They call themselves lemmings. And like those mythic rodents, whose herd mentality is said to be so strong as to lead them off cliffs, these women are united in a mission that, to outsiders, may seem baffling and even berserk.
The objects of their desire — what they track on eBay, rhapsodize about on their blogs and search for in faraway lands — are bottles of old nail polish. More specifically, discontinued varieties that come in colors no longer available but that are still out there, sitting forgotten on the shelves of manicurists and out-of-the-way stores, just waiting to be found by some lucky lemming who will add them to her collection, cherish them and post them on Instagram for other members of this unlikely subculture.
Obscurity is the lure, New York Times
Disappointed by this article, which is written by a writer whose work I generally admire.
Right off the bat, she gets the jargon wrong—the word “lemming,” used by members on makeup forums, is actually shorthand for a desired item, and not the person desiring the item. This is how one would use the word correctly: “Essie’s Starry, Starry Night is a VHTF that is my no. 1 lemming.” Nor is mixing several polishes to make a new one called “frankensteining”—it’s “frankening.”
It is also erroneous to call this an “unlikely subculture” when the US is currently the biggest market for nail polish in the world—in 2012, US consumers alone purchased $768 million worth of nail polishes, and from 2012 to 2013 spent $7.8 billion on nail services. Though I suppose just about anything can be a subculture when viewed through very narrow lenses.
… She dressed herself and then went and stood by the window to make up her face and to put kohl on her eyes, which were beautiful—long and dark, very candid, almost childish in expression.
Her eyes gave her away. By her eyes and the deep circles under them you saw that she was a dreamer, that she was vulnerable—too vulnerable ever to make a success of a career of chance.
She made herself up elaborately and carefully; yet it was clear that what she was doing had long ceased to be a labour of love and had become partly a mechanical process. partly a substitute for the mask she would have liked to wear.
To stop making up would have been a confession of age and weariness. It would have meant that Mr Mackenzie had finished her. It would have been the first step on the road that ended in looking like that woman on the floor above—a woman always dressed in black, who had a white face and black nails and dyed hair which she no longer dyed, and which had grown out for two inches into a hideous pepper-and-salt grey.
Jean Rhys, After Leaving Mr Mackenzie
#After Leaving Mr Mackenzie
Foxy Ladies: Why One Network Applies So Much Makeup
Of course, TV news shows have always put a premium on appearance, more so for women than for men. And it’s hardly a revelation that some networks place more pressure on women than do others: C-SPAN has no makeup room at all, just a collection of powder compacts that guests can use if they are so inclined. At MSNBC, Rachel Maddow is known to prefer minimal makeup, while other anchors want more, and the artists oblige with a range of choices, from neutral tones to berry hues. Bloomberg TV tends toward the corporate aesthetic; CNN favors a professional style that makes women and men look crisp, as if they have been ironed. As for Fox, suffice it to say that there is a YouTube montage devoted to leg shots of Fox anchors, who are often outfitted in body-hugging dresses of vibrant red and turquoise, their eyes enhanced by not only liner and shadow but also false lashes. A Fox regular once commented to me that she gets more calls from network management about her hair, clothes, and makeup than about what she says. “I just think of it as a uniform,” she said of her getup.
Read more. [Image: Charles Ommanney/Getty]