The Hands of Time


Lucy Mangan explains how, in her late thirties, she has finally nailed this whole mani thing



When I was little, lacquer was – along with any other make-up, lotions, potions or anything else that didn’t involve schoolwork or sitting quietly with a book until teatime – verboten, of course. And when I got older I ruled it out because I have tiny hands (I have no idea what size – I’ve never bought proper gloves – but they are commensurate with my stupid size 13 stupid feet) and felt nail varnish drew ill-advised attention a body part that looked like it belonged to a stubby seven year old – a look I hadn’t aspired to since I was a stubby six year old.


2013 was the year I ditched all that. I suddenly realised that my hands are the thing that – as a freelance journalist who spends most of her day typing – I look at most, and that if I started painting the ends of them different colours, it might be rather cheering.


And so it turned out. I love the fact that I have something different to look at every day. I love the fact that I can, so simply, turn my nails an entirely different colour. Every time I look at them, it gives me the same rising giggle I get when I roast a chicken – you put a chicken in a hot oven, leave it for two hours and it will get cooked! Brush some paint on your nails while you watch telly and they will look bright and lovely for days! Such reward for such minimal effort I find hilarious. I like to think I’ve cheated God. So, I’m not too bright and I’m insanely easily pleased. If that’s not a recipe for happiness, I don’t know what is.


But I’m also, in some small way, reminded whenever I look at them of how little I care now about How Things Look. How much less time I waste timorously calibrating my wants against other people’s possible opinions. How much better it is, in so many ways, to be my older rather than younger self, even if I miss her better skin, blonder hair and ability to eat eight packets of Jaffa Cakes at a sitting without doubling in size overnight. How much better it is, in so many ways, to be my older rather than younger self, entirely consumed as I was with doubt and second-guessing my instincts in an attempt to render myself unobjectionable to all.


I’m wearing Bobbi Brown Nectar at the moment. It’s too bright for February, it doesn’t really suit my skintone but it’s the colour of my favourite flower and it turns out that hibiscus looks lovely against a black keyboard. Tomorrow, I think Mavala’s French Can Can (bright red) or Poetic Rose (browny-pink), depending on how lively I’m feeling. My hands still look like a stubby seven year old’s but they remind me, at least, that I’m managing at last to grow up.

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