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Elisabeth: The Great Nail Meltdown of 2012

I tend to tell people I handle mild stress really badly—think wailing and gnashing of teeth—but that when there’s a real crisis I am calm and competent. I spend days agonizing about what prints to buy from the photographer, but I easily take charge standing on the side of the road near to our decimated car.

For the most part, judging by my extremely poor reaction to it, wedding planning fell firmly into the “mild stress” category. A week before leaving for London, when I had not yet gotten my immigration papers back from the embassy (yeah… the immigration saga is long and unpleasant and not yet over), I was screaming full-throatedly at my little sister over proper vacuuming technique by day, and crying hysterically to Amin over the phone by night. However, I comforted myself, with no small amount of pride, that I would almost certainly pull it together for the wedding.

And I did. As I had predicted, once we arrived in London I was suddenly calm, confident and self-possessed. I, who had dug in my heels over every tiny issue during the lead-up, was making snap decisions like the Queen of England. What do we want to do for a guest book? Bam! Delegate. We don’t have time to go to dinner and to get my henna tattoos? Easy: order in. Do I want my hair high on the top or big in the back? What the heck, let’s go for the big-bootied hairdo. On the day of the wedding, as I entered the venue for the first time, I was accosted by our day-of coordinator who wanted to know what kind of music I wanted to hear when I walked down the aisle (something my panicked pre-wedding self had been unable to even consider). Within thirty seconds, we had made a decision. It was lucky that I didn’t really care about any of these issues at that point—I was laser-focused on the two-pronged goal of “Get married. Be married.” All of my friends and family noted repeatedly how calm and in control I seemed, and I must say I was pretty impressed with myself as well. That’s right, I was The Decider. The Fortress of Calm. The Bride Who Would Not Be Fazed. I had found the Wedding Zen and it was good.

However, there was a surreal dimension to the whole wedding lead-up, which was that I barely saw Amin the whole week.  We sent a lot of business-like text messages and had awkward conversations in the full hearing of our entire families, but spent literally not a single moment of time alone from the day I set foot in the UK to the moment we got into the car at the end of our wedding. I think I was calm at least partially because Amin and I were given absolutely no time together to process the enormity of what we were doing. On the day we had our civil registration (we did only a religious ceremony on the day of the wedding), we showed up to the borough registrar, hugged awkwardly, and suddenly we were saying our vows to each other. And then we took a couple of photos, had family lunch, went to our respective homes, and, talking on the phone later, had the following conversation: “Dude, we just got married.” “I know!” “Woah.” “I know, right?”

And that is, perhaps, why my masterful control ultimately slipped.

If you’ve ever met me, you know I am not much of a makeup person. The father of one of my best and oldest friends recently told me he barely recognizes me in the wedding photos because he has literally never seen me in makeup aside from this.

But I wanted the wedding to be fancy; I wanted to dress up and get my hair and makeup done; and I wanted to impress the Pakistani family I was marrying into who are used to seeing brides wearing clothing covered in sparkles so heavy they can barely hold their heads up. So before we went to London, my mom and one of my sisters went with me to a local spa, and we got facials and my first ever mani/pedi. And I felt goooood. I decided that the day before the wedding, when many of my girlfriends were going to be around for an impromptu bachelorette event, it would be relaxing to go get my nails touched up.


It was a fiasco from the beginning. First, the manicure took longer than I expected, so I had my best friends arriving at my apartment without me there to greet them. Then, I went to pay, and they did not accept the only form of payment I had. And, in an unfortunate additional problem, my American debit card had been cancelled and I had not yet activated the replacement card I had received that morning. So I groveled and told the lovely owner that I would go home, find my debit card, acquire some cash, and return posthaste.

The salon was probably a twenty minute walk from my apartment, and I did it in ten. I was huffing and puffing as I raced into the apartment, and the panic had already begun. My dearest friend had arrived while I was gone, and she got up excitedly to give me a hug, but I brushed past her and said “HI I CAN’T TALK NEED MONEY NOW!” People tried to get the story out of me but I am told I would say nothing besides “I NEED TO GET MONEY. MUST. GET. MONEY. NOW. MONEY.” To be honest, the whole thing is a bit of a blur.

And it was at this point of near-hysteria that I looked down at my newly painted nails, the cause of all of this drama, only to find them covered in a fine layer of fuzz from my shirt.

Friends, I lost it. I have never been so upset about anything in my life as I was about my fuzzy nails. The world ended in that moment, and I am not proud of the things that came out of my mouth about death and disowning and the ruination of my future marriage. How could Amin ever love a woman with fuzzy nails?

For those of you wondering, I activated my card without problem, withdrew money, and returned to the salon, where the lovely lady took one look at my face, and then my nails, sat me down, and wiped them clean quite easily. And then I walked home, where my nearest and dearest were waiting to mock me mercilessly.

I think I had really thought the whole wedding thing would be no big deal. People get married every day, right? And besides, once we signed the papers and said the things, then we would have the time to sit around and process (this turned out to be very untrue, since now I’m back in America without my husband thanks to ongoing immigration issues). And I was so proud of my focus, my zen, my live-in-the-moment mentality, that I squished the bits of me trying to comprehend that I was marrying the love of my life.  Those bits came back with a vengeance during the Great Nail Disaster. They also made a brief appearance as I walked down the aisle, but that’s a story for another day.

Is there a moral to this story? I guess it’s that whatever you’re going to feel, you’re going to feel it, and if you’re anything like me, it will be caused by something completely ridiculous at a very inconvenient time. So my advice is to just give in now, and enjoy the ride.

Photo by: Kelly Benvenuto

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