I’ll stick with my stubs

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For years, I thought I was just weird — yes, I realize that still may be the case. But there was one aspect about me that I thought was completely bizarre, totally rare — I now find out there’s a clinical name for a psychological disorder that makes me get rid of my fingernails.

They call it “displacement activity disorder associated with trichotillomania.” I don’t know what it means and I don’t really care. But the interesting thing is that I’m not alone. There are many of you out there who are just like me — you can’t stand to have fingernails.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve tried. I know hands with long, manicured nails are so much more beautiful than my scruffy stubs. My mother put some sort of bitter tasting polish on my little nails when I was a kid. Grandma Onie threatened to smear chicken poop on them — the problem was that I’m not a biter, I’m a ripper. I pull and pull, rip and tear, until there’s nothing left. And I truly don’t even realize that I do it. It’s a subconscious activity that results in the ugliest hands ever known to mankind.

In college, I tried to stick on those tips — the ones you had to trim to fit your hands and then push on until you felt the blood was going to squirt out the ends of your fingers. And no matter what, they’d end up crooked, mismatched — and frankly, they’d look like costume claws you should only wear for Halloween.

Then I’d try to paint the stupid things — only to end up with polish on my fingers, everywhere it’s not supposed to be. No matter how old I get, I’ll never know how women are supposed to paint their own fingernails, especially when it comes to using your left hand (or right, depending on your tendency).

So, when the long process was finally done, I’d look at the disastrous mess and within an hour, I was fighting to get them off. No chance for the “fledgling nails” to inconspicuously grow while I wasn’t looking. This overwhelming urge would come over me, begging me to rip them off. Mostly because they made it impossible to even button up my jeans (the 501s were popular then). It was impossible to hold a pen and typing wasn’t even an option.

I was committed to having nails for my wedding. They weren’t bad, I’ll admit. But as we sat at the head table, I realized I couldn’t control the urge so underneath the table cloth, on my white lap, I picked away. I hadn’t even realized I was doing it but by the time we had our first dance, I was comfortable and completely absent of nails. Granted, I was sporting rough stubs with glue globs, but I was happy.

Sometimes people stop in the middle of a conversation, to tell me to stop biting, when they spot my pathetic hands that no manicure artist would touch. I always promptly let the inquiring minds know I do not bite, I pull them off (as if that makes it any less gross).

My question for the women who can pull off gorgeous nails — how do you function? How do you pull up a zipper or open a pop can? How do you use a computer or put on jewelry?

Then again, I can’t even pick a coin up off the floor. I need a tool to start peeling an orange. And when the end of the scotch tape lays flat on the roll . . . well, my present-wrapping projects are quickly over.

The experts say nails “are the windows to good health,” because their color, shape and texture supposedly indicate when something is wrong somewhere else in your body. I guess my “windows” are broken, the shades are pulled low . . . at least I’ll never know I’m suffering from some hidden affliction. And I highly doubt when I get to the Pearly Gates, an angel will be waiting for me, shaking his finger and saying, “You weren’t supposed to arrive for many more years, but you didn’t have any fingernails so we couldn’t warn you.”

Fashion experts say nails make your fingers look longer, your diamonds seem bigger and your appearance more professional. But I believe that’s only a plus for women who have multiple diamonds, time to make themselves always appear professional and fingers used only for sporting beautiful nails, not physical work.

Sure, I’d love to cure my condition . . . to be a “displacement activity disorder associated with trichotillomania” survivor. But in the end, I’d only wind up with foreign edges on my appendages. And they’d have to change colors to match my clothes, I’d have to fret about breaking them every five seconds. And I’d have to learn to use manicure kits — I’ve seen them in stores, but quite frankly don’t know what all the tools are used for. There’s a piece of scratchy wood, a toothpick-looking thing, some sort of clippers . . . I wouldn’t know where to start.

I’ll stick with my stubs — at least with these, I know what I’m doing.


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