The Hook Up: The Great Fingernail Length Debate

Dear Anna, I’ve been out for about 10 years as a queer girl, and while sometimes I’ve dallied with men (mostly also queer) my heart has always been strictly with the ladies. But here’s the catch: I was out with a group of friends a few weeks ago and got introduced to a guy who I’d seen around but never spoken to, and we really hit it off. He asked for my number and I gave it willingly, and since then we’ve been on a number of dates that have felt better than anything I’ve felt recently with a woman. Frankly, I’m practically giddy, butterflies in the stomach, the whole deal. Everything feels great except that I worry that this means I have to give up my queer street cred, or that who I am will be seen in a fundamentally different way if I end up dating a boy instead of a girl. Do I have to give up my queer card if I shack up with a y chromosome? — Y Not?

Anna says: Yes, hand over your queer card right this instant, young lady. And your degree in Theater Tech. And all those Lowe’s gift cards I know you have. It’s Straightsville from here on out, so you best don some Lululemon yoga pants and invest in a good casserole dish because this is YOUR LIFE now. Just kidding — that’s actually a pretty accurate description of my life and I live in the good ol’ U.S. of Gay. Since we’re confessing things, I’d also like to admit that I love Martha Stewart. And The Olive Garden. And when they say, “I salute the inner light within you” before yoga. Namastgay!

Whew, that felt good. What were we talking about now? Oh right, your traitorous affront to all lesbiankind. So you’re dating someone who makes you feel giddy and have butterflies, eh? Someone you “really hit it off with”? Well, I think I speak for everyone when I say that you should put a stop to that immediately for the sake of your “queer cred.” (Side note: Can anyone actually explain what gives a person queer cred? Do you have to go to x number of dance parties a month? Look good in plaid? Light straight men on fire? I’ve never been able to figure it out.)

Of course, I’m being facetious, Y Not. I think being with a person who makes you happy is infinitely more desirable than not being with them because of what’s in their shorts. However, your newfound boy-dating will inevitably turn a few heads, and that’s to be expected. Hopefully your friends and acquaintances will refrain from making “hasbien” jokes, but some people have STRONG FEELINGS about sexuality and tend to lash out when they feel they’ve been “betrayed.” I’ve never really understood this logic. It reminds me of how sports fans start riots if their teams lose an important game (and sometimes if they win too). Like, Dudes with Sideways Hats, you did not personally lose the Super Bowl or whatever, why do you feel you must throw a bird cage into a car windshield (or equivalent)? It’s also similar to the anti-gay marriage yahoos who think that gayness somehow takes something away from their straight marriages. It’s banana sandwiches, in other words.

You dating a man doesn’t affect anyone else but you (and your man date). And the person you’re dating today doesn’t negate your entire romantic and sexual history. It’s not like you’ve suddenly started supporting the Westboro Baptist Church or talking to ferrets.

Treat the situation as you would any other casual thing, and hopefully others will follow suit. And don’t worry too much about how people perceive you. Just worry about being your awesome self, straight-seeming or not — what you really want to be judged by, to horribly misquote Martin Luther King, Jr. is the content of your character, not how many ladies’ pants you look down.

I was lamenting the fact that I’m single to a friend of mine recently and she said that maybe it was because my fingernails were too long and I was sending out “straight” signals. At first I laughed but then I wondered if maybe she was partly right. How long can fingernails get before they are unacceptable by lesbian standards? I realize that “porn fingernails” are probably too long, but I don’t know. — Wants to Get Nailed

Anna says: Well, Wolverine, of all the ways girls could potentially Birkenstock-block themselves (let’s make it happen, people!), I imagine fingernail length falls relatively low on that list. I’d say it affects your chances of getting a girlfriend probably about as much as still using an aol e-mail account or being a less than stellar bowler. But then again, I’m not sure what yours look like.

You’re right that porn talons, that is, fake press-on style nails, tend to make most lesbians recoil in terror, but there’s not a magic length that signals to the world that you are The Most Gay. I mean, hello, a rule like that would put like 85% of femmes out of business.

I also think that there are several other markers of gayness that people would notice before scrutinizing your claw length. Hair, eyewear, jorts, skateboard, thumb rings, purple rhinoceros tattoo, the number of cats in your hemp tote bag, etc. Plus, most times when girl-loving-girls let their nails languish, it’s not a statement, it means they aren’t getting laid at the moment. It’s like the ghey girl equivalent of leg shaving. Why bother keeping the ship tidy if the gulls aren’t swooping, as they say (the ones not getting laid, obviously).

That said, however, there are a few guidelines to abide by. Shorter and rounder is better. Keep your nails clean and free of Robert Pattinson decals. If you work in a garden, bike repair shop, or dice habanero peppers for a living, please wash your hands a thousand times before they get near anyone’s nether bits. If your nails are long enough to scratch something, they are also long enough to scratch far more delicate somethings, so you’d be advised to use gloves. In general, if your nails are well-groomed, if you are careful, and pay attention, it shouldn’t be an issue for you. But I’ll admit that nails are so low on my screwability scale that I may not be the best judge.

For a second opinion, I asked my girlfriend if she would sleep with me considering the current state of my nails (slightly longer than the pads and one pinkie that is verging on a coke nail) and she said, “I never say no to sex,” which proves — decidedly little.

Since I can’t quite put my finger on it, what do you think, AfterEllen crew? Do you scrutinize nail length before deciding to hit on or go home with someone? Have you ever been seriously injured by long nails? Has anyone assumed you were straight because of your nails? Let’s get hands on here.

Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at