Nail biting is something that I inherited. My father is a furious nail biter, stealing a nibble in front of the television or while driving with one hand. His free fingers travel up to his mouth and click, click, click nails off. He had no use for nail clippers. He had chosen the more economic, grossly minimalist idea of maintenance: he had his mouth.
I bite my nails. It’s something I’ve always done and it’s weird and it’s kind of like an entry level relaxation therapy. I understand why my father was a biter. I had to stop though because the consequence of a lifetime of nail biting is what my father had: no nails. He has tiny clear crescent moons on his fleshy fingers. They are barely noticeable unless a nail bed catches the light at a lucky angle. He has bitten his nails completely off, not in one sitting but after years and years and years of The Bite.
That would not be me. Not only am I gay but I have learned from the past: I will have nails like a civilized prissy faggot. How can you stop The Bite, though? I tried to ignore my fingers and tried dipping them in foul smelling things that would make my fingers taste nasty. These methods didn’t work. Is there a more fashionable alternative to prevention?
Nail polish. Yes, the gendered hand paint is the solution. I had painted my nails neon green once in middle school but had not touched the stuff since them, since so many people poked fun in not-nice, homophobic ways. In an increasingly post-gender society and with my own post-gender leanings, the polish has been the solution: if I could coat my nails in a colored chemical you also paint walls with then, yes, I would stop nail biting as to not ingest paint.
The results have been shockingly efficient. With $5 cool colors from CVS and no knowledge of how to stay within the lines of painting, my fingertips have been coated with a protection against The Bite. It’s an accidental sartorial decision, too! People love to comment on them, like I had crossed over into a club of manicurists and am eager to talk nails. And I am! I love how pretty they are even though it is very clear that I have paint all over my skin and that the coat is chipped to bits. Most people take kind pity on me. “A man trying to do his nails?” they must think. “How cute. How quaint!”
Those both are true but some other things are true: being a man is boring, nail painting is a kind subversion of gender, but—most importantly—the polish is protection from decades of a destructive, personal habit. Sure, the Sleek Slate™ I picked is sweet but it’s strictly servicible: if I were to stop the polishing, my nails would be shaved away under my teeth with the satisfying click click click of The Bite my father gave me. Choosing a color also serves as an unspoken agreement between you and all other nail painters: they can see you’ve painted. Everyone knows you have indulged and therefore are holding you accountable to commentary. You don’t want to pass as a non-nail painter: you want to be included because inclusion is accountability. If you see something, say something.
So, an interesting solution for curbing nailbiting: paint your nails. The satisfaction associated with The Bite will disappear but you will have nails. You will be able to open things and scratch and tap like most other civilized human beings. Yes, I do occasionally let one or two fingers a month fall victim to The Bite and, yes, a new habit has emerged from this, one that involves resting a long nail longingly on a tooth, without biting, to feel the sensation of tooth-on-nail.
But, I’ve found an answer to ending a lifelong habit: paint your nails. It really, really works.