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Nailed It

I've always believed that the signature mark of having one's life together is a perfectly polished manicure. Sorry boys, there's no hope for you unless you finally begin to tackle that fragile little thing called masculinity - but we'll save that discussion for another day ;)

If your nails are done, you must have everything under control. How could someone who has soft spotless cuticles and un-chipped paint not have their life well organized? You know the saying: you're never fully dressed without a complete mani/pedi combo!! (You've heard that one before, right?)

It's that belief that has led me to be the proud owner of way too many essie nail polishes. It could also serve as the explanation for my love of rings, my habit of putting my hands near my face in Snapchat selfies, or my wildly impressive collection of nail polish pins on Pinterest. Whatever behavior that belief informs, it sure as hell was tested in Europe.

Before I shipped off for my 3-month tour, I had my nail beds pampered and my callouses scrubbed off. I was starting a new chapter of my life and I'd be damned if I was going to do it with remnants of the previous season's color still attached to my finger tips. I decided that such an occasion as interning abroad in a foreign language was enough justification for selecting a familiar polish: maroon.

But all good things must come to an end, and eventually the gel started to come off. Piece by piece my perfect little lady fingers began to transform into ragged claws. Quickly fading was my ability to take cute coffee mug, wine glass, and finger food photos without attempting to hide my nails.

I was less than a month in, but I knew I was going to have to come up with a solution quickly because otherwise I was going to have to chop off my own hands for fear of being exposed to the rest of the world as unkempt while on this oh-so-luxurious European Tour.

I went back to my freshman year roots and did what any girl trying to save a buck does: painted my own nails. I hadn't packed any nail polish, so I had to go shopping for some in central Madrid. As luck would have it, the Sephora located in Puerta del Sol was having a liquidation sale, and I was able to dig through a bargain bin and find a couple of shades for only a few euros. I opted for lavender. I don't know why and I still regret it.

It had been a while since I had done my own nails (I know this sounds so spoiled, I'm sorry), so I had forgotten about the importance (read: necessity) of a top and base coat. Broke me trying to make it through a study abroad experience without breaking the bank couldn't justify spending an extra 6 to 10 euros on just nail polish when I knew that money could be put to much more practical things like eating ... and drinking. So I sucked it up and hoped for the best.

It worked. For like a day. After three days, my nails looked like this:

Now that might not seem that bad to you, but for me it meant I would not be sharing this image with anyone (except for under circumstances like this one I suppose). Annoyed and mostly impatient, I decided to chip off the remaining polish myself and just go bare. That's usually what I do at school when I have no money and very little free time, but I was *abroad* and *traveling* so I was kinda sad.

It turned out okay though. I mean, check out that smile.

As my program came to an end, I was getting ready to continue my adventures with my family in Greece and with my best friend in Italy and France afterwards. I had reached an all-time high level of comfort and fluidity with my Spanish and I had mastered gauging what was a good deal over what wasn't, so I figured it was about time to make the long-overdue investment in myself.

By the time I was getting ready to leave, I had spent roughly 8 weeks familiarizing myself with the neighborhood I was in and the surrounding area. When the time came to finally go get my nails done, I had a few places in mind of where I wanted to go. The prices between shops were pretty even across the board, so it ultimately came down to location when making the decision. I ended up choosing a place called D-uñas that was only a few blocks away from my host home.

It was a really tiny shop with a clean, sleek, and modern design to it. There was no wait when I walked in, so they took me right away. I got a very high quality gel manicure and pedicure for around 40 euros, which is insanely cheap compared to what I would have paid back in the States. There was, however, one little caveat: they didn't use soaking or softening treatments for any of it. I got a whole-ass pedicure without even a drop of water. Yes. It did hurt about as much as it sounds.

My old polish was scraped off, my cuticles were plucked bare, and a new layer of champagne sparkly polish was applied all without a single drop of water. The whole time I kept waiting for someone to turn a faucet on somewhere but it never happened. There were a couple of moments where I thought I was going to cry, but I was able to take some deep breaths and keep it together.

By the end of the appointment, I was still in a little bit of pain and I was wondering how I was going to walk home uphill in flip flops with tissue stuffed in between my toes. The answer: carefully.

In an unexpected turn of events, it ended up being the best manicure and pedicure I've ever had. Those nails lasted me three and a half whole weeks. THREE AND A HALF. That's almost unheard of! No chips, no snags, no catching in my hair. I was shocked.

If I had to endure it again, I would, but only if there was no other option. Had I been staying in a hotel or resort that had some sort of spa, I probably would've gone there instead because the treatment would probably be more similar to what I'm used to at home. But for living essentially on my own, I think I managed pretty well. Plus, it was a really nice opportunity to practice Spanish in a new setting.

If you ever find yourself in Spain and in need of a manicure, don't expect the same procedure at home, but don't forget that different doesn't mean bad. Don't knock it until you try it, and always strive towards something new.

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