This month's writeup is sponsored by Rose of Battle.

April 2021 Writeup: Prepare for Trouble and Make It... Oh, You Know: Team Rocket and Titanic Nail Art

Life is a fine balance of dichotomies... okay, what I really mean is that one of these nail sets was fantastic and long-lasting, and the other one barely had a maiden voyage. I'll go into detail about March/April's nail sets below! As discussed in the leading article, I ended up exploring themes of queer gateways and how both of these themes are relevant to my early life—I'm talking ages 9-11 and almost back-to-back, which was an interesting thing to think about. Enjoy!

Team Rocket

After playing through Let's Go Pikachu and SWSH, I had a craving to go back to my roots. My roots are, of course, the "antagonists" of Pokemon, and I rewatched a hell of a lot of episodes of the PokeAni to get a vibe. I adore Jessie, James, and Meowth, and their aesthetic is so clear that I knew it'd be easy to assemble something.

The base colors were going to be red, white, gray, and nude—the essential Team Rocket uniform. I knew I wanted an "R" in red rhinestones on a gray or black background, so I designed a few options for each nail. It was actually hard to edit down to which designs I wanted to incorporate because I had so many. In retrospect, I wish I had chosen fewer designs to let that "R" really stand out!

Going from pinky to thumb on the right hand, here are descriptions of the designs. The pinky finger was a nude-to-dark-gray French tip. The red matte ring finger was possibly the most perfect nail I've done yet! It was shaped well, wasn't too thick, and didn't lift at all until the moment of removal. I'm very proud of it. Middle finger was that "R" in red rhinestones. For my forefinger, I wanted clean lines and tried to cross a couple red foil lines cleanly. The left corner didn't lie clean, so I placed a clear rhinestone over the spot that looked off. It ended up being a good improvisation. The thumb was intended to be a deep red tip French style, but when I tried to angle it, I had trouble hitting the same line each time and it ended up being much shallower. Initially, I had planned for a red rhinestone dot on that same nail, but I picked up a black one instead. I don't love the way that turned out and I'd have either dropped it entirely or gone with a clear or red rhinestone if I could do it again, but it still turned out okay. This was the first time I attempted to do a French tip with dip. And let me tell you, it's harder than it looks!

From thumb to pinky on my right hand, the designs were as follows. The thumb was black with a gold cat stamp. On the forefinger, I tried a new stamp for a marbled look, white on red. My middle finger was white (sparkle) with a stamped "R." I really love the way the ring finger turned out. It was a gray background with three red foil strips radiating out from a clear rhinestone. The pinky was a plain black with three rhinestones representing James, Jessie, and Meowth (blue, red, and yellow).

The stamps I had for my right hand were a little less than ideal. I had a set of cat stamps that I knew I wanted to use, but they didn't quite look like Meowth. The cat ended up chipping early on into the set, but that's okay. The "R" stamp that I had came from a Christmas set, which meant it looked kind of like a striped candy cane. I also decided to do it on a white background, which meant the yellow didn't show up. However, I really liked the way the tri-color stamp came out.

I wore this set for four weeks, the longest yet, and aside from early lifting on the right forefinger and chipping on the right thumb, it lasted the whole month! I'm hoping for more applications like this in upcoming sets.

The significance of these Team Rocket nails comes from the importance of Team Rocket in my early fandom education. The first fanfiction I put into a word processor was for Team Rocket. When I first got into Pokemon, I wanted to be more like Misty. But then, there was an episode of the show called, "Ditto's Mysterious Mansion" (in English). Ditto became my favorite Pokemon partially because of that episode. Surprise, surprise, it was all about costumes and changing your appearance--sound familiar? I created an OC that was supposed to be the younger sister of the episode's Ditto-owner named "JC/Jacie," and the idea that she wasn't as good at transforming so she never got attention and ran away to join Team Rocket. Like, Jessie-James-Meowth Team Rocket. I don't remember the rest of her origin story, but she basically became a coping mechanism wherein Jessie, James, and Meowth were her found family.

In more recent years, Team Rocket has been "claimed" by the LGBTQIA+ community as tongue-in-cheek queer representation (partially due to cross-dressing, partially due to the legacy of Meowth's original voice actress being trans, but also the general nature of their relationships). It makes sense, right? They're the found family element, the outcasts who can't win and are barely tolerated. I identified with that in my tumultuous family life. Below, I go into more detail about my first experiences with being not-straight and that was only two years before I got really into Team Rocket, so I'm fairly sure that's not a coincidence.

Anyway, watching Pokemon more recently, although Team Rocket has changed somewhat in later seasons, I still appreciate Team Rocket's message. "We're so bad," they say, helping others. "We're gonna steal your Pokemon," they say, effectively playing big-budget pranks while adopting abandoned Pokemon. "We don't care about anyone," they say, caring extensively about each other. "Wobbuffet!" says Wobbuffet. At the end of a day, it's still a kids' show with necessary antagonists, but I still imagine JC is out there, enjoying being not-straight with her found family of not-straights.

Will I ever cosplay Team Rocket? Yes. Yes I will. I've been dying to be the Jessie to my friend Stray Cat Cosplay's James, but we have yet to pick which outfits. I would also love to bring JC to life at some point, too, because cosplaying your OC is no longer "cringe." Thank goodness!


It's no secret that I'm a massive fan of Titanic; not just the movie, but the whole history surrounding it. When I was young, I read every book I could find that referenced the Titanic. When April rolls around—when I'm not worried about filing taxes late—I try to take a moment of silence for the people who lost their lives in the disaster, their families, and the survivors who carried the weight of that unprecedented tragedy for decades.

This year, I geared up for a nail set that would pay tribute to Rose DeWitt Bukater's wardrobe in the film. The first thing I knew I wanted was a bedazzled af middle finger with lines of rhinestones leading to it from the first and ring fingers, making it look like the "Heart of the Ocean" necklace. Simple enough, especially since I'd just done that massive rhinestone "R" for the Team Rocket set! That execution is the one I'm the most proud of by far for this set. As finicky as the rhinestones can be, they stayed on for nearly the entire run of the set.

The rest of my left hand was supposed to be the sinking dress on the pinky finger and the boarding dress on the thumb. Pro tip for anyone attempting any multi-color nails at any time, ever: actually have the colors you want to use on hand. Oops. I realized mid-set I didn't actually have the right color or way to apply the yellow-to-rose-to-lavender that I wanted to for the pinky. What I did have was a sort of rose gold in foil, which was a new application method that didn't turn out too poorly. But it wasn't the intention.

When I went in with an opaque white layer of gel on the thumb in preparation for the iconic purple-striped dress design, I had a stamp in mind for the stripes, and I was going to do several applications to make them go different ways, followed up by a thick stripe across the middle. Apparently, my stamps had other ideas. Not only were they not picking up clean lines, but the product was drying down too quickly for me to pick it up on the silicone. I tried several times to no avail and was about ready to give up and leave the nail white. But no, I had to try and "fix" it... by freehanding? That was a mistake, as I didn't have full control and was also getting frustrated, so my focus was off. Okay. Tried using tape edges as a straight edge to guide freehanding. Didn't work. Nothing was working. So I picked the foil back up in an attempt to colorblock. That worked, imperfectly, and I should've left it there. But instead, I attempted to colorblock some navy across the bottom. It doesn't look good. But hey, now at least I know what not to go in without alternatives, as that's how I ended up making those decisions on the fly.

The right hand, with the exception of the pinky nail, was a complete disaster. I had intended the progression from thumb to pink to be: pink dinner dress, red dress on the stern, bow dress, cream afternoon dress with the orange/black/green, and the yellow dress from Sunday morning. From this point, I didn't have the right color for supplies. I bought a new pink dip color for the dinner dress that I thought would be a good fit, a bright salmony pink, but it ended up a bit oranger than I would have liked. On the opposite end, the red I chose ended up being the darker one, which was a little darker than I would have liked. I didn't have the right blue for the bow dress, period. I had the right materials for that orange/black/green dress (minus the cream) but I didn't end up getting the execution right. Lastly, I didn't have a pale yellow gel or dip or stamping polish, so I don't know what possessed me to have designed that.

So, how did I overcome that? The thumb I saved for last, but since we're going in that order, I used a black lacy stamp design twice. I still stamped the too-dark red with black, but it doesn't show up well. On my middle finger, I had prepped with a nude base. I knew I hadn't used any "stickers"/transfers and that I had a few butterflies, and I ended up having a great option for the butterfly comb in Rose's hair while she was wearing the bow outfit. I feel the best about that nail, but I didn't get a good photo before it chipped! I had to improvise on the ring finger because I had wanted to put that green as a stamp, but it wasn't showing up, and the orange I had was a little more fiery than I had wanted. I chose a different black lace stamp design from the thumb and placed a green rhinestone as a solution, but it doesn't reflect the dress. As for the pinky, I was at a loss. But the foil pack I'd bought came with some transfers that weren't foil, and one of them happened to be a floral with a kinder design incorporating the oranges and greens I would have liked for the adjacent nail. I abstracted it a la art nouveau (as best I could), but I don't know if it reads.

I will say that that day, I had several factors working against me. I was sitting in an unusual position, had taken off the previous set with a new type of remover, and I forgot to set up my lamp. At first, I wasn't worried because the muscle memory wasn't too bad. But I later noticed some early chipping that led to my needing to hack off my right index fingernail fairly short. It could have been avoided if I'd taken my time, I feel, but also if I'd been more careful with removing the last set. Now I know!

By the time I'd finished the set, I was too exhausted to try and clean up AND take photos of my nails, so all I have from that day is the initial Heart of the Ocean. However, I decided it'd be both more comical and real to show you the, er, "after" version of the nails: what they look like right now before I take them off.

Now, into the part of the writeup where I ponder my own foray into queerness. You might be thinking, "how the actual eff is Titanic a queer film?" Well, maybe it's just not. But for me, it was released during a time when I was developing my first crush, a crush on a rich girl in my class. Prior to that, I'd only had crushes on boys from TV shows; and they were genuine, but this was the first ever real-life crush I had. Oh, was she ever "out of my league," I thought. She was so beautiful and I was so lowly, and also I loved art, which meant I was like Jack, right? This girl agreed to play "Titanic" on the playground probably a couple times. (From what I remember, it was basically just pretending you were on a sinking ship and running around.)

After seeing the film, I thought that in order to get a girl like her to be interested in me, I had to be more masculine (thank you, gender binary and very limited understanding of sexuality and gender). I tried playing football, even—I was very bad at it. I called myself a "tomboy" and swore off skirts and dresses. I don't think I've really talked about this before, in public or in private. It's the kind of phase that transphobes love to reference in their effort to make trans people feel invalid. For me, it really WAS a phase, and one I probably wouldn't have tried out if I had had other options of what it meant to be a girl who had a crush on a girl (as well as boys, but that was way too complex for 90's media). I think it took until high school for me to discover that dressing in a high femme manner actually made me euphoric. Even now, I rarely choose to cosplay masc characters because it just doesn't vibe with making me feel good. It's funny and sad to look back and think that I "had" to be a tomboy to have a crush on a girl.

Y'all probably know I have an art degree (that I pretty solidly never use), but the honest-to-god way I started drawing more seriously in my youth was practicing that nude sketch of Rose from the film. Not watching the film and pausing it or anything—my parents would not have liked that, even though having references is good and there's nothing wrong with explaining nudity in art for a 9 year old (they let me watch THAT scene and NOT the one in the car)—I thought I had a pretty good idea of what a naked lady looked like. It wasn't a sexual thing. It was an, "in order to be an artist, to be a person a rich girl like the one I have a crush in might be interested in, I need to draw like this," thing.

Well, how did that end up going? Idk, I formed a group with my friends and we put together a scrapbook of horrible printouts of Leonardo DiCaprio, and I pretended I was really into HIM (even though I was less interested in him), even though I think the story itself was the thing that gripped me. A very popular girl was invited to girl-I-had-a-crush-on's birthday party and I saw that the card read "lots of love" or some other pithy phrase with "love" in it, and I was so jealous. God, the Celine Dion door had been opened and I listened to "To Love You More" over and over and over again, thinking that the girl had chosen Miss Popular and I meant nothing. To be clear: the girl I had a crush on wasn't even really friends with me and I had been invited because it was a whole-class thing.

(Hah, and I would be remiss without mentioning that my music teacher at the time, who was the first out gay person I ever met even if I didn't understand it, would later use "To Love You More" as an example of violins in pop music for class. I was the only person who had ever heard of the song before, and I was so excited. The song isn't even good, looking back. I do wonder... by my reacting like that, did he know? I should see if he's on Facebook. I'm getting weirdly emotional.)

I wrote a letter confessing my feelings for her and kept it in my room... and one of my parents found it, took it away, and as far as I know, it wasn't discussed at all except for a diary entry I found years and years later where I expressed being so upset about it, not even really understanding what it meant for the letter to have been confiscated. Oh, god, the internalized homophobia and trauma that I held onto for YEARS, I'm telling you. I never really interacted with the girl again. Her loss!

The movie no longer has that association of lost-crush for me. It went through a lot in the media and it was "uncool" to like it for a very long time, so I held onto my Titanic fondness without talking about it much. But I'm still very much a fan of the movie and invested in the actual history, and my wife, who used to hate the film, now lets me watch it over and over when I need a comfort movie. And really, the fact that this nail set ended up going both ways (horribly and great), not unlike myself, brings this whole thing full circle. Nice!

Now, the biggest question of all, the reason you're scrolling to the bottom: Will I ever cosplay one of the costumes from Titanic? The world may never know. If I did, I really love the structured look of the boarding dress, so I'd probably choose that. I do have interest in "historical" fashion, but whether I have the patience to learn all the necessary techniques remains to be seen!

Thanks for reading! I'll see you next time with some more nail art and insight until it's time for me to cosplay again.

Photos by me.

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