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The Day I Totally Nailed It

Elaine Ambrose thought she was making it work with those press-on (toe) nails. Things didn’t turn out quite like she’d planned. Read more from Elaine on her blog.


I have the dubious ability to humiliate myself on a regular basis, but one true story still causes me to cringe. It’s about the time I caused toenails to float in my soup at an exclusive private restaurant. Yes, I should get an award…or counseling…for that one.

The Day I Totally Nailed It: I have an ability to humiliate myself

Due to stress, deadlines, and too much caffeine, I had attacked my fingernails like a crazed wolverine, leaving bloody stumps that were too painful to use to shampoo my hair. Of course, this was on a day when I had a Very Important Meeting with some Very Important People at a Very Private Club. Not even my best St. Johns knit suit could hide my tortured hands. I momentarily considered wearing gloves, but the only ones I could find were wool ski mittens. In hindsight, wearing the mittens would have been an excellent decision.

It was time to leave, so I frantically pawed through my drawers looking for some fake nails to glue onto my fingers. After rummaging through assorted collections of boxes, bottles, and miscellaneous merchandise falsely guaranteeing to reverse the aging process, I only found a kit of press-on toenails, the go-to disguise for those of us with ugly toes. I bought them in plain brown wrappers at the local drug store to use when I wanted to wear funky sandals. Otherwise my scruffy feet resembled hooves fringed with ten bald sausages. Not a pretty sight in perky new summer shoes.

The instructions on the box promised that I didn’t need glue because the adhesive would last for a week. I pressed the gleaming toenails onto the ends of my ravaged fingers, picked up my briefcase, and dashed to the meeting, feeling smug that I had successfully survived yet another personal crisis.

At the Very Exclusive Club, I was escorted to the premium table and introduced to a sophisticated woman who looked like a model in a Ralph Lauren advertisement. She wore a gold tweed suit, crisp white shirt, and long leather boots. Her luxurious hair framed her face and I resisted the temptation to touch it with my mutilated claws. I noticed her manicured nails and the perfect pedicure. I suspected that she farted gold dust.

Her companion, known to all as Magnificent Man, stood tall, stately, and equally poised for a GQ photo shoot. He also appeared to possess all the knowledge of the universe as he tilted his head to expose his angular jaw and cool gray eyes. I quickly glanced at my sensible shoes to make sure they weren’t covered in manure or melted chocolate. I felt as if I were in a skit on a reality television show and my role was to play the part of Howdy Doody. I knew it by heart.

As the Beautiful Woman shook my right hand, suddenly the toenail on my right thumb popped off and landed on the white linen tablecloth. I mumbled something about “that darned broken nail” and plucked it from the table. After exchanging professional pleasantries, we ordered herb-infused tomato bisque. As I took a sip, the toenail on the left hand snapped off and plopped into the soup. I tried to push it down with my spoon, but it kept bobbing up as if pleading to be rescued. Apparently, toes are wider and flatter than fingernails, and the fake nails wouldn’t last the hour let alone a week. I resisted the temptation to say, “Waiter, there’s a toenail in my soup.”

My table companions cleared their throats and started their conversation about how I should diversify my investment portfolio to take advantage of opportunities in emerging markets. As they talked, I held my hands in my lap, working quickly to pry off the remaining nails so they wouldn’t sporadically shoot from my hand and put out someone’s eye. Two of the stubborn nails validated the claim on the box and wouldn’t release until I ripped them off and the wounded fingers started to bleed again. I discretely wrapped the white linen napkin around my hand until it looked like one of those bandaged fists from a war movie. By the time the elegant woman was displaying a chart of recommended international equity funds, I was sitting on a pile of discarded toenails, applying pressure to my hemorrhaging fingertips, and pretending everything was okay.

I recall that the meeting ended without fanfare. I didn’t sign any investment contracts, mainly because I didn’t want to expose my bloody hands and drip all over their official documents. Besides, I needed my extra funds to pay for future visits to the Emergency Room and any subsequent counseling sessions.

I wanted to apologize to the dignified waiter for leaving such a horrible mess, but he glanced away so I slinked out the door and tumbled into my car, bumping my head on the door frame. As consolation, I hoped the waiter overheard some good hints about investing and maybe someday he’ll remove my name from the list of unwelcome guests.

I drove home without hitting anything or anyone, changed into my comfortable sweatpants and t-shirt, slathered medicated cream over my aching fingers, and walked purposely into the kitchen. I found a bottle of wine and actually opened it without dropping it on the tile floor. Sometimes, with intense concentration, great acts of coordination can be achieved. That bottle was drained before bedtime.



Elaine Ambrose

Elaine Ambrose is an award-winning author of ten books and a regular contributor to Huffington Post. Her widely syndicated blog Midlife Cabernet appears on her own site, as well as on Blogher, Jennings Wire, Humor Outcasts, and Project Eve. She is a regular contributor to Huffington Post and Midlife Boulevard. Her new book, Midlife Cabernet, won the 2014 Silver Medal for Humor from the Independent Book Publisher Awards program, and Publishers Weekly claimed the book is “Laugh-out-loud funny!” Foreword Reviews wrote that the book is “an Erma Bombeck-esque argument for joy.” Through her company Mill Park Publishing, Elaine also organizes writing and wellness retreats for women in the Idaho Mountains. Her author web site is

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Elaine Ambrose

Thursday 11th of December 2014

Janie, I tried to wear the toenails on my fingers...but they slipped off. I should have worn gloves. I'm weird.

Janie Emaus

Thursday 11th of December 2014

That is hysterical. How in the world did fake toe nails (which I didn't even know they made) fit on your fingers?


Thursday 11th of December 2014

Oh my goodness... you made me laugh so hard! I've been a nail biter my whole life. And I have spent a small fortune on acrylic and solar nails in my lifetime. But once 30 years ago in college, I was giving a speech in one of my classes. Somehow my red fingernail popped off during my speech and landed a few feet away. I was mortified! Your story made me realize I'm not alone with this peculiar habit! :)

Elaine Ambrose

Thursday 11th of December 2014

Andrea, I expect antics wherever I go - and I don't plan them. I will try not to chew my fingernails anymore...but after five decades, it's a tough habit to break.

Jo Ann Uline

Thursday 11th of December 2014

And here I though that a fake fingernail popping off in a weddin reception line, while shaking the father of the bride's hand was embarrassing... Poor man thought they were real!! Thank you for making me feel better!! Still laughing here.

Elaine Ambrose

Thursday 11th of December 2014

Jo Ann, you should write that story. Then I won't feel as bad. Toenails are worse, though...


Thursday 11th of December 2014

OMG, I don't even really know what to say to this. LOL! However, I do have to say, Elaine, that I admire how you were still able to somehow pick up on what was being said during your meeting. I would've just panicked and fainted!

Elaine Ambrose

Thursday 11th of December 2014

Joy, I'm so used to silly and strange things happen, that I just cut one more notch on my crazy counter.

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