaces.
I wore polish to hide them, but as a teenager I’d always find specks of lacquer wedged between my teeth from biting my nails.
Fake nails were my saving grace.
They disguised my short, stubby, “Are they there or aren’t they?” nails, making me feel beautiful and feminine.
To a chubby girl with a gamine haircut long before it was cool, long nails symbolized the femininity I didn’t have otherwise.
Sure, I had shitty taste when I first started rocking faux claws.
As a preteen, I’d go to the drugstore around the corner from our apartment and pick up as many packs of Kiss fake nails as I could carry.
Opening up each set and playing with different combinations, I'd pair checkered styles with French manicures and graffiti-inspired press-ons.
I’d like to think it was my inner beauty junkie coming out, but I spent years looking like a lunatic with nail ADD.
There was a gang of girls in my middle school who, without fail, got their nails done every Thursday after school at the local salon.
They were no Regina, Gretchen and Karen, but being invited to get a mani-pedi with them was like getting courtside seats to the Knicks. You don’t pass that sh*t up.
I got invited one time before mini-Regina realized I wasn’t cool enough to hang with her crowd.
Let me tell you, there’s nothing more embarrassing than having a woman with a minimal grasp on the English language understand your nails are glued on. She also gets your desire to sit a seat or two away from the rest of the girls so they don't see.
At the time, I was convinced there was no worse punishment than having someone see the state of my natural nails.
As I grew older, my taste mellowed out. I leaned toward natural styles that resembled my real nails more closely.
It somehow didn’t matter how my own natural nails were brittle and flaky. Fake nails helped me feel like I fit in.
Now, I alternate fake nails with regular polish. I know how to take care of my nails enough so that they don't become a total mess every time I glue on acrylics.
I’ve gotten good, real good. Chances are good that if I have a fake set on you won’t even be able to tell.
And you know what? To this day, they still make me feel f*cking pretty.