Fingernail phobia

Helen Elfer is saying no to snakeskin manicures

I’ve done a lot of things I didn’t want to do for my job. I once spent a whole hour pretending I believed in aliens while interviewing an eminent ufologist who was as mad as a box of frogs. I directed a photo shoot of a tattoo enthusiast who spontaneously took it upon himself to reveal his most intimate inking the second the camera was turned on (That gruesome image will be forever seared into my brain). I’ve accidentally offended touchy Hollywood stars, been dunked in an aquarium with deadly sharks, and been turfed out of a Chinese qigong session, because the practitioner said my ‘very bad energy’ had given him a migraine.

On the whole, I’d say I’ve accepted the weird lows of working in magazines with good grace – the highs make it all worthwhile. But this week I hit my limit, when confronted with my one and only phobia – snakes. Yes, according to Abu Dhabi’s fashionistas, if you want truly on-trend fingernails this season, your only option is a snakeskin manicure. Would I go along and try it out for a feature? asked my boss. No, I certainly would not. Absolutely, categorically, definitely not.

I know – being asked to have flakes of snakeskin attached to your nails, is hardly on a par with being asked to cuddle a cobra, say, or pet-sit a python. There was no risk of anything long, slithery and alive making its way into the office and getting me, or I wouldn’t have lived to write this. But to me, the thought of dead serpent matter sealed to my hands is right up there with having tarantula legs glued on to my eyelids as false eyelashes. Or inserting a hypodermic needle into each wrist by way of accessorising. I mean, you’d have to be completely out of your mind, wouldn’t you?

Sadly, it seems I’m by myself on this one. Everyone I mentioned snakeskin manicures to said they were ‘exotic,’ ‘cool’ and even ‘sexy’. SEXY? In my opinion anyone who finds slivers of left-over reptile in any way erotic needs to be committed. But our far more chic Shopping & Style editor jumped at the chance to go and try it out (you can read all about her experiences in next week’s issue). She has even put up with me violently jerking away from her hand whenever she’s tried to pass me anything this week, and nearly blacking out when asked to choose pictures to print with the story.

Hopefully it will all chip off soon. I won’t have to see those horrible greeny-brown flecks out of the corner of my eye any more and might actually be able to get on with some work. I think I can hold out until then. But if you see her miserably walking around near the TOAD offices with thick woollen mittens sellotaped to her hands, I’m sure you can guess what happened. It’ll be just one of those weird things I had to do for the sake of my career.

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