Monday, April 03, 2000

Killer fashion

I've always found long fingernails to be somewhat disturbing. Not nicely manicured natural ones of a manageable length--no, you know the ones I mean, the ones that make it impossible to type or operate small machinery, the ones with jewels glued on them or maybe little charms, the ones that precede their owner into a room. As with so many things that others find fashionable--tattoos, spike heels, dresses that require glue to stay on--I just can't figure out how they could possibly be worth the trouble.

Maybe I'm just resentful because my own nails are such stubby little broken things. I've never been into nail polish because I've never had enough nail to polish. The only thing worse than stubby nails is stubby nails that are bright red. Now that I'm a mom, I can imagine that I need my nails trimmed super-short so I can keep up with my rough-and-tumble kids and perform all the different varieties of child and toy first-aid that are required of me. A co-worker gave me a gift certificate for a manicure for Christmas, and I just have never felt a desire to use it. A nail person I'm not.

But I think my problem with the ultra-long talons is more deep-seated than that. I think it goes back to a childhood friend who grew her nails so long they curled at the ends. She would gob on the nail polish to keep them strong, and if they broke, she would reattach them with Scotch tape and then gob some more nail polish over that. They were quite impressive, in a Tim Burton-ish way. One evening we were playing a game that required grabbing an object from the other person, and when I grabbed the object from her I grabbed a tape-encrusted nail off, too. I don't think we played much after that. And I don't think I've ever looked at long fingernails in quite the same way.

Now, though, I have a more solid reason to believe that the things can't be good: They're killing babies. To be more exact, bacteria residing on the extra-long or artificial fingernails of two neo-natal ICU nurses in Oklahoma City was found to have been a factor in the deaths of 16 extremely premature babies. Thirty more preemies were infected but survived. Now, the hospital spokespeople are quick to point out that the bacteria in question is commonly found in hospital nurseries, that the babies' immune systems were significantly compromised by their too-early births, that the nail bacteria was only one of many factors in their deaths, and that nails or no nails, the babies would probably have died anyway. Yet the rules for all nurses in the hospital have now been changed so that only short, natural nails are allowed.

I heartily applaud--with hands unimpeded by extensions--that decision, and wish that it could be extended into other fields where a few extra inches on a fingertip is a liability. That means fast-food workers--get those things off my burger. Cashiers? If it takes you three times as long to ring up my order because you have to maneuver your hands in awkward contortions to put some skin on the cash-register keys, you're gonna get clipped. Educators, if you've ever hesitated to help a child because you might break a nail, you need to break them all. And moms, moms, moms--how are you ever going to be able to utter such classic mom lines as "You're going to poke your eye out with that!" if you look like Edward Scissorhands? Time for a trim, everyone! Then, when your nails are all as short and stubby as mine, I'll feel a lot better, thank you.

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