Monday, November 8, 2010

Pick your Poison

While I'm not an under-employed musician living in Chinatown, I can appreciate the basic tenet of this song: living in the city is stressful.

I've realized that one fail-proof way to gauge my stress/anxiety level is to simply check my fingernails. Some people's weight fluctuates. Others break out, or get dark circles under their eyes. While I'm not immune to any of these either, my fingernails are the constantly victimized ones.

My thrashing, stress laden teeth come down on my nails with no abandon. The pearly white beasts don't stop until there's (literally, sometimes) blood. I'm not kidding, though it has gotten better over the years.

I've struggled with nail biting my whole life, trying various remedies. Most notable: my dad bought me the terrible tasting nail polish to deter me from biting. Turns out I liked the feeling of ravishing my nails more than I disliked the taste of said polish.

Lesson #36: Learn to accept that some of your bad habits/vices are simply here to stay. There are enough pressures and outside stressors that you should pick your battles, and pick your cuticles if it helps deal with stress. My nail biting has only been exacerbated by living in this city. I go through phases where I'm able to grown them out a dainty millimeter or two. When I get to this point, my nails become a precious, exotic novelty, and I protect them the way a mother shields her fragile babies.

But then, lo and behold, I get stressed and the next thing I know, they're gone. I generally have no recollection of the nail biting happening, but I have learned to keep them a bit longer than in the past. I suppose I'm learning the subtle art of restraint?

At the very least, you'd think I'd appreciate the decadent iniquity of nail biting. But the stress saps that small joy from me, and essentially bites my nails for me since it happens so quickly, and without memory.

Somewhat ironically, the only things I've found consistently cheaper in the city are manicures. However, the last time I went, the nail technician seriously considered whether or not it was worth painting my nails. They're beyond hope (her words). But now that I've started to just accept this vice, I can focus my time figuring out how to handle inevitable stress more effectively. Who knows - maybe that'll help with the nail biting, and lead to a new career as a hand model.

(if you ever see me with these, please introduce me to stress immediately.)


  1. as far as de-stressing habits go, nail biting is probably the tamest/most socially accepted. everything in perspective, cath. the most anybody will say about it is that it's strange but endearing. much better than effective but unlawful.

  2. Yes, we should compare nails. How are your toe nails?