Why Do Women Paint Their Nails?

I was applying a second coat of color-me-crimson some time back, when my charming other half scrunched up his face and asked, “What’s that smell?” I held out my freshly-varnished nails, but he just wrinkled his nose in response.

“Isn’t it a nice color?” I pressed, admiring my work.

“It’s alright. Don’t really see the point, if I’m honest,” he said, shrugging with indifference.


“Why do women paint their nails? Men don’t care about what colour your nails are. Of all the things on your body, your bloody nails are the last thing I look at.” With that, he turned his attention to the TV.

I frowned, racking my brain for an adequate rebuttal, but came up with nothing. I wasn’t sure if it was his dry British droll, or my failure to rationalize my hoard of rainbow polishes that annoyed me more. However, he did make a fair point; why do women take such pride in our fingernail regime?

From my perspective, polishing my nails has always been my time to indulge in the little things. I paint my nails in the same context that men subscribe to porn; it’s a waste of money, but it’s still something nice to look at.  

I decided to delve a bit further into this nail-polishing business. A July 2012 beauty article cites the practice originated in China, “about three thousand years B.C.” (HerDaily.com.) The article further suggests that from a historical perspective, a woman’s hands were one of the few body parts that remained exposed, as Chinese women were modestly dressed in long, clothed garments during that era. Drawing attention to their hands, particularly polished fingernails, could have been a means of emphasizing their tasteful femininity. Other sources suggest that nail polish was only reserved for the royal class, and “the lower class ...[were] not allowed to wear polish on their fingers, and could be sentenced to death if they were caught” (eHow.com).

Ah, what a relief! Who knew this ‘pointless’ practice once served a purpose, after all? Even as we flash forward a few thousand years, contemporary women continue to preserve the original tradition by showcasing our flair in rich, royal hues.

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