Confessions of a Nail Biter

I should say up front that there will be typos. Oh, boy, will there ever be typos. Already, I’ve typed out “cinfessions” and “tyos.” And this is only the beginning, I’m sure. See, I’ve given into my vanity – as I do about twice a year – and plastered on some fake nails. They’re fabulous. Pink and pretty. Of course, I can’t do anything in them. I can’t pick stuff up. I can’t open doors. I can’t open tabs on soft drink cans. Most of all, I can’t type. Not without serious typos.

This is what happens when you’ve spent twenty-one years as a nail biter.

I admit it. I’m jealous of people who have long nails. My mother. My friends. My world lit professor, whose long, beautiful nails are always painted black. Every day I’d go to class and stare down at my own hands, and feel the indescribable urge to hide them in my sleeves or sit on them. Nicely manicured nails = put together and professional. My nails? More like “high functioning anxiety sufferer with oral fixation issues.”

Thank God I’m not Freudian. I’d really be in trouble.

Why, then, don’t I just stop biting them? It’s an excellent question, and I am prepared to pay handsomely for the answer. Lord knows I’ve tried. I’ve painted on the nasty tasting nail polish. I’ve dipped my fingers in pepper. Short of wearing rubber gloves 24/7 (which I’ve also done for other reasons), I’ve tried everything imaginable to keep my fingers out of my mouth.

Even the OCD hasn’t been able to win the Battle of the Bite. I KNOW how many germs get on my hands. I know that putting my fingers in my mouth constantly is likely to lead to more sickness. I totally get how counterproductive it is to wash my hands and follow it up by chewing on my fingers. But the nail biting lives on, complete with bloody cuticles and nail beds.

If only I could apply that kind of drive to other areas of my life. If I persisted in studying the way I persist in nail biting, I’d have been a college graduate three times over now.

So, what do you do?

Most of the time, I pretend that I don’t care. I figure that the jagged nails go along with my image as eccentric, offbeat, and dysfunctional. And when I’m really bored, I buy a package of the fake ones and glue them on.

Most of the time, they don’t last the night. For the uninitiated, fake nails hurt. At least, they hurt me. They pull on my already damaged nail beds. They get caught on things because I don’t know what to do with them and they rip off. And once one of them goes, that’s it. I start to work on the other nine, and it provides hours of entertainment.

I’m not sure entertainment is the right word. It’s more like one of those 3D puzzles where you try to get something large out of something small, and you curse at it and throw it against a wall a few times over until you finally get it out. Then you swear you’ll never do another puzzle like that again. That’s how it is with me and these nails. I put them on, rip them off, and swear I’ll never do it again.

But I will. You and I both know it.

Chalk it up to my neuroses. The desire to look as if I’m all together overrides my common sense. It is responsible for my wearing heels to campus even though I can be sure that I’ll come home with blisters. It’s responsible for my staying up half the night making sure that my homework is mistake free, even when the homework is only credit/no-credit and will be read by a TA instead of my professor. There’s just something about me that won’t allow me to give people a reason to think that I’m not right on top of things.

This, by the way, is probably why I bite my nails in the first place.

Who can live up to that kind of internal pressure?

Really, sometimes I just don’t make sense to myself. As for why I did this today… well, there’s no one in Lockhart to care whether or not my hands look nice, so I’m going to blame the spectacular lack of sleep thanks to last night’s noise pollution, and the brain cell death caused by 24/7 TV exposure.

Yup. That’s it.

When all else fails – blame the parents.



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