Old Habits May Not Die, but They Can Hibernate
In my earliest years, I lived to please my parents. So when my mother and I were walking across the street to visit our neighbor and she announced that she was just going to have to soak my fingers in vinegar to cure my nail-biting, I was utterly mortified. It turns out that I begged off with promises that died as quickly as they were spoken. I can remember visiting Santa Claus with my hands in fists lest he ask about my fingernails. Now I wonder if I could possibly have avoided mononucleosis (at 10) or a myriad of other childhood infections that I suffered.
Vanity was my initial cure. By the time I got to high school, I decided that stubby bitten nails would just not be a good way to get a date. Not that it helped my social life appreciably, but I did stop biting my nails. I didn’t just cease biting them, I grew them into dracula claws. I can distinctly remember my petite highly-made-up organ teacher instructing me to “cut those nails” if I wanted to continue to take lessons from her. What a switch!
But as with all addictions, at some point around the end of college I resumed biting my nails. Was it for oral gratification? Just a nervous habit? Was I perhaps instinctively self-destructive? I often wondered what made me do it.
Ironically enough the latest real cure came in the form of orthodonture. When my mouth was so wired, I simply couldn’t bite my nails or my cuticles. So my nails grew out once again, my cuticles healed. Although my hands are starting to show those spots that old people get, they look not-so-bad otherwise. I keep my nails cut short so as not to click on the piano keys.
I’m smart enough to know that any addiction, whether it be alcoholism, anorexia, or drug addiction, is with you forever. It’s just a question of not allowing even one exception, or you’re likely to be hooked again.
I consider myself a recovering nail-biter. I no longer have to satisfy my parents or Santa Claus. I don’t have to attract a husband. I simply have to look at my own hands and be pleased that I can be in control of at least one aspect of my life.