Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A new world, painted pink

In the premise that the first sign of addiction is confronting your denial of said addiction, the time has come for me to announce the truth:

I am a nail biter.

I hate the way that sentence looks. I hate the way it sounds. I hate the image it conjures up, of a nervous strung-out girl with chunks of hair missing, eating an Ally Sheedy dandruff sandwich. I'm "normal," I'm healthy, I'm well-adjusted, I'm smart. Surely I'm not a nail biter. And yet, get me on an airplane or watching television, and there I am, biting my nails to the quick.

For 20 years.

I actually used to have fingernails. In fifth grade, I was known for rocking crazy designs in my fingernail polish (coordinated polka dots, stripes, you name it). My friends all had me paint their nails at slumber parties. Somewhere along the way, though, I started biting. I'm not sure when or how, but I'm fairly certain they were gone by the time middle school got underway. And I've never gotten them back.

But calling myself a nail biter? Nooooo. When people saw my little boy nails and asked if I bit them, I would say things like, "I guess so... but I never realize that I do it" or "I bite them when I travel without meaning to." Mmm hmmm. I tried to stop sometime in high school with that pepper polish that stings when you bite, but then I came to enjoy the peppery tingle of the polish (freak). I was proud not to value them. I didn't mind that I wouldn't have a sparkly engagement ring hand photo. I made jokes about them. I didn't care that I'd have little boy nails at our wedding, and certainly wasn't going to put on fake nails just for looks. At the last minute I booked a manicure with clear polish for the morning of the wedding, mostly to get a cozy paraffin hand wrap, just in case my hands were photographed. Guess what happened? The manicurist sliced open my ring finger. In fairness to her, she was so upset she did it that she started crying. I just shrugged it off... to me, it was just a sign that I shouldn't have even bothered.

Something crazy happened a few weeks ago, though.

I looked down at my fingers and I noticed that I had three real nails: actual white parts! I don't know how it happened - it wasn't intentional at all. I became obsessed with how cute the three "long" ones were. I'd bite the others and keep the three growers safe. Then I pictured those weird nail techs at salons with the one crazy long nail, and decided to make a real effort not to bite at all. I don't think I'd ever done that as an adult.

I was at the beach with my cousins, and the nails kept growing. I showed them off and tried to instill in these teenagers the full saga of my nails. My sister, who knows all about my nails, was impressed. I'd catch myself putting them up to my mouth, but I'd actively take them away. Then it hit me: what if I painted them, since true nail polish tastes awful? Would I really be able to turn them into something nice if I used polish as a preventative measure?

Suddenly they were a shimmery nude, and they kept growing. All week long at the beach. I didn't want to mess up the polish, so I was leaving them alone. The day after I returned from the Outer Banks, I was meeting T for drinks and a movie downtown. I decided to go crazy: pink nails.

At the restaurant, I told him I had a surprise. I burst out in a grin and showed him my ultra-girly pink nails. They were there. Short for other girls, but all-out long for me. They were PINK! They were mine. Here they are in all their glory:

It's kind of crazy, having these things. I'm not used to them yet, so I notice them all the time. They're foreign, but somehow not. Typing is weird, for instance. But I've been repainting them - revolutionary stuff for me! I noticed that stuff gets underneath them and I have to clean them. I have a little nail file that was in my Christmas stocking one year and has since been gathering dust (thanks Mom!), and I have been using it

Whoa - I can see my nails from behind!

Umm... seriously? PINK NAILS! I really want to do red soon. Ahhhhh!

Crazy stuff. 20 years beginning to give way to something new, all in the span of a few weeks.

I realize this is lame of me, admitting an addiction only to say I've started overcoming it. But "started" is the key word here. The polish prevents me from biting, but I still constantly catch myself putting them to my mouth. How is it possible that for 20 years, I wouldn't admit that I'm a nail biter? It's so clear to me now that I actually notice when I have the impulse. I wonder if one day I'll be able to refrain from biting even without polish.

So tell me, those of you who have stuck with me through this long post... what are your weird behavioral addictions you don't like to admit?  Did you also overcome nail-biting? And importantly: WILL I MAKE IT TO AN ACTUAL MANICURE ONE DAY?


  1. your ring is pretty! :] I used to bite my nails, then someone told me a horror story about pinworms. EWW. Havent done it since.

  2. Maggie...those do NOT look like your hands. Very strange.

  3. Congrats! Your nails look beautiful. I used to chew my own nails but managed to stop around HS.
    However I did find out 2 years ago that I'm a teeth grinder. I had no idea! My dentist figured it out during a routine visit where I'd finally ground through some layers of enamel. I've since been fitted with a lovely mouth guard to wear at night and now that I'm aware of the habit I do catch myself clenching my teeth during the day and need to consciously relax.

  4. I still sometimes will wake up sucking my thumb. Yes. I am a 27 year old thumb sucker. My mother would be MORTIFIED if she knew I was sharing this on the internet. I will never quit. QUITTERS NEVER WIN.

    Unless of course you are a quitter with really pretty fingernails!

  5. Love your pink nails! Crazy to think that you were able to change a 20 year old habit so easily.

    My behavioral oddity/addiction - I'm a picker. I will pick at anything (well, except my nose. That's just nasty). A broken nail, a scab, a thread on a shirt, my food. I do it without realizing I'm doing it. I am careful not to do it in business settings (particulary food - it's not professional or lady-like, or let's face normal, to pick your food apart and inspect it before eating it.) There it is - my dirty secret - I'm a picker.

  6. Maggie your nails look great!! As does your sparkly engagement ring! I always thought people have that one weird long nail because of an intense cocaine addiction (all the better for snorting stuff, my dear). Is that not why? There is a very strong possibility I made that up!

  7. Oh, and I'm a picker like Melissa. So gross.

  8. Hooray Maggie! But first a moment for our dear Cheesefiend's thumbsucking... Hilarious.

    I bit my nails till freshman year of college, I'm about to celebrate my first full decade as a non nail biter. Probably after 3 years or so, it would have NEVER occurred to me to bite them.

  9. I am a long time nail biter. I went through a brief period in grad school where I completely stopped, but now I generally let then grow and then at some point when bored/anxious/etc I bite them off. I also occasionally cut them. After years with no nails, long nails kind of gross me out.

  10. So jealous! I, too, am a long-time nail biter. I even went as far as to have acrylic nails for over a decade! I always said I treated my nails worse than the fake ones did. But three years ago, I took them off and never put them back on. I'm still a biter but am becoming more conscious, like you, of when I put my fingers in my mouth.

    During my medical leave in June, my nails grew like crazy. Then the week before I had to return to work, I bit them all off! Stressed about going back, maybe?! Keep up the great work. You've inspired me to put this addiction behind me for good!

  11. My finger nails are delicious and I will never stop biting them. I did for a while in college and then one day I woke up and was like EFF THIS. And bit them all off. It was glorious.

  12. I was a chronic nail biter from the time I had teeth. I honestly don't even remember pre-nail biting. I tried everything to stop. Then around 16 or 17, I just decided I could bite all of them, but one. Then 8 of them. Then just 7 of them, and so on. I actually had a "favorite nail" to bite (middle finger on my right hand), so that was the hardest to stop, but finally I did, and was pretty psyched about it. However, in true addict form, I have basically transferred the nail biting over to cuticle picking. Gross. Still trying to figure out a way to get over that one. It's always something!

  13. I have always been a nail biter also! Up until about a year ago, when I decided that people probably don't want their dentist to stick ragged nails into their mouths. I had tried to quit in the past and was never able to, but this time it seemed so easy, I hardly noticed the difference!

    I just have to make sure I have a nail file around and anytime I want to bite, I file instead. And yes, you will make it to a manicure!

  14. hahaha, I love this post! I'm a polish junkie (paint of the nails, not the eastern european country), and must ALWAYS HAVE PEDI'ED FEET. go see what OPI has to offer--they even have an iphone app. ;) not that I have it or anything...

  15. Your nails look lovely! Your post was one year ago... are you still a recovering nail biter? I have been biting my nails for aver 50 years. About six weeks ago I went for my 3rd ever pedicure and decided I wanted to have pretty nails. I have an addictive personality, so I wasn't sure I could do it. I've stayed on track for 6 weeks now and had my first manicure yesterday. I'm obsessed with my nails now... not with biting them, but with keeping them pretty and painted :) Love my new world, too!


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