Don't those get in the way?
December 7, 2016 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Genuinely curious: how do people adapt to life's daily demands while maintaining really long, ornate fingernails or wearing large bracelets and/or rings?

About me: I am a lifelong nail biter and I cannot STAND having anything on my wrists or hands save for one flat little Claddagh ring on my right hand.

But whenever I have been able to grow my nails out some, or when I wear another larger ring or accessory, I am IMMEDIATELY struck by how differently I now have to approach basically everything I do with my hands. I can't text the same way, I can't wash my hands the same way, I have to be more careful getting dressed or getting things in and out of a bag, and typing becomes more difficult.

So when I see people with really long, immaculately maintained nails, or super ornate 3D nail art, or someone with big rings on every finger, or someone who wears a whole lot of big bangles on their wrists, I am struck by just how differently they must have to do things than I, with my mostly unencumbered hands, do.

Mefites who have long, fancy nails, who wear hella rings, and/or who have a bit of a bracelet addiction: tell me your ways!

What concessions and changes have you had to make in order to accommodate your most excellent fashion and fingernail choices? Are there certain situations where you always have to remove your jewelry or trim your nails? Have you ever lost jewelry this way?

Are there certain types of clothing you avoid because they're too hard to manage with long nails? Do you feel "naked" without your rings or bracelets the same way my hands feel weirdly heavy whenever I wear extra jewelry?

Do you have any pet peeves or unique problems that are a direct result of having long nails or big rings (snagging sweaters, breaking nails, etc.)? Are there any unique advantages?

posted by helloimjennsco to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I am the same as you.

I read How I Do Everything From Dialing a Phone to Opening Soda Cans With Long, Terrifying Witch Nails by Madeira Darling, which includes the following:

"I also dry under each nail with a Q-tip after washing to prevent water from settling under the nail and weakening it or encouraging the growth of bacteria. Yes I am high maintenance. You didn’t expect this to be easy did you?"

"Yes, I can wipe my own ass, no it’s not hard, no I’m not explaining how I do it, but I will say it doesn’t require any special implements, and isn’t any more complicated than how you wipe your ass."

"Acrylics are flammable, so be careful around fire. Use long fireplace matches and long butane lighters to keep flames well away from your hands."
posted by meemzi at 9:06 AM on December 7, 2016 [15 favorites]

I went through a period with just moderately long fake nails, and I found typing on the keyboard particularly challenging at first. With short-cut nails (my usual) I type with my fingers quite curled and strike the keys with the tippy-tops of my fingers. When I had long nails I had to learn how to type with my fingers more straight and strike the keys with the pads of my fingers. It still caused the occasional accidental key press on the row above the key I was attempting to strike, but that was no biggie.

As for things like zippers, I learned to zip them with my fingers sideways rather than straight on, if you know what I mean. Straight on the nails got in the way and scraped along the zipper (ruining them). Sideways I was able to get the zipper with the pads of my fingers, protecting my nails.

Opening pop cans, I either got someone else to do it OR I used a spoon or some other prying device.

I also spent most of my high school years wearing about 8 silver bangles on my right wrist, and I don't mean little thin things. Substantial bangles. I even slept with them on, so yes, I definitely felt naked when I didn't have them on. They weren't an inconvenience FOR ME but I had people complain about the clanking and jingling against my desk while I typed, so I had to stop wearing them all the time.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:31 AM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think it's just a matter of adjusting. If you allow enough time to get used to something different, you will. I've seen people with very long nails use the tip of the nail the way I would use the tip of my finger. No idea if that works for, say, playing guitar.

I don't wear a bracelet on my mousing hand.
posted by sageleaf at 9:36 AM on December 7, 2016

Are there any unique advantages?

I don't have very long nails, just maybe about like this at their absolute longest. The natural curve of my thumbnail when they're that long tapers my chubby thumbs in a way that really helps for touch screens. Like a LOT. Like to the point where if a nail breaks or I have to cut them short for some reason, it's typo city because my thumbprint fattens back out.
posted by phunniemee at 9:38 AM on December 7, 2016

I have seen people with long fake nails use a pencil (eraser end) to punch in a number on a desk phone.
posted by scratch at 9:56 AM on December 7, 2016

Anecdotal answers to some of your questions -

I'm an every day watch wearer and I favor bigger, chunky, bracelet-style ones - I take them off when sitting at my desk and typing to prevent clanking and avoid any scratches on the watch's alloy.

I also like rings, though I don't usually wear big ones at work, and I often take those off too while typing. It's just my habit now.

I do feel "naked" without a watch and without at least one ring on each hand.
posted by superfluousm at 10:01 AM on December 7, 2016

I had long nails in high school and adjustments to everyday life were minor, slight changes to how I held my hands. (It probably also made a difference that they grew out slowly so adjustment happened incrementally; they may feel more burdensome if you get fake ones that are a sudden change.) I did cut them when I started a job as a bank teller because I was getting used to doing a lot of fast typing on a number pad, but let them grow back again soon after and they were no longer a problem once I was accustomed to the task.

They required fewer accommodations than short vs. longer-than-shoulder-length hair dids.
posted by metasarah at 10:06 AM on December 7, 2016

I have a friend who wore pretty decently long acrylics for more than a decade, and they were fully integrated into her life. She typed with them 90+wpm, generally had a pencil or similar tool on hand for can-opening and the like, and had an excellent sense of spatial relationships (the reason I could not live with similar nails) so she wasn't constantly shattering them trying to open the car door etc.

The era ended when her first child was less than a month old. I don't know if it was a scratch or if there was a diaper situation involved that ended it, but it's been long enough now that she's like "how did I even function?"
posted by Lyn Never at 10:11 AM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

In high school I wore rings on all my fingers. Other than sleeping and bathing, the only activity I removed them for was colorguard practice, because they would clank like hell on the flagpole.

I occasionally wear larger bracelets or multiple bracelets. If they're substantial enough I'll be more or less constantly aware that I'm wearing them, but they generally don't interfere with things.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:29 AM on December 7, 2016

My engagement ring is not huge, but it is ever-so-slightly too big, which doesn't affect me in my day-to-day living, but it does affect me when I play guitar. Every time I play (which is often), I simply move my ring to my middle finger. When I'm done playing, I move it back again. This doesn't bother me.

I also don't wear any rings or bracelets on my mousing/writing (right) hand, because this does bother me.
posted by dearwassily at 11:24 AM on December 7, 2016

It's a matter of adjusting and also attitude. I will happily wear all kinds of jewellery at work but as soon as I get home I take off all jewellery. I generally don't notice it much during the day and out and about but I still can't stand it at home. That does not make a lot of sense.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:28 AM on December 7, 2016 [12 favorites]

I've had acrylic and gel nails before at a moderate-long length -- not quite like the ones in the xoJane piece listed above -- and because the fakes are much stronger than natural nails it's really not a problem to do anything. The first time I had them it was a little weird to do a couple things, like do up jeans or open a beer can, but once you learn how hold your finger a little different it's not at all. Texting is a little harder with long nails -- you have to angle your finger a little so your finger touches the screen and not your nail -- but I'm a programmer who types all day and I never had a problem with the nails on the keyboard.

Fake nails are also blunt on the end, so they don't really catch on sweaters and things. However I did break a swimcap with my nails once.
posted by noxperpetua at 11:47 AM on December 7, 2016

I wear big or multiple bangles a lot. They sometimes get in the way - putting a coat on or taking it off, typing for long periods of time, and they can clunk when you raise your hand to eat. For the first two issues, I generally take them off, and then put back on when the activity is over. But you pretty much adapt to them. Honestly, my biggest problem with larger, chunkier bracelets is that putting your hand down on a desk or tabletop normally can start to scratch them - so my biggest reason to wear them less often is to protect them, not for my own ease of use.

Having said that, I only wear bracelets on my right (dominant) hand. It just feels weird on the left.
posted by Mchelly at 11:59 AM on December 7, 2016

My nails are long (XO article photo at their shortest but not talon length) and are Wolverine strength. Because they are very difficult to break, I use the tips of them instead of my fingertips. The advantages are I have a built in set of tweezers which I used to prod and pick up things I might not otherwise touch such as something hot or sticky (I don't like the feel of sticky stuff). I also use them to slice open packing tape on boxes. I usually go without polish because it chips quickly but when I do, I feel more constrained about using my nails as tools.

The downsides are I'm hard on keyboards and occasionally stab or scratch myself. I have to angle my fingers to interact w/ capacitive touch screens rather than poking at them straight on. Also, there was that time I tried to learn how to make balloon animals that didn't go so well.

I can't bear to wear rings or bracelets.
posted by jamaro at 12:02 PM on December 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

When handling raw chicken or hot peppers, I always wear vinyl gloves so nasty bits don't collect under my fingernails.
posted by DrGail at 12:30 PM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have armloads of silver bangles and glass bangles from India, and lots of Bakelite and other vintage bracelets. When I wear some of them to work, I take them off when I type, and also when I write on a flat surface (doesn't bother me if I'm writing on a flip chart or whiteboard). Otherwise I'm just nuts for the noise they make when I'm presenting or otherwise waving my arms around. I also LOVE rings, even large/weird shapes that other people might say are uncomfortable between their fingers - the only concession I make here is to take them off after I wash up to make sure my fingers are really dry, or if I'm using hand lotion. My nails are another story all together - the second I can feel them scratching past the keys on my laptop to the "in between" space, I have to cut them - drives me buggy.

I've only ever once lost a bracelet - it was a chain bracelet with a magnetic clasp, and best I can figure it was stolen off my wrist by a file cabinet someplace!
posted by ersatzkat at 2:28 PM on December 7, 2016

I wear 8 bracelets and 8 rings at all times. I chose to wear lots of jewelry because I live nomadically, and it's much easier to collect jewelry than it is to collect, say, a fabulous boot collection. I had to 'choose' to be comfortable with having them on my wrists and fingers, but once I did, I don't even notice them. I never take any of them off ever. I sleep, shower, and weld with them in. They have become part of me and it feels odd to not have them on.
posted by Vaike at 3:47 PM on December 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

I have moderately long nails--usually longer than the ones that phunniemee linked, tho not fake-nail talons long. Sometimes one will tear or break and I'll cut them all off, which is moderately annoying to me--it makes my fingertips feel uncomfortably sensitive and exposed.

Mostly I don't notice my nails unless they're short for some reason, tho. I use either the pads of my fingers or my nails for tasks, depending on what the task is, and don't avoid anything because of my nails--I work in home health care (which includes caring for people in fairly intimate ways) and am a queer woman (presumably you can figure out how this is relevant) and my nails have never been a problem in either of those things. I keep them filed smooth, so that there's no jaggy bits to catch or scratch anything. It's just never been a problem.
posted by mishafletch at 4:22 PM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I bite my nails down to nothing but occasionally get acrylics. For the first day or two everything feels a little off, but I quickly adjust and everything is normal. Strangely, I couldn't describe any of the differences in how I use my fingers with the nails. Even though I'd say my spatial awareness is quite poor, I think I subconsciously make and learn small adjustments for all the little daily tasks. In general, I'm not someone who picks up physical things by osmosis, but maybe using hands is so basic and subconscious that it even works for me.

If I try hard to step back and think about the differences, I'd say I use the skin on the side of my finger for tapping any touchscreens, and tend to slide stuff to pick it up since you can't get the nail under anything.

I don't know if the rings I wear are big enough for me to justifiably weigh in on that section of your question, but I'd say it's another thing you have to get used to. Just like your brain adjusts to filter out the sensation of always wearing underwear and a million other things that cause a feeling but don't register, I think that you can learn to not notice jewelry. Rings are always crazy uncomfortable and jarring for me, but then feel invisible after a few days. I get used to them and stop noticing. Maybe people who wear ornate jewelry operate differently though-- I'm very hard on my jewelry and tend to break it. It might be that bulky jewelry ends up being kind of the opposite and you get used to noticing it.
posted by sometamegazelle at 9:02 PM on December 7, 2016

I recently encountered an assistant in a department store with very long acrylic nails. Her POS was touchscreen style and she very deftly completed the entire transaction using her knuckles to key.
posted by Ness at 3:44 AM on December 8, 2016

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