I Hate Myself For Buying This

How One Bottle of Grey Nail Polish Has Made Me Too Important

Let’s start with the nerd fact: I’m going to spell it “grey” instead of “gray” for the purposes of this essay, because I’m talking about fashion and I want to be fancy. And just so I can be extra fancy, I’m going to throw in this word spelled like this now: favourite.

As in: Grey nail polish is not my favourite.

I get a mani/pedi about three times a year. It’s just not cost-effective for a woman who is either typing furiously or chewing her cuticles at any given moment of the day. I do it when I know for certain people are going to see my toes. I also can’t go three minutes post manicure without chipping a nail. The one time I managed to make it all the way home without smearing, smudging, denting or shanking any of my twenty digits, Happy Nails immediately threw a party. “Tiếng hoan hô!” they shouted. And there was much rejoicing. Tears of celebration.

I’m not always used to the sight of polish on my fingers, so I find most of the colors out there make my hands look like I’m a child playing “Hey, I’m Just Like Mommy!”  All deep reds make me look like a lady who’s smoking Kools while doubling down on eleven.  Pinks somehow make my skin take on an eerie shimmery green. I tend to stay with a nice, safe wine color. But sometimes a girl wants a change.

People these days are doing some funky stuff to their nails.  Things we used to all agree were tacky. Grown-ups — full-on adults completely finished with puberty — are doing things to their nails meant to be done while trying to keep from falling asleep in Algebra II. Dots, tiger stripes, newsprint, the faces of the American Idol finalists — I’ve seen some craziness painted on a fingertip.

People: our nails aren’t trucks. Please stop having someone airbrush palm trees on them. PS: I don’t need to see your headshot nor your manuscript affixed to your pinkie.

That being said, I want to join a trend, I want to belong, I like taking risks and doing new things. I’m not afraid to do something different. My job isn’t being Lady GaGa, so I can’t paint the words “SKANK SUCKA” across my hands. So I went with grey nail polish.

(Note: not the author's hand)

I thought it would work as a transition color out of winter and into spring, as most of my wardrobe had taken on a color palate that can be accurately described as: “Sadness with a hint of oatmeal.” Maybe it would look like all the dreary was dripping out of me, saving my fingers for last with little kisses of periwinkle grey.


It gave me ghost hands.  Corpse fingers.  I look like I was found floating dead in a bayou, three days old.  And while a very sexy hour-long mystery will emerge, all the hot characters will quickly forget that they only reason they’re in bed together is because their eyes met while averting my bloated, grey-nailed carcass in the opening scene.

But here’s the real problem: other people are extremely supportive of the grey nail polish.  They’re all like, “Ooh, that’s so pretty.”  And I’m going, “No, it’s not.”  And then they’re like, “It’s really pretty.”  They go a little overboard on how much they like it, which is how I know they know I know I’ve got the hands of a dead girl.

I think I look hypothermic, post-marathon, and in a pair of strappy sandals with stacked heels, it appears my tottering weight is crushing forward, cutting off valuable circulation to my toes.  Oh, and my toes.  My poor toes.  It looks like I’ve got marble statue feet.  Cold and lifeless.

So everybody’s being very rah-rah about my grey nails, like I’m some kind of trailblazer, so now I’ve got the weight of the ladyworld on my shoulders.  They need me to wear the grey nail polish so that someone has, so that they can say they know someone who’s done it, so that maybe they can feel free to try weird colors, too.  I’m like the first woman who wore a micro-mini, the first girl to try that knuckle-ring thing that makes wiping your chin or flashing some jazz hands impossible.  I’m now a direct descendant of that very first girl in a loincloth who was like, “Maybe I could put this turkey feather in my hair and it would look pretty.”

I’ve gone past the point of no return, you see. I’ve become a representative. A symbol.  No longer a woman, I am an experiment, an important dot in our nail polish time line.

I will wear this nail polish.  I will wear it in grey. I wear this nail polish for you.  I wear it because you keep on telling me it’s super-cute even though I know that can’t be true.  You need me to wear it so that you don’t have to.

I will do that for you, Internet stranger.  Because I care about our future.  But don’t hate me if I stay inside until it chips away.

Image credits: Shopstyle and Forever 21, Daily Makeover and Fright Catalog

Pamela Ribon writes for books and televisions and runs her nerdy conglomerate out of pamie.com. You can follow her on Twitter @pamelaribon

  • http://www.facebook.com/DreTurner Andrea Turner

    Say whaaa?! I have to say, about a year ago I was having trouble finding gray nail polish. I also have a slight case of kid hands when I paint my nails any colour. So I was always looking for a more subtle way of doing my fingies. I have to agree with you on the toes thing though. I dislike black and gray polish on toes at all times on anybody. (Including my best friend who does it a lot.) Anyhow. I bought a really like gray polish from OPI and then added some cheap, pharmacy brand black into it so it suited my skin better. (I’m a few shades paler than a ghost 10 months of the year.) Maybe you just need another shade of gray? Give gray a chance, will ya?!

    Sorry. Rant over.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1540326461 Holly McDonald

    I wouldn’t quite call you a trialblazer for sporting gray nails. I’m wearing gray polish right now and I love it, but thats not the point. I know lots of people who wear gray in their tips… so, feel free to take it off. We don’t need you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/svluong Stacey Luong

    I couldn’t agree more! A plain matte gray simply does not look good on nails…

  • http://www.facebook.com/hosullivan Hannah O’Sullivan

    I am DEFINITELY about to write SKANK SUCKA on my nails next time I do ’em.

  • http://www.facebook.com/heather.favro.binuya Heather Favro Binuya

    Pamie, you are a hero.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=549305424 Lisa Bailey

    I, too, am currently wearing grey nailpolish with white tips and sparkly pink princess rhinestones. Puberty? What puberty?

  • http://www.facebook.com/hello.ms.annette Annette Gallego

    Great post! I can relate. I tried canary yellow nail polish and it made me look jaundice… yet everyone told me it was “super cute” – which made me feel obligated to continue to “rock it”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shenamygans Amy Pirtle

    hohohohohohoho is literally the noise i made when i read “…as most of my wardrobe had taken on a color palate that can be accurately described as: ‘sadness with a hint of oatmeal.'” GIRL, YOU FUNNY.

  • http://www.facebook.com/onesmartsandwich Rebecca Lynn

    Could you not be my representative? I wouldn’t walk around wearing something I don’t like, especially something as meaningless as nail polish, just because other people like it. I agree with Holly; you can just take it off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/samiism Samantha Costanilla

    I’ve worn grey nail polish before, and it does have its drab moments. But you can always spice it up a bit with clear glitter polish…which basically turns it silver. Lol.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1293751394 Jackie Maessen

      ha Thanks! I need to grab a bottle of grey now. I’ve been holding on to my bottle of silver sparkles for what i thought was waaay too long, but this sounds like a good subtle solution. I’ll have to stick with a dark grey though cuz of my uber pale skin. :)

  • http://cvxn.tumblr.com Heather Watson

    Canadian spellings FTW! (Also, would rock these nails six ways from Sunday!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1080830127 Beth Curry

    I’ve got a grey nail polish somewhere, I bought it at the same time I bought a ‘mushroom’ brown colour. I don’t know why I did because I wasn’t impressed when I put it on. I think if I put it on again I’ll do something with it, like add glitter or a tip or something to liven it up. The brown is nice though. I guess.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000501203123 Alli Woods Frederick

    i ♥ my grey nailpolish…i feel it’s a more mature version of the black i wore during my angsty “i listen to the cure a lot” teenage years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=513508382 Jennifer Hiltz Sanborn

    I love Sally Hansen’s Commander in Chic color. Its such a pretty grey!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=518280955 Heather Thompson

      Me toooooo!!!! It makes me feel so grown up and put together, like I didn’t spend more time playing Parachute with my cat and the bedsheet in the morning than I did fixing my hair.

  • http://www.facebook.com/callybear Callan Skye Anderson

    I also have the problem of childlike hands, paired with being short and young and trying to build a career. I find the best colours that look mature and ladylike but which you can make a bit interesting are nude shades. I have a really nice cappuccino coloured nail polish by Models Own and I use a lot of French manicure pink and beige.

    If I want to make it look a bit interesting I use a silvery/goldy “cracked” nail polish so it keeps it pretty understated but textured. I have no idea if people consider cracked nail polish trashy (I know I do if it is black or coloured) but silver seems not to attract too much attention.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rachelbarth Rachel Barth

    I know what you mean about being complimented and not understanding why. I think when people notice something different, they feel the need to say something and since they don’t want to be like “your nails look weird” they end up complimenting you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=812072728 Kristen D’Amour

    haha, that’s great. totally know what you mean. i also painted my nails “grey” but a little darker than yours and it is the nail color i have gotten the most comments on. that and mint green.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dianeshipley Diane Shipley

    I’ve tried out the grey (I’m not fancy, just British) nail varnish (OK, I’m a little fancy) too and definitely had that feeling of “I’m trendy, so it *must* be pretty” while wearing it. It’s not that it’s attractive, but I wanted to believe that it was. I felt fashion-y and borderline cool and I guess that’s how you really know you’re… not.

    I still like to think I didn’t look like a corpse, but when I choose nail varnish now, I definitely veer towards actual colours.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashley.lynn.cook Ashley Lynn Cook

    I actually love the grey on you! I just bought the O.P.I. Pirates of the Caribbean Skull and Glossbones which is a light grey polish, and I have gotten SO many compliments with it on. I was unsure at first whether of not I liked it but after time it grew on me. 😉

  • http://www.facebook.com/becca.sands Becca Sands

    I’m half-and-half on the grey. Some girls pull it off beautifully. I tried it because the Kardashians were wearing it (ugh, I cannot believe I just admitted that on the internet, now my mom is going to find out and judge me), but I’m with you–I’m too pale and/or not cool enough to pull it off. Maybe a different shade would look better on us. Or maybe we should just let the Kardashians keep rocking it and we can paint our toesies fancy colors and hide them in shoes. It can be our little secret, like wearing mismatching argyle socks.

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