Nine months ago, if you shook my hand, you’d might have been appalled by craggy-calloused palm, chalk-dried cuticles, and ragged nails. Despite having hands that unmistakably marked me as a CrossFit athlete, and one who doesn’t moisturize, I didn’t have my first manicure until after my partner and I broke up.
After we split, I had to face the reality that I’d slowly devolved away from my true and best self. Truthfully, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done something just. for. me. So when my female friends—who, bless them, rallied behind me like an army of heart-menders—lugged me out of my bed-o-wallow to get a manicure, I didn’t drag my feet… much.
The experience of having my nails and cuticles cut, filed, shaped, and moisturized, and then nails painted, was surprisingly calming. I stopped crying, I stopped thinking about my ex, I stopped thinking about anything, really. Instead, I breathed, I watched the hands work on my hands, and as my hands transformed slowly before my eyes, I felt calm.
In part, I think this is because touch is one of my main love languages, so having my fingers and hands massaged, rubbed, and groomed made me felt cared for. In part, I think it’s because I literally couldn’t reach for my phone and check (or force myself *not* to check), my ex’s social media. And in part, I think there’s something a hypnotic quality of watching a manicurist work.
What I hadn’t expected, was the joy I’d felt for weeks after we’d left the salon, every time I’d look down at the splash of color on my nails
So, after the paint chipped off and my hands started to resemble their old ways, I went back. And for the last nine months, even as I’ve started to heal from my break-up, I’ve continued to go back.
As a writer living in Manhattan, with monthly rent that reflects that, I can’t go spending money willy-nilly. And in New York City, there are a thousand things fighting for your attention and money at all times. Still, I prioritize my bi-weekly manicures. Twice a month I shell out about $60 for my local nail salon’s (gel) manicure and 10-minute massage package.
While my Mom has gestured towards my nail “art,” as if to question my money-spending habits, getting a manicure isn’t just a money-suck. It’s me investing in me, in my well-being.
Right now, for instance, as I type madly on my computer, I can look down at the flashes of red dancing across the keyboard for a visual and visceral reminder that 1. I matter and am worth taking care of, 2. Hard things (like heartbreak and loneliness) pass, and 3. I’m doing it. I’m supporting myself with my dream job, and not only am I making ends meet, but I’m able to set aside money for things like manicures. (And on days when imposter syndrome is r-e-a-l, this last one is especially beneficial).
According to Courtney Glashow, LCSW is the founder and psychotherapist of Anchor Therapy LLC in Hoboken, New Jersey, budgeting for self-care really *does* send an important message to yourself. “You work hard for your money, so budgeting for and spending money on yourself can be therapeutic because it is telling yourself that you deserve a break from your day-to-day stress, that your happiness, relaxation, and pleasure matter.”
For you, a manicure may not be the self-care thing that you choose to budget for. It may be a gym class, a long-distance phone-call with a friend, a self-help book, a nice cup of coffee, a monthly massage. Whatever it may be, Glashow says, “When you budget for a manicure or another self-care practice, you you telling yourself that you deserve to feel happy and be cared for.” I can attest just how powerful that reminder is.
Of course, the “Treat Yourself” mentality can get you into trouble if you do spend too much money, money that you don’t have, or use money to mask problems. That’s why Shirin Peykar LMFT, Founder of “Let’s Talk Divorce” heeds one warning, “If you start spending money on self care habits in order to avoid feeling uncomfortable feelings like sadness, shame, insecurity, anger, anxiety, or guilt, you’re not doing yourself a service.” Skirting and painting over (literally and/or figuratively) the hard stuff isn’t self-care, it’s avoidance. So long as we’re investing in ourselves responsibly, though, budgeting for self-care is world-making (and I’d argue, heart-healing).
Do yourself a favor, and set aside some green. Trust me, you deserve it.