Outstreched arm

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How not to bite your nails

If I've ever ridiculed or scolded you for smoking or succumbing to another such nasty habit, it's time for me to apologize; not for the ridicule and scorn - those were probably well deserved - but for the hypocrisy. My name is Neven Mrgan and I've been an avid nail-biter all my life.

I've heard many explanations for it, and even more cures, and nothing made sense or worked. Or, it all made some sense and worked somewhat; not enough to stop me from cracking and chewing off my nails into a rather unattractive display. I've tried making myself aware of when I do it and forcing myself not to give in, but it can be really hard. If you don't bite your nails and you never have, I understand why you don't understand. In my case, it has nothing to do with the oral fixation of it (I hate the taste and the feeling). It's related more to the upsetting, obsession-fueling sensation of feeling the unevenness, the sharpness, the pointy, out-standing quality of my fingernails. It drives me crazy, like a thousand tags sticking out of the back of my T-shirt.

It's not rational, at least not entirely - while the biting has made my nails rough, they're not horrendous or medically worrying, I hope. For whatever crazy reason, my brain is irritatingly irritated by these imperfections. Perhaps that's a cop-out; that "crazy reason" could be something deeper - something from my childhood, a deep personality flaw, yada yada yada. I don't know and I don't know how to find out.

What matters is that I've currently adopted a fairly simple and effective way of dealing with the symptom. I carry a small nail file, and when frustration with my nails rears its ugly head, I pull it out and file away whatever tiny hill or valley upset me so.

So far it's worked beautifully. If I catch myself idly gnawing on my fingers, I remember the nail file immediately because it does something I could never do before - it makes my nails smooth and unnoticeable in a matter of seconds. See, part of my problem before was that biting a nail to fix its flaws is... well, pick your analogy. ("Like going at a bike with a chain saw to fix a loose seat post"? "Saving an oversalted stew by putting an army boot in it"?)

So why on earth hadn't I thought of this before? I mean, most people file their nails regularly. The trouble with that is, I would never reach that point since by the time I was near a nail file, my nails would be stubby little things, immune to further filing. So the key to the Neven Method™ is to have your trusty nail file on you at all times. You know the desire to bite comes when it wants to. Now that I have reasonably presentable nails, perhaps I can figure out how to rid myself of that desire altogether.

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