This I Believe

Kiersten - Park Ridge, Illinois
Entered on February 21, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe that it is important to have short fingernails. Fingernails? Yes indeed.

First of all, I am a violinist. Violinists, as well as all other string instrumentalists, must have short fingernails.

My early violin teachers always stressed the importance of clipping my fingernails before I came to my lesson. I usually did exactly as they asked, but I remember a few times when I just happened to forget that week. One day, my teacher actually stopped my lesson, set her violin down on the piano, reached in her case and pulled out a shiny pair of fingernail clippers. She looked down at me with stern eyes and requested that I clip my fingernails. After that day, I tried extremely hard to remember to clip them before I arrived at each lesson. At the time, I kind of understood the importance, that when the finger tip was placed on the string, the long nail would make the finger actually flatten out, resulting in a lower pitch, but I hadn’t actually experienced the real difference that it produced to fully understand.

Just a few weeks ago I was practicing Scherzo-Tarantella in a practice room. I started slowly and tried to work out the more difficult sections but my fingers just couldn’t function as well as I knew they could. After complaining to a friend about my inability to play a piece I had been working on so long, I threatened to quit the violin. Shortly after, I took a break to get my mind off my circumstance by clipping my fingernails. As soon as I placed the hair of the bow to the string, my fingers gracefully swept through the fast notes that just a few minutes earlier had been excruciatingly unimaginable to play correctly. I stopped for a moment, looked at my reflection in the mirror, and watched my face light up like a child discovering the surprise in the middle of a tootsie pop.

Aside from the musical reason, I also believe that it is absolutely disgusting to think of what kind of stuff could get stuck under there. For instance, have you ever thought of what would happen if someone with long fingernails tried to pick earwax out of his ear and then assumed there wasn’t any because there was no sign of it on his finger, but not realizing that perhaps it could be hiding out within the depths of his nail? No, neither have I. But I guess it could happen.

Or how about those few receptionists who have the two-inch long modern-art-gallery-like fingernail extensions of cold, cobalt blue and sharp, cheddar orange? How long must it take them to simply button their blouses? Or even worse, zip up their jeans? It just seems so impractical and unintelligent to me. I would never have the patience to (i) try to do all necessary daily activities with the superfluous hassle of extra long but unuseful fingers and (ii) try to avoid breaking them off within the first hour of their application.

I believe that life is simply less stressful, more sanitary, and more practical without the worry of long fingernails. Yes, fingernails.