Was Fatphobia the Only Reason I Ever Wanted to Have Long Nails?

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I thought of every nail polish advertisement I’ve ever seen and how the models’ hands usually look in them. They’re always small-palmed with slender fingers and usually long, rounded nails. The models’ faces and bodies aren’t usually visible, but that doesn’t matter; my brain always fills in the gaps with images of white ladies with flat stomachs and thighs that don’t touch and virtually zero buccal fat. I automatically, subconsciously desire a body like theirs.

Fuck. It was the internalized fatphobia again, wasn’t it?

Sure, rounded shapes and long, slender lines are naturally appealing to the eye. Wanting to have long nails or simply hands that look nice does not automatically mean you’re internally fatphobic (though you might want to think on it for a second to be sure). But for me, personally, that’s been the kicker all along. I can project my fear of being perceived as fat onto every last detail of my being without even realizing it. I knew this to be true about the loose skin under my chin that the internet wants me to Gua Sha away, or my lifelong fear of short haircuts that might highlight the roundness of my face—but I was surprised to realize I had been applying that to my hands and nails, too.

But it all makes sense. My high school prom was the first and last time I experimented with a square nail shape because I decided long, rounded nails make my hands look thinner. And I don’t want to draw attention to my hands with rings if I don’t think they look thin. Because despite all the self-acceptance I’ve accomplished, there’s still an inkling of longing deep within me to be thin. Because I’ve been trained to fear fatness in ways I wish I didn’t. And fear of any kind, especially the fear of being judged for who you are and what you look like, is the world’s most effective motivator.

Since coming to this realization a few weeks before writing this story, that motivation to do metaphoric back bends for the upkeep of long nails has already started waning. I haven’t sworn off long nails entirely (I could never fully give up the delightful clacking sound they make) but I haven’t had the desire to cure on a set of soft gel nail extensions at all—for events, date nights, etc., I’ve been using more temporary alternatives like short press-ons. My ability to assuage the anxieties that cause me to fuss over my nails in the first place has been growing.

Nicola Dall’Asen

Nicola Dall’Asen

It actually comes in handy (ha) to have big, sturdy palms and fingers. There’s a reason I was really good at basically every sport I ever tried in my teens. I can carry my phone, keys, wallet, sunglasses, and water bottle in one hand, no problem. I have a really fun party trick that instantly emasculates over-confident bros at bars (making bets to see whose hand span is wider). And when my boyfriend and I hold hands, it feels balanced and seamless because they’re the same size. I don’t need my hands to be small, skinny, or dainty at all. When I think about all those things I just said, I realize I don’t want them to be.

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