Photographed by Mike Garten.
Being a nail biter is like walking around with a sign that declares how stressed out you are at any given moment. For most of my life, I had it really bad: They'd get so short and ragged that my fingertips would throb. It was neither cute nor pleasant.
Like many people, I dabbled in various at-home solutions. That topcoat that tastes like vinegar? Yeah, it just made me learn to like the taste of vinegar. A rubber band on my wrist to be snapped whenever I started gnawing? Well, I didn't realize when I was biting, so there was no point to that at all. I couldn't even remember a time when I hadn't been a nail biter. It was kind of just part of my life.
Having poorly groomed hands wasn't a big deal to me until I decided I wanted to work in beauty, which meant that I'd be interacting with the small percentage of the population who might actually notice my destroyed fingernails. I had a job interview coming up, and I was worried about being judged for it — of course, worrying about it made me bite them more. For the first time, though, I felt motivated to get them in good shape. At the very least, I wanted to start painting them, but my cuticles were so messed up that I didn't even know where to start.
I told my mom as much on the phone, and because she's the best mom ever, the next day I received a package from her that contained Burt's Bees' Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream and the prettiest coral-red Butter London lacquer called Macbeth. When my eyes landed on the polish, I felt a shift happening in my heart. There was something so delicious about its vibrancy — like a hot summer day captured in one hue. Even though it was winter, the shade felt relevant to my needs. Without knowing it, my mom had picked out the hue that would save my nails.
That night, I slathered on the cuticle cream and, the next morning, carefully applied the polish to what was left of my nails. In the days leading up to my interview, I painstakingly tended to my new red nails, immediately fixing any chip and nurturing my slowly healing cuticles. Soon, I had healthy-looking hands. And, when it came time for that all-important meeting, my interviewer not only noticed my nails but complimented me on the color.
Since then, I have devoted myself to perfectly painted nails with an obsession that equals my former nail biting. Pretty much as soon as they start to chip, I'll change the color. If they're not perfect, I start to pick at them, so I just take all of the nail polish off and do a clean coat. I keep them at a sensible, short length, which prevents them from breaking — and means there's less to bite if I feel the need. Remarkably, though, I don't really want to bite them anymore.
Obviously, this method isn't without a downside. My nails are stained from always wearing lacquer. But, honestly, I don't really care about that — it's much better than the alternative. Painting my nails has also become a good way for me to have some forced downtime. It's a quiet moment when I do something for myself and then sit still. I'm not sure I would have that part of the day if it wasn't for my nail-painting habit.
So, that's how I went from being a person with ruined, bitten-down nails to someone with obsessively well-polished digits. I want to hear from you, though. What's worked for you to quit gnawing?
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