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I Use Nail Polish to Cope With Social Distancing

My New Social Distancing Hobby? Painting (and Repainting) My Nails

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Lisa Peterson

It's hard to believe it now, but until COVID-19 sent New Yorkers indoors, I regularly wore pants with buttons. I also wasn't riddled with anxiety about touching door handles and cardboard boxes, and I even indulged in the monthly manicure without fear. My, how times have changed.

I'm lucky that my experience with the novel coronavirus thus far has mostly meant a new surplus of downtime to fill. According to my social media feeds, many are using this space in their schedules to cultivate useful new skills. (Yes, I see all of your five-star banana breads on Instagram, and they look delicious.) I, on the other hand, find I am not capable of such impressive growth and development at the moment. I can't be trusted to operate an oven. Once an avid reader, cracking open a book for longer than two minutes now feels overwhelming. I'd attempt to embrace jogging to pass the time, but in the wise words of a TV nurse named Ann Perkins, "Jogging is the worst. I know it keeps you healthy, but god, at what cost?"

Right now, my agitated mind seems to only relax for a second when I line up my square bottles of Essie polish, plop down on a chair at my kitchen counter, and get to painting.

Right now, my agitated mind seems to only relax for a second when I line up my square bottles of Essie polish, plop down on a chair at my kitchen counter, and get to painting. When I first hauled my DIY manicure supplies out on a whim, I chose one shade to use on all my nails. I assumed I'd keep that colour on until it was finally too chipped to be respectable via Zoom. Soon, I found myself reaching back into my polish collection nearly every day to pick out a new shade and repeat the whole process. Now, five weeks into social distancing, I'm wearing three different, equally cheerful shades on each hand: robin's egg blue, pale lilac, and pastel yellow. It's not the sort of sophisticated look I'd normally go for, but hey, these are strange and unprecedented times.

While I'm not usually drawn to meditation (hold the whale sounds, thanks), applying careful coats of lacquer in small, even strokes has become a necessary mindfulness activity in my social distance beauty routine. I have to admit it, nail painting is its own kind of meditation. It requires 20 minutes of quiet concentration and steady breath, and once the steps are complete, I feel the tiniest bit calmer — satisfied, even.

Just like everyone else, I'm looking forward to the day the world returns to "normal" again. A crowded nail salon at rush hour on a Friday night sounds like heaven right now. But until then, I'll keep clinging to my deep admiration for our healthcare and service workers, my sincere gratitude for my health — and, yes, my supply of Essie nail polish bottles. Because it turns out that it's nearly impossible to let your mind wander to the looming threat of COVID-19 while wielding a paint brush in your left hand. And lucky for me, my new habit makes my hands look pretty great to boot.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Lisa Peterson
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