Old Habits Die Hard
August 03, 2007
The first time I wore fake fingernails, I was in fifth grade. They were Lee Press-Ons, and I was a pre-teen trying to impress my friend, Lisa.
That's just how our relationship was, as awful and misguided as it sounds. She would show up to school with a cute outfit, complete with MC Hammer-style pants, and I would try to one-up her the next day. She would hairspray her bangs four-inches-tall, and I would create a five-inch tidal wave the following morning. She would let me watch Nickelodeon at her house, and then we'd go to mine and I'd try to convince her that it was better to have twenty acres of land to roam. PLUS A HORSE. I usually won, though only marginally, considering she had Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
I'd walk about, flittering my blood-red fingernails every which way, hoping to invoke some sort of envy on her part. Then, inevitably, I'd knock against a desk, or walk into a wall, or trip over a strand of hair, as I am clumsily wont to do, and a fingernail that I had painstakingly peeled from its sheath and carefully pressed onto my finger would fly across the room like a red, elongated fruit-fly chasing the scent of a discarded watermelon rind. And there I would be, horrified that I had only nine crimson fingernails, scheming a plan to hide my left index finger all day long until I could get home to replace it.
The second time I wore fake fingernails, I was in eleventh grade. They were an oxymoron: real fake fingernails, the kind that were glued on and painted over with acrylic, then buffed and polished until they were as smooth as a high-end hooker's legs. I was going to my first prom, and it was important that my fingernails look perfect, as I would later find out, because my hair was a hot mess. When I gave my stylist free reign, I didn't mean that I wanted her to flip my head over, give me a French braid up one side of my scalp, with a curly side-ponytail coming out the other half.
Go ahead, imagine that. I'll wait.
In fact, I'll even help with a picture from prom:
I tried to play it off, like the fact that I looked like Helen Keller had fixed my hair didn't bother me. I convinced myself that no one else would have my same style -- and believe me, no one did -- and then when my date arrived, I found myself apologizing to him for his unfortunate luck of having to be seen with my hair that night. You should know that it didn't work out, that we really didn't talk much after that, and it has taken me until just now to realize why.
I kept wearing real fake fingernails until after I graduated from high school, when I became a very, very poor college student. But not so poor that I couldn't buy beer on the weekends. In hindsight, I should have spent that money on real fake fingernails. It probably would have significantly increased my GPA that year.
Somewhere along the line, in-between real fake fingernails and the end of my freshman year of college, I developed a nasty habit. I didn't bite my fingernails. I don't understand how people can stand to do that; instead, I bit my cuticles. It may not seem like that huge of leap to you -- from fingernails to cuticles, that is -- but the difference was at least enough to make me a snob about how disgusting it is to bite one's fingernails. It is a disgusting habit. I hope you don't do it. My habit, on the otherhand, is perfectly acceptable. Maybe even hygenic, since it's more like pruning myself and less like eating bacteria that has collected under my nailbed.
It's a habit I've hung onto for the past ten years. It's something I resort to when I'm feeling nervous or insecure or worrisome or all three at the same time. When I'm through gnawing on myself, each finger is raw and at least one finger is bleeding. I've shoved my fingers so forcefully into my mouth and I've been so determined to get every last bit of skin off my cuticles that I've actually had to have a root canal because of it. I'll repeat that so you can get the full effect: MY BAD HABITS CAUSE ME ROOT CANALS. Yours?
That's why, three months ago, I got real fake nails for the third time. You see, with all that acrylic on my fingernails I can't get close enough to gnaw on myself. Real fake fingernails became my tooth-destroying, $60 per month preventative measure. And tomorrow I'm taking them off.
My cuticles are no longer raw. I think I've kicked the habit. I hope I've kicked the habit. God, please let me have kicked the habit.
Plus, I can think of several other things I'd rather spend $60 each month on. Like maybe a new hair stylist.