Freakishly pale and cursed with an ass that will remain pancake-flat no matter how many Instagram squat challenges I take on, I adore the Kardashians but will, sadly, never resemble them. In my naïve quest to look even slightly like America’s royal family, I have to resort to changing the affordable things I can control, which is why I spent two and a half hours in a trendy Lower East Side nail boutique last week to get hands that resemble (albeit fatter and pastier) versions of Kim Kardashian’s legendary doll hands.
If I was going to get a Kardashian manicure, I had to do it right, so I eschewed my vaguely sketchy neighborhood joint and called in the experts. Vanity Projects, a “luxury nail art atelier” that looks like a gallery space, doesn’t just have manicurists, it has nail artists in residence, and their work makes your $10 Chinatown manicure look like you stuck your hand in a can of paint. Some of the Vanity Projects artists even had the honor of doing Kylie's and Kendall’s nails for a Steve Madden ad campaign. Now these chic professional artists who had once caressed Kardashian palms were going to have to spend hours manipulating my normal-person hands.
When I showed my designer, Maco, Kim’s recent Instagram of her bold transition from short to long nails, she knew exactly what to do, using a Nail de Dance form to apply inch-long acrylics in the Japanese style with a beautiful nude finish. Two and a half hours and some delightful nail-salon gossip later, I had my Kim Kardashian manicure. My outfit may have still looked like I was on the way to a middle-school sleepover, but my hands were sitting front row at Paris Fashion Week. It was perfect — until two minutes later, when I had to use the bathroom.
There are certain things you can’t do with lengthy acrylic nails, no matter how expertly applied and beautifully lacquered. Typing this, for example, not only takes much longer than it would with a typical manicure, but it also feels like my nail beds are being pried open with tiny needles. Simple adult tasks, like popping birth control out of the foil or putting in contacts, require Herculean effort and incredible patience. Within moments of having the nails applied, I revert back to a neonate state, unable to pull up my own tights in the perfectly appointed salon bathroom. I stand hovering next to the sink, my tight bunched around my knees. Am I going to have to call for help and beg one of these beautiful fashion women to help me yank my Spanx up? Should I just ... take my tights off? Why don’t they have one of those emergency cords you can pull like in hospital bathrooms? Is this the dumbest thing I’ve ever done to look like a Kardashian? (Not even close.) Centuries later, I finally get my tights up and, on my way out of the salon, I notice a chic woman, dressed in all-black, showing the same photo of Kim Kardashian’s hands to her nail architect. I’m sure four more women will come in with the same picture by day’s end.
Back at the office, I realize I will never again type at a normal speed or place my hands anywhere near my face without incurring a cornea injury. Swiping through Instagram is now a heinous ordeal, and untying my running shoes is an exercise in godlike patience. I have to ask my co-worker to open my Diet Coke. I am a helpless child. But damn, my nails look good.
On Saturday, I go home to babysit my two little sisters, 4- and 2-year-old girly-girls who turn out to be equal parts fascinated and horrified by my new look. “They’re PLASTIC?” Maddie, 4, asks from her car seat, looking like she might throw up. “They’re so sharp! You’re going to scratch me!” Charlotte won’t stop touching them. Her verdict is in: “They’re really weird.”
Later, when we’re lying in bed before nap time, Maddie becomes more emboldened with her critique. “I hate them,” declares the child who loves painted nails so much she begs me to give her a manicure every time I come home. “They look like a monster’s nails.” She turns her small face away in disgust. As she falls asleep, I hold my hand out in front of my face and marvel at my beautiful manicure. Sure, I can no longer dial 911 in the event of an emergency or button my own jeans, but Kim K. has a BlackBerry and a million pairs of latex pants that don’t require buttoning, so perhaps I should consider the nails an opportunity to revamp the other non-Kardashian aspects of my life. Maybe having monster talons is the ultimate luxury, because you can no longer do a single thing for yourself, instead relying on the kindness of stylists to pull your pants up for you or, in my case, the owner of the downstairs bodega to clasp on your bracelet.
The next day is Charlotte’s 3rd birthday, and I decide the best birthday present I can give her is to file down the nails to a tolerable length that will no longer freak her out or cause a small chemical fire when attempting to light her birthday candles. I hack away at them for 20 minutes, first with a nail cutter and then a sharp file, until my dad comes over with a small garbage can and says in the same tone he used for scolding me in high school: “Please do not remove those things on my couch.” Once free of the nail-prison, I can’t help but celebrate. “Are there any cans that need opening?” I sing. “I can do that now!”
Maddie and Charlotte are relieved that my hands appear relatively normal again. “I’m glad that’s over,” Maddie says, as if we have both just returned back from a harrowing ordeal we must never again discuss.
Would I get long talon nails again? Probably not. But in New York, where a professional set of gel acrylics will set you back more than $100, it’s a small price to pay to feel slightly more like a Kardashian. With nails like that, your hands automatically transform mundane tasks like swiping your MetroCard or applying lotion into exercises in glamour. As it turns out, a set of gorgeous acrylics is a signifier of wealth far more potent than any luxury car or designer shoes. Unlike a Céline bag, a four-inch manicure says, “I not only volunteered to make myself a functionally useless human being, but I paid for it, too.”