Once we get to know someone, we form an opinion about them based on their personality. Are they kind? Do they make us laugh? Would we want to do business with them, have sex with them or become their friend? But of course before we get to know them, our judgements are more superficial. We look at eyes and clothes, listen to their voice and react to their mannerisms. Or at least, you do. I have a slightly different mechanism: I look at their hands and nails.
If you Google ‘nail fetish’, you’ll find someone who isn’t me. A nail fetishist is generally someone stimulated by very long fingernails, or nails painted in a certain colour – normally red. Some get off on long nails scratching skin, or holding a cigarette, or even dipped in grease. I am not one of those people. But when I meet someone new, I do immediately check out their fingernails, and can find myself instantly attracted or repulsed.
I don’t know where this weirdness comes from. My mother, as far as I can recall, didn’t have great nails. Nails weren’t discussed or important in my formative years, but somehow, along the way, they became important to me. How important? Well, I’m happily married to a woman with good nails. So far, so reasonable. But before that, I couldn’t have sex with anyone who bit their nails. Ditto those who had nails of irregular length, or chipped nail varnish. Even now, Megan Fox (clubbed thumbs), Britney Spears (nailbiter), Gordon Brown (torn nails), Eva Mendes (nails so small as to be almost invisible – see also James McEvoy) would fail my ‘fuck or friendship’ test. Which is of course very much their loss.
Is all this really so different from more common prejudices about ‘acceptable body types’? I have a girlfriend who wouldn’t sleep with ‘a fat guy’ and a male friend who ‘only finds blondes attractive’. These value judgements aren’t nice, but isn’t everyone guilty of them to some extent? My criteria are just a bit less…obvious.
So, what do I find attractive in nails? Long nail beds, even length and a very shiny topcoat will do it for me, every time. Dark colours, not light. And please; no ‘one nail a different colour’, because that’s just never going to work. Guys – I’m not going to find your hands arousing, but if you want to get along with me, then your nails will need to conform. (You don’t need to worry about the shiny topcoat.)
I can tell you about the nails of everyone I know; how long, how clean, what shape. I find certain women attractive, even if they’re not conventionally judged as such, simply because they have fantastic hands and beautiful nails. I love travelling on the tube because there are hands everywhere, and I don’t like winter because so many people wear gloves. I have no real interest in shopping with my wife, but if she goes looking for a new varnish I can spend an hour helping her choose – although she never does, because she tolerates my preoccupation, rather than indulging it.
If I meet someone with bitten nails, I can’t look at their hands and they MUST NOT touch me under any circumstances. If it’s a business meeting, then our business is probably over. Naturally, I don’t have any close friends with bitten nails. If you have good nails, then you’re probably clean and well groomed. If they’re bitten, then you clearly don’t value personal grooming (so who knows what’s going on under the clothes?).
Arbitrary? Of course. Unfair nonsense? Probably. My loss? Almost certainly, but I’ll live with it. And if you don’t like it, well, let’s just shake hands and move on. But know I’ll still be looking down and judging yours.
Photo credit: Jon Jordan / Flickr Creative Commons