Tag Archives: lifestyle

Oops, I’m Addicted to Gel Manicures

My name is Charlotte Dow, and I’m addicted to gel manicures.

Now’s the time when you all say, “Hi, Charlotte.” That’s how these things go, right?

I honestly can’t remember my first manicure. I was probably way too young, and I probably messed it up two seconds later. Such is the way with children, particularly those with no fine motor skills. I do, however, remember hanging out in the local nail salon while my mom had a perfectly work-appropriate shade of beige applied to her tips. She’d chat with the manicurists and the other local ladies in the salon, listening to their family and work drama and sharing her own. I would sit in the corner and stack the Essie bottles like they were Legos.

As time went on and I became more interested in beauty, I’d join my mom in the salon every couple of weeks. Nail polish became my way of expressing myself without totally freaking out my parents. I’d try out bold colors – fire engine reds, deep navy blues, sparkly purples – in an attempt to show the world that I was edgy and cool. In truth, I didn’t know who the heck I was. Those nail colors were just another piece of the costumes I tried on while I tried to figure it out. Mom was always encouraging. She’d tell me when a shade didn’t quite match the dress I planned to wear to a bat mitzvah, or if it was too harsh on my essentially translucent skin. For the most part, though, she let me pick whatever I wanted. Nail polish comes off pretty easily – it wasn’t like I was dying my hair magenta.

Once I got to college and started managing my own money, I realized that I needed to learn how to do my own nails if I wanted to keep them colorful. Again, my fine motor skills leave something to be desired, and I don’t really have an eye for the visual arts. Manicure nights in my bunk at summer camp would usually end with Sally Hansen spilled all over the floor, my fingertips covered in black, chunky varnish. I was a mess when it came to the DIY manicure. But, with a little practice (and several bottles of $2 drugstore polish), I learned how to do a decent enough job of painting my own nails. My collection of (now dried out) colors aside, I managed to save myself a fair amount of money.

Trimming your nails over a trashcan in front of your TV just doesn’t quite compare to the real nail salon experience, though. There’s something comforting about the bright fluorescent lights, the TV that’s tuned into CNN at all hours of the day, and someone massaging your hand hard enough to pinch a nerve. In a way, it feels like home, which is probably the bougiest sentence I’ve ever written.

When I moved to New York, I started visiting the nail salon more often, when I had the time and money. They’re ubiquitous around here – there are literally three salons within steps of my apartment – which drives down the cost of a standard mani a bit. The New York manicure is famous for a reason. Our technicians will get you in and out and looking fresh in no time. This isn’t without controversy of course: a 2015 piece in the New York Times exposing harsh working conditions and underpayment of nail salon workers led to stronger government regulations of city salons.

Despite this, nail salons are more popular than ever, and one recent innovation has truly changed the manicure game: the gel manicure. I had heard about these longer lasting manicures when they first became popular a few years ago. They sounded perfect for me, but I was hesitant to try a $35 treatment I could more or less do at home with stuff from the drugstore. I also heeded the warnings of nearly every women’s magazine that the process could lead to premature wrinkles and weakened nails. I’m trying to live forever, y’all, and I want my nails to be nice and strong for the whole ride.

My mind changed when it came time for my first barbershop contest. My group has very clear guidelines of what we can and cannot wear onstage for contest, right down to the color of our nails. I wanted my nails to look polished and natural, and I wanted them to last throughout the contest weekend. With my habits, a regular manicure only lasts a few days before it starts to chip. Since I didn’t have much time right before the event to get my nails done, I figured it was time to bite the bullet and try gels.

Not every gel manicure I’ve had has been perfect. Some last longer than others, depending on the color, the salon, and what I’m doing that week. But I’m completely addicted to the feeling of having fully polished nails for more than a few days, without having to worry about chipping or peeling. Once the manicurist is done, I’m done – no sitting under a lamp for 20 minutes or more, constantly checking to see if my nails are actually dry. They’re goof proof. And I am very prone to goofs.

There’s also something very meditative about the nail salon experience. They’re not particularly relaxing by nature – they’re often crowded and blasting music, or the aforementioned constant feed from CNN. But it’s nice to just sit down and have someone take care of you for half an hour or so. It’s a time for me to sit still, which is something I’ve always had trouble with. I’ve gotten into the habit of going to the salon on my lunch break, when time and money allows, and it’s the perfect little break in my workday. I try to space out my manicures and give my nails some time to breathe. But I enjoy it as a little treat from time to time.

So here’s to you, fellow gel addicts. May your nails never chip, and may your wallets always be full.

Tiny Houses Stress Me Out | BEDA Day 13

I saw this video from the New York Post (ugh) this morning about a studio apartment with a full kitchen, guest bedroom, and living area…all in 309 square feet. This trend of small but hyper-functional living spaces has become incredibly pervasive in the last few years with rents rising in cities around the world and the advent of the tiny house movement. I appreciate these spaces from a design standpoint. Having all that functionality in one small space is quite a feat.

Despite this, I just can’t see myself living in one of these spaces. As Amy Poehler says, “Good for you! Not for me.”

The Tiny House Movement started around the early 2000s and gained steam after the financial crisis of 2007-08. Tiny homes offer a more affordable and eco-friendly option for homebuyers, and the houses are often used as housing solutions for the homeless and victims of natural disasters. A typical tiny house costs around $25,000, significantly less than a more traditional home. In cities, microapartments create more housing options for singles looking to live alone, freeing up larger apartments for families. With both housing styles, residents are forced to live simply, essentially KonMari-ing their lives to fit in a space under 500 square feet.

I currently live in a studio apartment, and a sizable one at that (at least by New York standards). It’s nice, I try to keep it as open and tidy as possible, and I’m incredibly grateful for it. I can’t really complain about having an apartment to myself in New York City. That said, my place still a box. It’s a railroad apartment, so it doesn’t get a ton of light. Cooking is possible, but difficult, and you can’t really fit more than one person in my kitchen. It’s basically the length of my (relatively small) wingspan. I keep my bags and shoes under my bed because I don’t have enough closet space. On dark days it feels even smaller.

This is all fine by me, since I don’t spend a ton of time at home. I work long hours and when I get home, all I want to do is sleep. Reassembling my bed every night when I’m too exhausted to move would get really old after a while. I’d probably end up sleeping on the couch every night. I’d probably also end up cooking less if I had to build myself a kitchen every time I wanted to make spaghetti. Half of this comes down to me being lazy, but it just doesn’t seem like a way to live.

I’d love to stay in one of these spaces for a few nights, maybe in a hotel or something. But I don’t see myself living in what is essentially a Barbie Dream Apartment long term. I may be a small person, but I need some room to spread out and breathe a little. I still dream of having a terrace and, if I wish on a shooting star or Boeing 747, an actual bedroom.

It also seems to me like these kind of apartments just give property managers more reasons to keep rents sky high. The more functional the space, the more they can charge. Space is already at a premium in most cities, and I feel like if we accept life in smaller spaces, the apartments on the market will just get smaller. I could be totally wrong here, but this whole trend can’t be healthy.

If you want to live tiny, good for you. I actually do enjoy watching shows like Tiny House Nation and Tiny House Hunters just to see what people can do with their space. People can do pretty amazing things with a trailer, some wood, and their imagination (and a nice budget from HGTV).

The Tiny Life is just not for me. I may be tiny, but I still want to take up space.