My Prom Nails

Seeing a gaggle of bedazzled kids in matching cummerbunds and gowns brought me back to my prom. More specifically, my prom nails.

To date there has never been another event, moment, relationship, tragedy, political campaign or disaster that I’ve discussed in more detail than what me and rest of the senior girls were wearing to the prom. The obsessive discussion started about three months before the big day. We’d sit in class and comb over every last sequined detail at nauseum.  If my memory serves, we didn’t even bring in pictures, we just passed along the details through the art of storytelling like in olden times.

My dress was long and fitted and red and beautiful so I foolishly assumed that I’d paint my nails red to match. At eighteen, I was a novice to many areas of life and fake nails were certainly no exception. My nail expert friend Maura Montgomery warned me about the dangers of red on red crime. If the reds didn’t match perfectly, it would be tragic.  Picking the exactly right red was a high level decision that I was not equipped for.

The day of the prom, I had an appointment at Kim’s Nails. My parents, who didn’t have it like that, generously agreed to pay for tips.  I sat across from the Asian nail technician, locked eyes and began unload every detail of what I was going to wear. Her eyes were glazed over from the stream of prom girls she had seen that day but I didn’t care.

“So, after this, I’m getting my hair done. I’m wearing my hair half up/ half down with like a little bouffant up top and a piece pulled out in the front curled and cascading down my left cheek. I found these sort of antique looking, dangling rhinestone earrings and my Grandma’s rhinestone chocker…”

Kim could care less but that didn’t matter to me. As I rattled, she glued. “I’m wearing red lipstick and red shoes so it would be really risky to do a red nail.  I’m not exactly sure what color I want to do but …”

“What length you want cut?”

I looked down at my nails with the tips glued on and gasped. They looked amazing. Stunning. Perfect. I was a woman.

“They’re good like this.”

“You don’t want cut?”


They were close to four inches long, unfilled, unpainted and I thought, quite beautiful.

My desire to “not cut” shook her right out of her prom stupor.

“No cut!?”

“I think I like it just like this.”

We stared at each other in silence for a few moments. Somewhere in my insides, I knew that my request was a little outrageous but I felt greedy. Other than Lee PressOns, I’d never had fake nails before. This could be it! Go big or go home. Subtly is a luxury that only rich people can afford. When you pay hard earned money for a service, you want to look in the mirror and see some results. If you can only get your hair done a handful of times a year, it takes a tremendous amount of restraint to not go as blonde as that bleach will take you. Any time I’ve gotten a bikini wax, nothing gets left on the field. I don’t have the resources or the energy to get cute with a lightening bolt design to which attention must be paid. I also have a hard time going food shopping and not eating everything yummy thing as I unpack it.

Kim started shaking her head and getting really real with me.

“You need to cut. I think looks good like this.” Kim showed me how far down she though I needed to trim the nail. I disagreed.

“But you have such a little hands, that’s too much nail for such a small hands.”

I told her that she could take a teeny tiny bit of length off and that was that. Kim accepted that with a shrug. She was only one woman.  The trimming and filing was finished and it was time to paint the nails. I didn’t want to compromise the integrity of the tip. I told Kim I’d rather not paint them. This threw her over the edge.

“Leave like this?!”

“How about clear polish?”

“You need to put some kind color on nail!”

We  agreed on a whiteish polish, not a chalky, wite-out white but more like a cloudy off white. I walked out the door feeling like a million bucks and looking like I’d ordered up the Boca Raton special.

All the couples were meeting for picture time outside my friend Jen’s house. I was expecting to have my breath taken away by the beauty of each prom look. But we had done such a bang up job at describing each and and every detail that there were really no surprises. Maura grabbed my hand to inspect my nails. I believe her response was: “Whoa.”

I took that as a compliment. In every single picture, my nails are splayed out against my dress for optimum exposure.

The very moment we got into the limo one of my nails broke off. I stared down at my hands in horror. It was the middle finger. Was Kim sending me a message? Maybe. Two more nails popped off during course of my prom.  My little baby hands were literally rejecting the foreign matter like a liver transplant that didn’t take. I  had a really good time at the prom  despite the fact that I had to contort my hands into gang signs to hide the missing nails.

The moral of the story is: listen to your nail technician, she probably knows better than you. Amen.