A Nail Biting Tale

After several months of not going to the Beauty Salon to get my ‘full set’ done I noticed yesterday that my hands were disastrous. Not only they looked like I was a farmer, I have that annoying habit of chewing the skin around it too, so there was blood around it and, frankly, they hurt. Not again!!

My Wedding Day Manicure, June 24th, 2002

My husband always tells me I have a non-addictive personality and a few friends have commented on that as well, but there is one thing that I cannot stop and it is biting my nails when I stress out. That’s right, I don’t reach for that Oreo Cookie or pour myself several glasses of Tequila shots, nor I feel the need to take any drugs, I… bite my nails. And while on a broader sense, its a minute problem in comparison, is still a bothersome one.

It all started one day on the school bus in 4th grade. My classmate gasped when she saw my nails… ‘Don’t you know today the teacher is going to inspect our nails?’
This is Italy, circa 1974, and if I had gone to a public school, the teachers there would not have cared to see my nails at all, but my dad, bless his heart, even though we were working class, wanted me to have a top notch education, at least for the Elementary years, hence, he sent me to a private School run by Catholic Nuns. The Nuns had some serious, if unorthodox, rules. We had to wear uniforms, we had to pray daily, we had to help out with everything and, yes, cleanliness was next to Godliness, although I am not sure how that would relate to the length of the nails, but, I digress.
I don’t remember exactly what the “punishment” was for having long nails, but it must have been a steep one, because I panicked. Here I was, on the bus, half-way to school, and I asked around if anyone had a pair of scissors, and when nobody did I started doing the only thing I could think of-I started biting the ‘evidence’ away.

It’s funny thinking back at that day because I did not like the way that felt at all, but once I started, I never stopped. I can still remember the taste of the solution my mother used to put on my nails to prevent me from biting my nails. It didn’t work. To be honest, I never thought it was much of a problem until 4 years later when a comment by a relative humiliated and mortified me.
It’s hard enough being barely a teenager, and even less so when some people want to constantly compare you with someone that is older, more sophisticated, foreign. Someone that wasn’t me and would never be. On that fateful day this relative looked down at my nails in disapproval and asked me…
“They look terrible! Why don’t you do your nails like “HER”?
My fragile ego was destroyed by this comment, I was just too young for this kind of disapproval (over nails, I mean, thinking back now… WHAT?) I felt ashamed, victimized, less than. Self esteem? Gone. I was 14, and I was not good enough. That’s all I heard. I would never be good enough unless I was exactly like HER.

Unfortunately I had no clue what ‘her’ nails looked like, so I assumed they were manicured, polished, not ravenously bit. Easier said than done. Nail salons were out of my price range and they would be for a long time to come. For years I tried to figure out a way to make my nails look better, but my habit was stronger than I thought. I would bit without thinking, without realizing it. I was hopeless.
It wasn’t until only about 10 years ago, when I met the daughter of a friend of my husband, who worked at a nail salon, that she suggested getting a ‘full set’ of gel “acrylic” nails. I never heard of them, but I thought I would give them a try. To my amazement, not only they looked spectacular, but, Voila’, problem gone. Done. Over! They just feel too bizarre to chew, and who wants to ruin a $25-30 pristine manicure that can last a month? I am too cheap to allow that to happen, ha ha.

Nowadays I try to get to the salon once a month, or at least every 6 weeks, but at times life is just way too hectic, so I let it ‘go’, and then I am surprised how fast I can get right back into the habit as if I had never stopped. Good Grief!
I am not surprised that I never heard of acrylic nails up until this point in my life, by then I was in my late 30s. I never knew anyone that did them that way and it never crossed my mind that they could be done that way. I worked so hard when I was trying to franchise a Domino’s Pizza store in my 20s, that for nearly a decade I could not even wear jewelry while working, let alone get my nails done. Manicures? What Manicures? It was only after I realized my dream was gone and went to work for Babbage’s that I even realized what fashion was and started getting dressing better, paying more attention to details. It helps when you have to look ‘top notch’ at work and not wearing the Domino’s ‘clown suit’ as we called it. Not long thereafter though my son was born with EB, so my nails were the least of my concerns.

I went and got my nails done today and they no longer hurt and they look so pretty there is no way I am going to touch them! Now, what do I replace this annoying habit with? Hmmm… Suggestions anyone?

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