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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.



My best friends in high school were the statisticians for the basketball team and we would name a "Lee Press On Player Of The Game" at the end of each game. We thought it was funny.

My favorite line was, and I'm sure you know what I'm going to say, "smooth as a high-end hooker's legs."

Pure genious ...

I guess the converse is "she was as rough as a two bit hooker's face"?



I have only had the acrylic nails one time, and that was for my Senior High School pictures. How very vain of me, I know. They lasted about 2 weeks before I ripped them off. I couldn't stand the feel of them; it was like they were pulling on my real nails underneath.

Love the dress and hairdo. It's very... late '90's, right? Probably, '97 or '98? Hehehe. Good times, good times. You do look gorgeous, though, despite all that.

Great writing, too.


Jef: There are no words.

Chiada: Close enough! I graduated in 1996, so this picture was taken in 1995 (11th grade). Does that make me ahead of my time? A trend setter, even?

My date: he was very BERSHON about it all.


I wanted that dress for Prom! My mother said no. I ended up with something black and slightly more practical...and I wore it exactly ONE time after Prom. To a funeral. With a sweater covering all the parts of my upper body that the dress didn't. And, yes, I had real fake nails for Prom. Loved how they looked, hated living in fear of something awful happening to them.

Now that I've ditched retail work for good, I finally have long(ish) fingernails on a regular basis and I love it!


My husband and two of my kiddos do this.

I think chewing cuticles is ... um ... gross too.

I'm trying to beat the habit of chewing on my toenails. Think acrylic will work? No?


Do you think I can convince my husband to get real fake nails? Because he has that chewing on his cuticle problem and it is SO DISGUSTING.


It won't work. After one year of wearing acrylic nails for the same reason (only I pick at my cuticles, sorry eating your own flesh is gross) I took off my nails in April. My healthy non-red, non-scabby cuticles lasted about 45 minutes. There is such freedom in not having acrylic nails and being able to pick at your cuticles, it was wonderful! Until the bleeding started and I realized that the desire to pick at my cuticles would not go away, I could sit on my hands, completely distract my mind, but minutes later I'd be at it again. Wow - this has been long, you might need to edit me.


Jes -
Truthfully, I was thinking 1996, because that's the year I graduated and the style looked all too familiar. But, for some reason, I was thinking that you were a year or two younger than me, which is why I dated the dress to '97/'98. And, I forgot that you mentioned that you wore it in 11th grade.


Wow... that is an interesting hairstyle.

I've had "real fake nails" for 10 years now. Only rarely do they bother me... like when I sit back and think of all the organic food I eat, and that I garden organically, I don't wear a ton of makeup and don't color or perm my hair. I don't believe in plastic surgery for myself, and I hate even taking an aspirin if I don't need to.

And yet, I have had fake nails for 10 years. I must ask myself why. And I answer that it's because I have crazy big hands with stubby fingers and someone might mistake me as Ru Paul if I didn't have them on.

Ok, it's not THAT bad. I just wanted to refer to Ru Paul in my comment. :-)


Maybe I should try that. I have the exact same bad habit. I used to chew my cuticles all the time; then for quite a long time I got out of the habit. But last year I was transferred within my company to a new department and I guess it was stressful because the next thing you know I started doing it again. Maybe I'll go for the fake fingernails!


Maybe I should try that. I have the exact same bad habit. I used to chew my cuticles all the time; then for quite a long time I got out of the habit. But last year I was transferred within my company to a new department and I guess it was stressful because the next thing you know I started doing it again. Maybe I'll go for the fake fingernails!


hehe. I love your hair.


h-i! I haven't been on here in forever...as you know! But I wanted to stop by and say hello to you! I think your prom picture is funny...I love the sequined blue dress...that is so 90's. Luckily I never succumbed to the bright colored sequined dress...I must have know I would regret looking back on it later. Anyway, I love you! Talk to you soon...


You're pretty wearing that blue dress, Jes.

I always failed growing my nails. I should try fake nails sometimes =)



You kind of look like - and I'm not sure if this is a compliment anymore, I'm so out of the loop - but you kind of look like Britney Spears back when she used to be the nice girl next door type.



Gah! I thought I was the only one!

I used to chew my cuticles AND it gave me a dental problem, too. Except my dental problem was that two of my main cuticle-chewing teeth broke. The top halves of them just flaked away due to stress fractures.

Now that they have veneers on them, my teeth don't fit together the same way and I can't get a grip on my cuticles anymore.

I'm pretty sure I'd still be doing it otherwise.


HE HE HE. My prom dress was purple sequins. We almost had a matching set. But it was 1994. wahoo!


Oh, I can SO relate. I do the exact same thing -- the chewing of cuticles. It's horrid. And it's a downward spiral -- as soon as I do it once, I leave behind a jagged piece that is just BEGGING to be "groomed". Like you, I resorted to acrylics to break my habit and it worked...temporarily. I was doing well for awhile, but the last few weeks have been stressful (moving, etc) and I'm back to chewing. I'm hoping I'll be able to kick the habit without spending the money on fake nails again, but if I can't, it's money well spent. Good luck!


My prom hair was horrible. Worst ever of all my Primo Dance Hairstyles. I'm pretty sure my hairdresser was drunk. Which hey! I might have liked the hair better had I been.

(I LOVE your hair. I can't help it. It's the best use of bun I have ever seen.)


Oooo, in that prom photo you look like a brunette Britney Spears, had she remained normal... (that's a compliment btw).


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