Parenting Blog

I Bite, Therefore I Am (Diary of a Compulsive Fingernail Biter)


Try as I might, there’s simply no way I’ll ever again bear witness to a pow-wow of my face and my feet. At 40 years of age, I’m not even half as flexible as I once was, so sadly, my toenail-biting career has come to an end.

A moment of silence, please.

While my toes are now quite literally out of reach, I steadfastly remain a compulsive fingernail biter because advancing age hasn’t yet diminished my ability to shove all 8 fingers and 2 pudgy thumbs into my mouth. Usually only my own. For as long as I am able to reach my digits it’ll be open season 24/7/365 on those nails. I can’t stop and, frankly, I don’t want to stop. You’re just going to have to deal with it.

Listen, you’ve got your wine, reality TV shows, and Candy Crush — I’ve got my fingers. Nibbling on nails as if they are corn on cob and attacking my cuticles like Cujo is how I cope with all the ladies in my life simultaneously having lice and my oldest daughter telling me about her school project for the first time the night before its due. Chomping my tips is also how I choose to pass the time while watching European football at 7:00 A.M. on cold Saturday mornings and also while driving on long stretches of boring highway. I’m not embarrassed by my oral finger fixation either. After all, I never had aspirations of becoming a hand model and my habit has provided me with the opportunity to use the phrase “oral finger fixation” in a blog post. There’s nothing but winning going on here.

In the grand scheme of things, biting my nails since childhood isn’t the nastiest habit a human can have — far from it. I have never once had a drink, a puff, or a snort of anything, and within the last five years I have given up soda and doughnuts, the two worst things that had been passing through my lips. Biting my fingernails and chewing down my cuticles is all I’ve got left!

Years back, an old boss of mine gave me a bottle of some gluey-like substance that he said worked to halt his own nail biting. The sludge tasted and smelled so bad the idea is that you’ll slowly be conditioned to not jam your fingers to your mouth. Alternatively, you might slowly be conditioned to enjoy the flavor and become addicted to the chemical stew locked inside that tiny bottle. It could really go either way. No thanks, boss man. I like my nails organic, sustainable and non-GMO. And I love them in my mouth.

He wasn’t the only person to try to ‘help’ me. My wife continues to swat my arm away when she spies me going in for a bite, but even if I relent, it’ll only be temporary win for her. A minute or two later, I’ll be back at it. Eventually she gives up — my will too strong — and my nails go down to the quick. The Mrs. groans but knows that, in the end, there’s nothing she can do. She married a nail biter. That’s on her.

Unlike some people who chew their nails subconsciously, I’m fully aware of when I’m biting and my habit is not linked to anxiety. Instead, biting my nails has been helping me combat boredom for over 30 years. I have history on my side and I like to think I could stop whenever I want but my habit isn’t hurting anyone and isn’t harming me, so I’ll keep on chomping proudly, and when a company someday invents a magical, chemical-free ointment to halt nail biting, I’ll gladly pose in the before photo for their infomercial.

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