I’m a nail-biter, thanks to a condition called onychophagia that has no cure. If my nails are bare, I will bite them. Period. To stop it, as Drake says, I keep my “nails did.”
A barrier between my teeth and my nails in the form of a fantastic dip powder nail set prevents my nail self-destruction, but now that coronavirus halted my monthly visits to the nail salon, I’m left with my mouth, my bare nails, and the ever-growing attractive magnetic field between them.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez popularized press-on nails last year during an Amtrak ride from NYC to DC, and I was reminded of this as I found myself slowly chewing away at the corners of my pinky nail and plucking out the man-made splinters on my index finger while I occupy each corner of my studio apartment, stir-crazy and aimless since the pandemic has kept me homebound.
During my next grocery store visit, I perused the press-on nail selection and discovered a world that was previously, yes I’ll admit, beneath me.
I’d like to formally apologize to press-on nails: You are celestial.
Sheltered at home, I now diligently apply press-on nails to my heart’s content.
They’re glittered or gold, coffin or square, with adhesive or glue, Oh my! I can go classy or goth or classy AND goth? And I don’t have to pay an up-charge for the design on my ring finger? Is this legal?!
Now that I have room to play with my nails, I’ve landed on what I like. I prefer the square shapes since they’re short enough to allow me to still get my work done, but I might do a coffin shape and get dressed up to go nowhere just to feel fabulous.
I like the pastel shades, but a little bling on the ring fingernail never hurt anyone. The adhesive press-ons are easiest to apply, but I still keep glue around when I need to reapply that one nail that decides to fall off before the others.
I’ve also made a habit of noticing nails on actresses while I COVID-binge-watch my favorite shows. Ally on FX’s “Dave” has this gorgeous pastel blue manicure that I’m dying to recreate on my own — well, that I’m dying to find in the press-on aisle on my next grocery store visit. If I don’t find the right shade of blue, then I might buy nail polish and paint over the nails I’ve pressed-on, but that feels like betrayal, so maybe I won’t.
I’ve gushed over my new fixation on Instagram stories and created converts. Friends send me photos of their own press-on manicures and tag me in giveaways for custom press-on nails. We’re only a community of three so far, but at least all the members are committed.
Doctors say that I bite my nails because of anxiety or a form of OCD, so it’s no surprise that it’s amplified with the threat of contracting or infecting someone with COVID-19. The press-on nails aren’t simply an aesthetic delight but a way to manage heightened anxiety and provide a modicum of control during the uncertain times we’re in.
As I press on a new set onto my nails, I admire the pastel pink shade with shimmery accents and feel ready for the day. They’ve brought me joy and sparked a new way to bond with friends. They’ve created a sense of normalcy and routine from my otherwise abnormal and routine-less stay-at-home days. And they’ve kept my fingers out of my mouth, so I think I’ll keep pressing on.
Hopefully, next time it’ll be in pastel blue.
Ashley is a TV writer based in Los Angeles. You can follow her on Instagram.