10 Ways Your Life Changes Depending On The Length Of Your Nails

An accident left me with short nails for the first time in almost two years, and I'm learning how weird life is without length.
Publish date:
September 25, 2013
broken nails, short nails, long nails, dark nails, ladytalons, nail accidents, natural nails

Last weekend, the unthinkable happened: I got my hand caught in a door, and one of my beautiful long nails snapped off.

It broke so far down that there was no help for it: the nail was gone. And because I couldn’t stomach the thought of one stubby nail and nine long ones, I grabbed my nail file and got rid of all of them. Thus my magnificent talons were reduced to mere nubs.

Now, for the first time in close to two years, I have short fingernails. And it is aggressively weird. I’m really shocked at how strange and different stuff is, going from very long to very short nails.

Since the road to growing ladytalons is paved with broken nail accidents like this, I decided to make this list of the things you notice when you go from having very long nails to very short ones. Because you’ll have to cut all of yours off at least once, guys. Forewarned is forearmed.

1. The tips of your fingers will hurt.

People never get sick of asking you how you do stuff with long nails, and the answer is always “with the pads and sides of my fingers, rather than the very tips.”

That’s how I type and text and apply makeup and pet my dog and hold down the strings on my ukulele. It doesn’t feel wrong or unnatural, and if it weren’t for people always asking me how I do stuff, I wouldn’t even know anything was different.

As a result, nothing has really touched the very tips of my fingers for months, and now they’re SUPER-sensitive, like ten sulky babies with a lot of special feelings. I’ve been writing all day today and my fingers actually HURT. Who would expect that? It’s gonna take some time to toughen them up.

2. Your hands will look different.

Duh, right? One of the reasons I grew my nails in the first place is because I have very small hands, especially for a tall person, and long nails make them look more proportional. Now that they’re short, I feel like I have doll hands on a giant body.

I painted them a mature colour (Branwen’s Feather by Butter London), but I can’t shake the feeling that I have the hands of an eight-year-old.

3. You have to change the way you do things.

I know a lot of you have been inspired to grow out your own pair of ultra-long glamour nails after seeing mine, which is the best compliment EVER. And you guys already know that it’s easy to adapt to having long nails, because they grow so slowly that you get used to them a little at a time, and you change how you manage stuff by tiny increments.

Not so when you go from long to short. That happens in ten minutes flat. All of the ways I’m used to doing things have been thrown out the window, and I have to learn how to do really basic stuff all over again.

I’m being a little dramatic here, but for real. I have had to change the way I wash my hair, the way I hold my hands to type, how I use my phone, how I pick things up and hold them, how I put in (and take out) my contacts--which has been the hardest, by the way--and this is not even close to being a complete list.

It is SO STRANGE to go to pick up a pen and realise you have to physically touch THE ENTIRE THING with your fingers, rather than just loosely clutching it with the ends of your long nails.

4. You don’t have to be so careful.

I am not a naturally careful person. I have learned how to cultivate being careful the same way I’ve learned how to be patient--with YEARS of struggle. And when you have long nails, you HAVE to be careful. Every clumsy arm movement is a potentially snapped nail (and temper).

Not so with short nails. Just this morning I went to dry my hands, sort of overshot the distance between me and the wall and slammed a couple of my fingertips straight into it. I had a moment where my stomach lurched with residual “NAIL ACCIDENT!” panic, and then I went...hang on. My nails are short now, so there’s nothing to break. No worries!

I mean, I still have worries. Just not about my this.

5. Manicures are quicker...

Even thought tea bag wraps are easy to do, they’re pretty time-consuming when you have to do six of them every week. Such are the trials of those of us who have delicate, papery nails and still want them long!

Now that my nails are short, my manicures take, like, 20 minutes. I think this is partly a function of there just being less to have to paint. And as much as I love shaping and maintaining my super-long nails, I’m kind of into this aspect of stubbiness.

6. ... But they chip more easily.

I will be totally honest: I had forgotten what it was like to have nail polish that chips. Having long nails that you are very careful about (and where the tips only make occasional contact with surfaces), you don’t really get chipped polish. Sure, it wears down sometimes at the very tips, but a good top coat helps keep that to a minimum.

Now I’m getting chips and dings and it’s all dreadful. It’s likely because I’m drunk on this don’t-have-to-worry-bout-breaking-my-nails power and I’m just flinging my arms around like a weird muppet while screaming.

Need to be slightly more restrained, I think.

7. Your dog will be mad at you.

Oliver loooooooved my long nails. They were perfect for ear scritches. Now that I have to go back to using my fingertips, he’s acting like he ordered steak and I served him a giant bowl of dirt instead. “What the hell is this? Where’s the good stuff?”

To console him, I’ve been letting him sit on my lap while I work at my desk: the ultimate treat for a nosy pup.

If I miss any deadlines this week, that's why.

8. You’ll be out ten tools.

Figuring out how much I relied on my long nails has been really frustrating. I never realised it when I had them, but as the song says, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

I covered them with tissues and used the flat side of my nails to extract sebaceous filaments from my nose. I used the very edges of my thumbnails to clean nail polish off my cuticles when I give myself a manicure. I drummed them against the underside of my dog’s metal bowl to call him for dinner.

Now I’ve got nothing, and it sucks. I feel so unprepared for life. It’s like going from having a Swiss Army Knife to a slightly pointy stick. Sigh.

9. You’ll realise that you weren’t that emotionally attached to your nails...

This was weird, because I LOVED my long nails. They were one of my favourite things about myself, mostly because of how much work I put into them. But when it was time to get rid of them, I wasn’t sad. I didn’t have any emotional reaction whatsoever. I just went, “Okay, time to do this” and got down to it.

It’s a bit like in the opening scene of 500 Days of Summer, where Summer realises that she loves her hair, but can cut it off and feel nothing.

Actually it’s exactly like that, only substitute one keratinous material for another.

10. ... But that everyone else was.

My long nails had become part of my THING, and now that they’re gone I’m getting a lot of near-tearful looks and dramatic statements about how bummed I must be. Nobody seems to believe me when I say that it’s okay--I mean, they’ll grow back--and that although it’s weird, I’m really not sweating my little nubs that much.

I do like that people care about me and my nails enough to have a reaction like this, though. It’s really sweet. I'll be fine, I promise!

What’s been your biggest nail accident? Ever go from long to short when you didn’t want to? How about going from short to long? I haven’t had fake nails since my high school prom (and they ruined my natural nails for a year afterwards), but I remember that being JUST as disorienting.