Ok, so after about 20 years of abstention, I finally went to a nail salon and asked for gel tips. That was on June 28 and the lady in the salon put on some beautiful acrylic fakes instead. By the time I realized what she was doing it seemed kind of too late to stop her, and she did do a beautiful job and the nails lasted well over a month...but they are still not gone. Nope, I filed them down and did the fill-in myself with ridge filler and other kewl stuff while on vacation, and when we got back in September a different salon put shellac on top of what didn't come off in their removal soak thingee.
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the beautiful, thin, real looking, but shiny and hard and smooth nail surface this relatively new technology offers.
I was supposed to go back in two weeks, but instead I bought some Gelish stuff, including the new LED nail dryer, and I am SO going to try doing it myself. No need for cosmetology school!
Update October 11: OK, it was pretty easy to put on and 4 days later, all 10 nails are still looking great. I can DO this! The best thing I did was to get the LED dryer which takes 30 seconds instead of 2 minutes for each stage of the curing. When I put the foundation on I found that the light was uncomfortably hot after just 5 seconds so I quick pulled my hand out and let it cool then did another 5 seconds. It cooled fine and I had no issues with the 30 second curing after the color coat, white tips, and top coat. So far I am VERY happy with the Gelish products, although the dryer was not their brand as I found a much cheaper one on eBay ($99 instead of $350).
Update March 7, 2012: One more application and I will have recovered the cost of all of the equipment and supplies I bought to do the Gelish manicures at home. Here is a photo.