Sunday, February 27, 2005

Nail Grinding and Polishing

About a week ago, I chanced upon a nail filing and buffing device at home. It was a simple piece of kit, consisting of a stiff plastic base, with abrasive surfaces bonded to the plastic base. To improve grinding and polishing performance, the abrasive surfaces were mounted on a thin layer of foam, such that the abrasive surface is allowed to deform to constantly fit the nail’s curvature. The first and most abrasive of the grinding surfaces was emery. Subsequent stages were unceremoniously labelled 1, 2 and 3.

“Interesting…” I thought to myself. I decided to try it on my left thumb. After some strokes of rubbing using emery, my thumbnail had been removed of all grains. The nail surface itself took on a powdery texture with a diffuse pinkish white colour. After stage 1, the powdery texture had disappeared, and resembled the colour and feel of a natural nail. At the end of stage 2, a marked degree of reflectivity had appeared. One wonders what stage 3 polishing will bring…

Several strokes of polishing using stage 3 resulted in an unnatural lustre. The nail’s surface was smoother than brand new PVC bottles’ finish. One could catch well defined reflections from bright windows on the nail. A natural nail would show some light as an indefinite smear of reflection while a polished nail will show a great amount of detail, including large grilles and the straight edges of the window frame.

“This is fun. I’ll do it to the index finger as well.”

About 5 to 7 minutes later, I had a second polished nail.

This led me to a new set of problems. Previously, the grains in the nail surface were large scale, and any additional scratches and aberrations on the nail went unnoticed. However, as the surface got more and more polished, smaller and smaller scratches and irregularities will become visible. As a close analogy, compare similarly sized cracks in a brick wall and in a smooth plaster wall.

To preserve my hard earned polish, I either had to take care when working with my fingers to prevent scratches (which was dumb), or to give it a stage 2 and 3 polish every day (which was just as dumb). Thus, the obvious solution was not to have polished nails.

However, this solution led me to another array of problems. I was unwilling to let go of the smooth finish that polishing will impart upon my nails. Clearly, I’m going down a path of many unnecessary problems. By attaching myself to impermanent characteristics, I’m bound to be disappointed when the characteristic in question decays. Hence I strive to maintain the status quo. Unfortunately, the status quo takes a lot of effort to maintain, as mentioned previously.

Sadly, I don’t learn easily. I was on holiday, and time was on my side. One night, I did the remaining 3 nails on my left hand. Now, half of my fingernails are shinier than new PVC bottles. I imagine that it would be extremely time consuming to do all 10 fingers in one sitting. Imagine, 5 to 7 minutes each finger comes up to a staggering 50 to 70 minutes. I randomly queried a few people (all of them girls), and not surprisingly, they do not buff their nails.

Despite the fact that giving my 5 nails a daily polish is exceeding time consuming and pointless, I still went on with it. It was not because it was pretty to have shiny nails. The objective was not good looking nails, but shiny nails. Even if they are so shiny that it becomes ugly, I will probably continue at polishing, because the goal is smoothness, not aesthetics. It was developing into a disorder, an obsession. It is possible that eating disorders stem from people losing sight of their objective (a trim figure) and switching to a different objective (light weight).

The owner of the nail buffing device offered to let me take it with me to Melbourne. “Definitely not,” I replied. I’ll be better off without it.

As a side note, I'll not be experimenting with lipstick and eyeshadow. Just to reassure you that I'm not mad.

Labels: , ,