“Rage!” Self portrait, oil on canvas
© Fariyal Wallez
Dear Ladies, I implore you, free yourself from the prison of false nails and varnish! Do not sanction the stripping of delicate hair that tarnishes your bikini line. Give up that fad diet and daily overload of gym-weights that define impossible perfectionism. Release the burden of weeks of pressing, pushing and pulling upon every part of your body, which you sacrifice for that perfect shot of the ultimate summer ‘beach body’ to post on your social media feed.
Why? Because why do you want to ‘look hot’ in the eyes of a society that has completely lost its way in appreciating what is truly beautiful?
We all know the saying: an image speaks a thousand words. Unfortunately, as we scroll through our feeds at lightning speed, consuming pictures in an instant, we barely look at an image for a second. Hardly enough time for it to communicate five words let alone a thousand!
So why do we assume (in a state of anxiety) that our tens or thousands of followers pour over that perfect holiday selfie all day long, marvelling at our lithe, tanned limbs and gorgeous fingernails, which we show off to the world in exchange for a few empty compliments?
Talking of nails, did you know there are over 33 million posts under “#nailart” on Instagram alone? How many people do you imagine are looking at your photo? The whole ethos of social media is designed to keep you scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. Hours and hours of your life wasted while companies bait you to hit that ‘click’ to their website in the hope you will buy their products, which you do not need.
As a teenage nerd, I spent more time studying than worrying about my nails. When I was an architecture student (in the days before computer-aided-design), it was not possible to use a pencil, ruler, T-square, set-square, or make cardboard models with long nails… which inadvertently resulted in the fact I had incredibly healthy nails that in later years grew long and white and strong.
One day, a work colleague remarked how beautiful my nails were, and for a period of time I was sucked into the beauty game. I determined to keep them long and painted, and swished my hand with an elegant flourish every time I took a sip of coffee from my mug. And as happens unconsciously, for reasons that in hindsight are farcical and ridiculous, I slowly became swept into believing my nails were a defining element of my personal beauty.
The frivolity of debating false nails seems inconsequential. Most women think of getting their nails done as a treat. Yet do we not bargain the true value of our beauty and worth every time we post an ‘edited’ selfie on social media? The real sacrifice we make is the remarkable and limitless capacity for “creating” that our hands are capable of. You cannot smudge charcoal on a drawing, nor mould clay on a turntable, nor use a wood file for sculpting, nor play the keys on a piano, nor press the strings on a violin. Most of us no longer need to rake and hoe the fields for long, tiring hours of the day. However, with increasing use of technology and sedentary lifestyles, we have lost the connection to our body's true beauty, which is its ability to make.
How many of us, when we look at beautiful images of a fashion collection, a best-selling book, a professional wedding photograph, or a work of art, stop to appreciate the years of study and practise, the tomes of discarded designs, the dozens of drafts and edits that come before the image we see? When we consume beautiful images on social media, the instantaneous pleasure barely touches the surface of our skin.
During the past academic year, I signed up for a painting class in my village. The few times I had painted before (at college and a short course in London), I was always disappointed. Expecting that I could paint to perfection in 30 minutes what my art teacher could do in a ten-minute demonstration, I had no thought or understanding of the many years of training he had already been through. After not having painted for a couple of decades, the past ten months have proved a revelation. I took a leap of faith and bravely decided to use oils for the first time. What I unwittingly discovered were the qualities of time and patience, both of which are required for making something meaningful. Using oils, a medium that can take weeks to dry, allowed me to slow down and draw out my patience, literally, creating a space where I could pay careful attention to the multitude of layers of emotion I was expressing through my hands onto the canvas. I also learned that time and patience is needed to work through the amateur's mistakes of mixing dodgy colours and knowing how to wield a brush and palette knife. Noticing the small increments of improvement kept me encouraged, and after ten months (and many, many, many hours), I managed to create a real painting that I was proud of.
I believe that every person has a unique and creative impulse. Unfortunately, we are forgetting the art of learning how to use and express our creative inheritance because it takes attention, time and patience. It is always easier to consume instantaneous pleasure by scrolling your smartphone.
Give up the emptiness of false nails and fight for your time. Which is actually fighting for the time of your life!