Monday, April 23, 2012

Sociology of Nail Polish

Yesterday, I turned 19. I can’t even wear heels properly or paint my nails in a non-outrageous color.
After a lovely evening of dinner with my family, I spent the late hours of yesterday night, painting my nails the wildest shade of purple, and then Instagram-ed the experience.
But, alas, I am 19 today. It’s our final day of Sociology of Cinema. It seems only fitting that I write about my obsession with colored nail polish and how it relates to three things I learned this semester in class. 1. I’ve always had an obsession with outrageous shades of nail polish. I rarely ever painted my nails red. At my cousin’s wedding last year, the entire crowd got a French manicure, all prim and proper. I added a gold lightning bolt and green rhinestones. Nails are a character statement, and they so vividly stand out as an emblem of personality. Yet at the end of the day, this is a societal construct.
Girls are socially conditioned to put paint on nails. All the greats do it, from TV cooking hosts to musicians on stage. 2. I have a gigantic box of nail polish, stowed away in a Mickey Mouse tin lunch box.
I may even over-consume, especially when I find a good sale. When we talked about the traits of girly films, one of the most prevalent themes was the female ability to shop skillfully. Our consumer culture encourages such behavior through films. It’s an image, repeated over and over, until we treat it as natural behavior. 3. I usually do my nails at home, unless I am in Lebanon, in which case, I go to the salon and bring my nail polish with me. Of all cultures obsessed with beauty and image, my experiences in Lebanon take the cake. People visit the hair and nail salon often, and expect visitors (such as myself) to do the same. Its nice to get all dolled up occasionally, but keeping up with the routine is way too labor-intensive for me in the hot summer months. How often do Westerners see this image of beauty-conscious Arabs in the media? Other than Caramel, the film by Lebanese director Nadine Labaki, none come to mind. Quite a few people were shocked to learn that 2010’s Miss America was an Arab American/Muslim American woman. We are a multi-dimensional bloc, just like any other culture or ethnicity. The day that Hollywood respects the complexity of Arab characters will be quite a celebration.

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