I broke a nail.
That always bugs me.
Before you start thinking, “Geez, how vain can she be? It’s just a nail. Get over it…” allow me to fill you in on some background information.
You see, I was born with the capacity to grow teeth. Two sets of them, as a matter of fact. The first ones started falling out when I was around five years old.
“Don’t worry,” I was told by a well-meaning adult (without a degree in dentistry, I might add). “You’ll get permanent teeth where those used to be.”
“Yep. Just don’t keep running your tongue through the space where the old one was, or the new one won’t grow back.”
With the discovery that I was going to have plenty of teeth, a nervous habit was part of the package deal—nail-biting.
I began biting my nails around the same time I started reading. (I don’t think the two are necessarily related, but when you start reading the newspapers as a toddler, it’s bound to increase your stress level to nail-biting capacity.) I don’t remember many instances from my childhood in which I was satisfactorily able to scratch an itch.
And it’s all because I had teeth and a nervous disposition.
Fingernails are advantageous for a number of reasons besides itch-scratching. They can be used for scratching off potentially lucrative lottery tickets, they can double as a flat-head screwdriver in a pinch, and they have the capacity to bring together a cross-section of society to gossip in harmony and unity through a ritual known as a manicure.
I did save money on my high school prom because I didn’t have long enough fingernails to require a manicure. Still, I had always wondered what it would be like to have beautiful nails. My curiosity, however, was not enough to defeat the lifelong habit.
Then, wouldn’t you know it, my teeth intervened again…in a different manner.
When I was in college, I had to have a root canal. (It would be the first in a series of root canals that have since made manicure costs appear minuscule.) Due to a number of factors, my bite shifted slightly when the permanent crown was affixed to the offending tooth. All of a sudden, my primary nail-biting teeth no longer functioned as nail-biting teeth.
At first, I didn’t know if I should have taken my concern to the dentist.
“Excuse me, I need to schedule an appointment. The reason? I can’t bite my nails anymore and it’s driving me crazy.”
(That’s really right up there with someone under house arrest complaining to the police that they can’t easily slide through open windows at night on account of the ankle bracelet. I decided to let that one go.)
However, the years that followed have been years of unprecedented growth. I never knew I had such lovely hands when actual nails were attached to the ends of my fingers. I’m a musician and I’ve even turned down opportunities to take up the guitar more seriously because I would have to cut my nails.
So, yes, it’s a big deal to me when I break a nail these days. They represent a habit I was successfully able to overcome through willpower and sheer determination. (Well, okay…physical limitation is the more accurate way to describe it. It worked, though. The determination thing just makes for a better story.) Yes, it’ll grow back. Yes, I’ll just have to deal with the asymmetry for a little while.
But, it’s not so much an issue of being a little vain as it is an issue of complete and absolute vanity. They’re my nails and I want them to look pretty. So there you have it.