"I'm Not Really A Waitress" is apparently the best selling OPI colour ever, and I have some thoughts as to why that might be later. First, review time!
OPI is a relatively "premium" nail polish brand - I've seen it sold in brick and mortar stores here in Sydney for between 25 and 30 dollars, which I consider wildly exorbitant. If you scout around online, you can find plenty of places selling them for a little under 20, but that's still too much for me to spend on a little bottle of paint for my nails. I came across the charmingly named My Beauty Halls who are selling them for 10 per bottle, which is much closer to what I would consider reasonable. If it makes any difference to you the owner of the store assures me these are all absolutely genuine OPI - but if you're reading this blog, you probably care as little as I do.
While 10 is a heck of a lot better than 30, it's still a bit more than I would usually spend, so I was interested to see if it actually was any different to the 3-5 dollar bottles I have previously invested in.
Here it is, in artificial light and natural light. I tried to get how perfectly Red it is, but that kind of shade detail can be pretty hard to capture. I used a base coat, three layers of polish, and a quick dry top coat - I'll be putting more details about what top and base coat I use in another post.
My overall verdict is a reservedly positive one. This does indeed go on noticeably more evenly, and smoother than cheaper polish. The colour has a lot of depth to it, which I really appreciate over the cheaper ones I used to use. One of the reasons I stopped bothering with nail polish is that a lot of the cheap ones end up looking like you've slathered acrylic paint on your nails - just flat, shallow colour. This one looks deep and shiny, kind of like a very thin layer of red molten glass on your nails. If you look carefully at the top picture you can see how the light refracts out of the polish like glass. It's quite fascinating, and really bloody distracting when you're trying to type. My workload is going to go to shit when my holographic polishes arrive.
However, it's still a little thinner than I would like. It needed three coats to make the colour really come out, and to get that look of depth, and I don't know that I would always be bothered with that many coats. I'd much prefer something that only takes one or two.
Is it worth 30 dollars? Lord no. This is in no way so much superior to the polishes you can get for under 10 that I think anyone should pay that much for it. Is it worth 10? I say, a little begrudgingly, yes. As much as I would like to say there is no difference, it IS nicer. It goes on easier, it sits more smoothly once you've put it on, and the colour is richer and, well, prettier. Don't spend your last 10 dollars on it or anything, but if you have 10 dollars, and would like something pretty, I don't think you will feel ripped off by this.
IN MY HEAD
Now back to the particular colour. For those of you who haven't heard of OPI before, they have a long standing schtick of naming their polishes with godawful puns. From Austin-tatious to Don't Talk Bach To Me, they have a pun for every possible shade of the rainbow. When I had been running the name of this one through my head, it sounded like the start of a sentence. "I'm Not Really A Waitress....I'm a STAR!" As silly as it might seem, this is kind of how wearing this polish makes me feel - like a star. It's fabulous, and needlessly flashy, and that's exactly why I dig it. But when I told one of my co-workers the name of it, she had an alternative ending to the sentence. "Do they have one called "I'm Not Really A Slutty Housewife?" she laughingly asked. I looked down at my nails and suddenly saw them as she saw them - what I had seen as superstar red, she saw as slut red. Whore red.
"Coooooool", I thought, because I am the kind of person I am. It's not exactly surprising that my co-worker saw this colour as so suggestive - red has been associated with sex for centuries, and more recently, has been claimed by sex workers and sex worker activism quite specifically - just take a look at the coverage of Red Umbrella Day, a day of protests against violence against sex workers here. Personally I think it's a neat way of reclaiming "whore red" for themselves, as they have reclaimed the word and use it as a term of pride rather than shame.
ANYWAY, I digress. To be perfectly honest, my co-worker probably had no idea of the recent co-opting of red into sex worker rights activism. She was most likely just thinking it looked like the kind of nail polish worn by a lady who has a lot of sex, or would at least like a lot of sex.
This particular shade of red...well, it's Standard Sexy Red. As my boy put it, when a straight guy reads "She was a blonde bombshell with red nails that matched her tight dress", this is the red they imagine. And honestly, I don't think it's that different for women. When I think of Sexy Red, this is what I imagine. And while I might not be able to squeeze into Marylin's dresses, I can at least have her nails.
There are certain accessories and items of clothing that have
sociological meaning entrenched - so deeply entrenched most people
probably aren't consciously aware of the symbolism, of the train of
thought that is set off when you see them. I know, I know, it sounds like I'm over thinking this, but just hang in there and let me explain.
Here is an example of culturally entrenched symbolism - what we can and can't wear to work. There are certain things that
are considered inappropriate for a workplace, despite not being
particularly revealing, or impractical, but purely because of their inherent cultural
symbolism. For men, things like cargo pants and camo print shirts are considered inappropriate in your average office, because they signal that you are not here for business, you're here to wrestle some alligators or something equally physical and butch. For women, the discouraged items not only include clothes that are too casual, like tshirts, but also things that are too sexual. Overly dark eyeshadow, for example, red stilettos, or fishnet stockings. (I previously would have included knee high boots in this list, but I've noticed over the last couple of seasons business women seem to be taking these back - the lace up kind are still out, but straight knee high leather boots seem to be more acceptable than previously)
signal to the viewer that you are a woman who would like some sex now
please, and this is considered a distracting signal at best when at
work. Red nail polish is, in my opinion, one of these culturally loaded
(If you're interested in knowing more about how far back this cultural connotation goes, have a look over here at Beautifully Invisible for a fascinating look at the history of red nail polish and it's associations with sex)
Even the particular shade of red has connotations - Standard Sexy Red, like I'm
Not Really A Waitress, says that you are sexually available, but that to
partake of this sex, you will have to follow the Standard Wooing
Practice. Despite my co workers association of this colour with slutty behavior, I think it would more often be read as an expression of
sexuality somewhere between a Madonna and a Whore. To me this shade
says, "You can have me, but you will have to work for it because I'm a
lady". A darker shade says that not only are you available, but it's probably
going to get a bit weird. (Hence why I have almost always gone for
darker shades of red. I don't like selling myself as normal when I'm
I think that the way this colour sits perfectly in between signalling a
Madonna and a Whore is exactly why it's so popular. While there are a
certain section of the female population who revel in self identifying
as easy (myself included) I get the impression that "Available, with
some effort" is a perception many more women are comfortable with.
I don't actually think many people who have bought this polish have gone
through this thought process before laying down the cash - I know I analyse things way more than most people. But I bet if you asked
people who have bought this why they like it, they will answer because
it makes them feel sexy, pretty, attractive. And why does it make them
feel prettier than the billion other red polishes? Because the shade is
perfect Standard Sexy Red, and it when we look at it, a train of thought
is set off that we can't resist, because it's buried deep in our
The question of why so many women are interested in expressing their
sexuality in such an obvious way is also an interesting one. I wonder if
perhaps women are so used to being sexualised that expressing their
sexuality has become the same as expressing their sense of self? I know
if I am in a situation, particularly at work, that I don't feel like I
can express my sexuality I begin to feel quite stifled.
I've noticed now
the weather is warming up here that I miss being able to wear low cut
tops to work like I could at the brothels. It's partially a question of
practicality - I loathe being overheated, and as Jessica Simpson's dad so
famously said about boobs like mine, "You can't cover those suckers up."
But it's not just that. I miss being able to catch a glimpse of my
cleavage in the mirror and say, "Heh," to myself. I miss how sexy it
made me feel to be able to show off one of parts of myself I'm
completely happy with. And so now I wonder if wearing red nail polish is
to other women what excessive cleavage is for me - just a little touch
that says, "I am a sexual being". It not even necessarily about
attracting specific attention. It's just a way of expressing that you
have a sexual side.
And this is where it gets uncomfortable for me as a feminist. Should I buy into this deliberate signalling? Is that not simply supporting a patriarchy that says I have no value but to be sexually attractive, by wearing such a "standard" trapping of traditional straight female sexuality? Is wearing this colour, knowing that it is loaded with sociological implications not implicitly saying, "I agree with all the connotations that come along with this?"
I can certainly see this argument - it's one that part of my brain uses on me quite often.
But isn't not doing something I like because of the patriarchal interpretation of it just another way of letting them limit my choices? I'd love to be able to say that I reject these signals entirely, and only like this polish because I'm fond of this particular shade of red for purely aesthetic reasons. There are shades of polish I have where this is completely true - but this is not one of them. I would be lying if I tried to tell you that the inherent implications weren't part of why I like it so much. I like wearing something that signals "Sexy". It makes me more confident, and feel more powerful. Which, honestly, probably makes me a bad feminist. I know I shouldn't place any of my self esteem in such a ridiculous system of cultural implications that is based in traditional morality that has no bearing on my life whatsoever, being as I am poly and queer. But here we are. Sometimes, I like to feel pretty.
I'd love to get feedback from anyone who has read this far, particularly on what you would like to see in upcoming posts. Because otherwise I'm just going to keep ranting :)