Charm School: The World At Her Fingertips



My hands look worn.  They are scarred in places and the veins are slightly ropey.  I struggle with dry rough cuticles and despite repeated oil treatments they must be clipped, or produce painful hang nails.  I remember the hands of my youth, with long oval nails and the softness of skin.  I had dreamed of being a hand model.  That dream vanished a long time ago as my hands have taken on the mien of one who works with her hands day in and day out.  Just the other day my husband took my hand in his and told me how much he appreciated the strength of my hands, how glad he was that they were firm and strong and gentle at the same time.   He couldn't have given me a nicer compliment. 

I recall two friends who were contrasts.  One was a woman I met when I was a young newlywed.  She had lovely hands and beautiful long nails that she kept painted a bubble gum pink for all the years I knew her.  That was the only color I ever saw her wear on her nails.  She didn't dial the rotary dial phone (oh those old things, lol) with her fingers.  No, she took up a pen or pencil and used that to dial her phone.  When picking up coins or popping the top of a 12 ounce drink, she used the pads of her fingers.  She took great care of her hands, had made it a habit, and they were a lovely asset to her.

Contrast her with the other friend who worked at a job that required her to type nearly all day long in full public view.  She was a nice girl who presented herself very well.  Her hair was shining and lovely, she had developed a fashion style that was all her own and which suited her perfectly.  But look at her poor hands.  Her nails were bitten back to halfway of the nail bed. Her cuticles were ripped and torn and often infected.   Her poor fingers looked mangled!  It always shocked me to see her fingers when she was so well put together otherwise.  It was as though her hands revealed a rather shameful secret about her.  Often people who were being waited upon by her would comment on the state of her hands.   Yet it did not stop her nasty habit of biting them down hard.



While I much admire those with long nails, my nails are weak and break.  Long nails are not much suited to typing for hours a day as I do, nor for housework.  I have learned that I cannot possibly keep polish on my nails for more than a couple of days no matter how well applied nor how premium a brand.  Repeated applications of nail polish  and  polish remover dry out my poor nails even more.  That is one reason I'm so fond of Jamberry wraps.  They last up to a week before they begin to grow out and I begin to get tired of them, but I have worn them as much as two weeks without a problem.  I like to allow my nails to 'rest' between applications with only the rare application of polish these days.

I do care for my nails.  I oil my cuticles daily and use lotion at least three times a day.  Rightly I should be using work gloves and applying lotion as often as I wash my hands.  I try to keep my nails filed to a pleasing shape and I clip them as they get too long to comfortably type.  I use a cuticle remover once a week.  Despite this, my nails peel and bend and chip.   I've tried everything including the daily eating of jello and still they are what they are.  My nails are nice enough and that's about all the merit they have.

First let us talk about proper care of hands.  Housework is hard on the hands.  They must be protected.  Invest in a pair of rubber gloves to use when cleaning while using harsh chemicals or when hand washing dishes and yes, I do own some.  When working outdoors in the garden wear cotton gloves.  Yes, it does take some getting used to wearing gloves to work in but the benefits to your hands are considerable. 

Did you know that there are trends in nail shapes?  In the 1930's there was a very sharp pointed nail, often painted with a tip and half moon of a clear color and the nail between painted some shade of red that was popular.  The current trend of a colored tip on a bare nail was set way back then.  See?  There really isn't anything new under the sun!  About 1940 the oval shape became more popular along with painting the nail from top to bottom in one shade and that has stayed in style for decades.  Today there are all sorts of shapes one might choose: coffin, stiletto, squoval which is a squared oval shape and more.  Oval and squoval are almost universally attractive to most hands and gives the nail added strength, preventing snagging and breaking.

It is not uncommon to see women with short nails painted a dark color like gray or black or navy, even  older women in their 50's,  60's and 70's.   There are no restrictions these days about age and nail color nor style.  It's really up to you.  Of course, you choose the style that is most attractive for your hands and best suited to your occupation.

For myself, I do lean towards the short squoval.  My hands have grown more squared off as I've gotten older and this shape suits my fingers as well as my occupation of writer and homemaker. 

There are tutorials on manicures and there are salons that will happily provide you with a manicure but it's entirely possible to do at home if you've more time than money.  Look online and you'll find a video or a slideshow that will explain all about it. There are three basics to a good manicure:
cuticle care, nail shaping and skin care:

#1.  Every time you wash your hands, gently push back the cuticles using the towel.  Use a cuticle remover once a week to remove the invisible cuticle, a line of skin that you might not see but by which the cuticle is attached to your nail bed.  As this grows out it makes it more difficult to keep the cuticle in it's place.  Cuticle care is necessary if you're going to keep healthy nails. 

#2.  Shaping should be done with an emery or file.  Whatever shape you choose be sure that nails are even in length, edges are smooth.  Immediately take care of small chips and snags and you'll quite possibly save a nail.

#3.  And finally lotion is needed to replenish the oils in the skin of the hands and cuticles.  Rub it between your palms and then over your hands, between your fingers, even into the nailbeds.  And don't forget the wrists, forearms and elbows.  You might not realize it but arms and elbows are often in others' sight range and they see the whole picture even if you don't!  I well recall as a child asking Mama why she had biscuit dough on her elbows.  She didn't.  She did have rough dry skin though and my childish question soon had her applying some of her cold cream to them on a morning and night basis.  No more biscuit dough elbow!

I mentioned my love of Jamberry vinyl nail wraps.  I can do a full manicure in about a half hour tops and that's taking my own sweet time.  I love the ability to have a patterned nail and enjoy the creative process of mixing and matching a manicure.   I know that Rhonda likes to use press on nails.  I've seen many a photo of her nails on her blog and they really do look natural and stylish.  Katie recently mentioned a new form  of builder gel (a beauty product) that she can do at home.  I must say her nails looked amazing the other day and were flexible with this new product.   The gel nail manicures of today are so easy compared to the old acrylic nail stuff that used to come out lumpy unless you were truly an expert. 

Have you ever practiced moving your hands gracefully?  You can, you know.  While alone, practice picking up objects and holding them.  Stand before a mirror so you can get a full perspective of what you look like from the other side.  Hold a glass, a cup of coffee, a pen. I'll lay odds you did this as a teen and simply haven't thought of it since.  Take off your glasses and hold them in one had.  Is the way that you're holding them elegant and graceful?  Have you practiced clapping?  What about waving?  We young girls knew all about the 'screwing in the light bulb wave' that princesses and beauty queens use.  Be a queen for a moment and wave.  Remember your posture!!

Do you wear rings?  Do they suit you?  Not everyone can carry off a ring on every finger.  Are you really doing justice to your rings in wearing them in that way? 

Do you wear bracelets?  How do they look upon your arm?  I love bracelets and often don four or five tinkly metal bangles.  Though a big woman I cannot wear just any bangle however because my wrists and hands are smaller and they fall right off!  What doesn't suit my particular form are those stretchy sorts of bracelets that hug the wrist.  Only if they are a little large and fall gracefully below the wrist do they look right.  Those snug ones simply make me look like I have on a tourniquet.  I've seen plenty of women who can wear them just fine though.  Be critical with your jewelry.

And one last word about jewelry while we're on the subject:  Is it noticeably worn?  Are the finishes chipped or rubbed away?  Then remove it from your wardrobe.  If it's something sentimental then create a memory box and keep it there.  If it's just something you picked up and can't remember where then throw it away.  It's served it's purpose.  Go buy something new and more attractive.  And when I say new I mean new to you.  I've made it a habit since my poorest days to pick up costume jewelry in thrift and antique stores and at yard sales. 

Here's an article from one of my vintage Woman's Day magazines about hand care:


Just for fun, I thought I'd share this post on wearing gloves.

Here are loads of videos of different components of a manicure, including many tips on making repairs to broken nails and smudged polishes.

Finding the perfect shape nail for your hands.  I thought this article had some great information in it. 

At Couture Allure  scroll down the page to the post about carrying your purse and gloves.  Also look at her photos in the posts about sitting like a lady and standing like a lady and take careful note of the women's hands in those posts.  See how relaxed and graceful the hands look?  Practice those positions before your mirror until you too look as elegant as those ladies.

I cannot finish this post without mentioning the etiquette of shaking hands.

In the early year of last century, women rarely shook hands with a man.  In today's world, where many women are in business, a woman shaking hands with a man is far more common.  So let's do this correctly.  

First of all, it's my personal opinion that a woman's hand should be just as firm as a man's in shaking.  I am not speaking of clasping the hand so firmly that you immediately go into a contest of strength.  Number one it is terribly painful and number two it's rude!  You're not showing ascendency or supremacy. You're supposed to be polite.  No limp fish handshakes and no test of wills either.  Find that happy medium and practice it.  Keep the handshake brief.  You're not grabbing onto a lifeline of which you dare not let go.  Shake and then release. 

Number two there are perfectly correct times to shake hands and incorrect ones but if someone extends their hand for a handshake the polite thing to do is not glare at them for a breach of etiquette.  Etiquette demands that you take their hand and shake!  Anytime you leave someone embarrassed or shunned you are being rude.  Keep that in mind.

Usually the higher ranking individual (say a boss in the work place or an older person) would extend their hand first for a handshake but if they do not and you are in the work place, by all means extend your hand. 

A woman should stand to shake hands, if it is at all possible.  A lady does not remain sitting even if shaking the hand of another woman.  She should stand.  Granted if you're in a crowded restaurant or crowded about a conference table or at a party, it might not be possible but do sit up erectly and make as though you would stand. 

As a rule women offer their hand to other women in work and social settings.  Women offer their hands to men first in work settings, especially when it's a client  but in social settings a man should always extend his hand first. 

Well lovelies, that's a lot of food for thought today, agreed?  I hope you learned a few things.  I most certainly did!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just one thought before I read the latest post... are you going to also eventually have on the side the usual place to click to go back to other years or months of your posts? It was a help. Now that it is not there I can't remember all the "extras" you had to traverse your blog on the side other than that one. ..sorry :-) Sarah

Rhonda said...

Hi Terri,
This was fun to read. Finding press on nails has really been a dream come true for me. My nails have always been thin and weak but ive always wanted pretty nails. The salon gave me nice nails but they were so expensive, inconvenient and they concerned me with how safe they really were.
I feel so much better about myself when my nails look pretty.
I hope your readers will find a solution that works for them for pretty nails too.

Carolyn @ Our Gilded Abode said...

Hi!! Great post. As Sarah stated, I too can't seem to access the web view of your blog ... to find previous posts by date or topic. They don't show up on my mobile view. :)

sparky136 said...

I like the new layout, it's easier to read.

sparky136 said...

If you look to the top left, you will see 3 horizontal lines. Click on this and you can get the archives, I use an iPad.

Debby in KS said...

I keep hearing about those Jamberrys. I think I'm going to try some, just for fun. My nails have been manicured for about 35 yrs. now. Until my hysterectomy, they were incredible. Strong and beautiful. Now? Le poo poo. I still keep them polished, but with a light color. I'm not sure if they'll ever go back to their old form or not! My mom was the opposite. She always had breaking, peeling nails. When she was in her 60s and 70s, they were absolutely perfect. She used to say she would've killed for them when she was young. Only time will tell!

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