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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Chewing on a Problem

I wrestle with many demons.

To those of you who’ve been around here a while, this should come as no surprise. You know all about how gullible I’ve been, the issues with my name, and my lack of job interview skills, to name but a few of my myriad of thorny problems.

And, since you’ve been clued in to such things already — and are still apparently willing to read more (you sick little monkey, you) — I feel I can let you in on yet another little problem of mine:

I chew my fingernails.

(Awright, hands up — who thought I was going to say ‘bedwetting’? Come on, now — I know you’re out there. That’s right… put ’em up. Okay, I see a couple of hands — anybody else? No?

Well, you people with your hands raised… for shame! That’s just gross, and disgusting, and icky, and I would never tolerate having an embarrassing problem like that. If I was ever the sheet-tinkling, mattress-marring type — and I’m not saying that I was! — then I’d take steps to get that cleared up right away. A. S. A. P.

Or, you know, at least before I went to college. They sleep people two to a dorm room, you know. And you never know who’s gonna have a frigging apoplectic fit because he stepped in a tinkle puddle first thing in the morning.

Uh… theoretically, of course. Let’s… let’s move on.)

What the hell was I talking about, anyway? Oh, fingernails. Right.

So, it’s sort of a weird phenomenon for me. I started chewing my nails back in my teens — maybe even earlier. And for a few years, they stayed overly short pretty much all of the time. Of course, in my defense, I have to point out that I was a teenager at the time. And male. And shy. And geeky.

In other words, I was a bubbling cauldron of nervous energy. No, wait… I was a crackling inferno — no, no, that’s not it. Ooh, I know — I was a vein-popping, flab-jiggling, ass-busting screaming Roseanne hissy fit of nervous energy. Oh, yeah. That’s the one.

Anyway, the point is, I was a member of the ‘4-H Club’: hyper, horny, harried, and hormonal. So yeah, I chewed my fingernails. Pencils, too. Pens, sticks, staplers, power cords, the arms of small children — you name it. I had a lot of nervous energy to work off, apparently. Or I was just ‘teething’ again while I had braces. I can’t say, honestly. All I know is that the habit formed, and it stuck. And I’ve been stuck with it ever since.

These days, of course, I’m a lot calmer. I’m only two of the ‘four Hs’ — and no, you don’t get anything for guessing which two.

(Okay, fine, if you guess right, and you have a small child, I’ll chew on its arm for a while. How’s that?

What? C’mon — just nibbling. I won’t break the skin or anything. And no tongue — oh, come on!)

Anyway, there’s less to be ‘nervous’ and worked up about these days, of course. Those confusing, frightening teenage days are behind me. I’m grown up now, and have a beautiful wife (um… who has a birthday coming up; what am I gonna get her?), and a great house (oh god, the mortgage, the mortgage!), a wonderful job (shit, I’m late.. ooh, they’re gonna fire my ass!), and life couldn’t be better. Yep, not a care in the world for me, folks.

(*mmmmppphh* Do you *mmrrpphhfff* see this, people? I’m actually *mmmfffftt* chewing my fingers as I’m typing. Holy crap *mmmpppffftt* what the hell am I gonna do? Mommy!)

But I do have a bit more self-control than I used to. Which is not exactly an earthshattering revelation. Mike friggin’ Tyson has more self-control than I did at sixteen. I know fetuses with more restraint.

Still, I’ve managed to largely control the problem, but it’s still there. Old habits die hard, after all. When I get really worked up over something, I’ll still find a thumb or finger in my mouth.

(Usually, it’s even my digit I’m drooling all over. Which is the preference, of course. Besides the fact that most people in line at the bank don’t seem to enjoy having their fingers gnawed on, there’s also the issue of cleanliness. I don’t know where those people have been… and when I nibble on their nails, I’m sucking the spit of every person who’s ever chewed on that person’s finger.

It’s something to think about.)

Anyway, it’s something I struggle with. And I’ve learned a few things about my condition over the years. The index fingers are the worst to chew too far, for instance. If the tips of your index fingers are sore, you’re just screwed for a few days. You’re constantly poking ’em into something — elevator buttons, ‘F’s and ‘J’s on the keyboard, stupid people’s foreheads… and each one of those touches sends a little ouchie up your spine. It’s horrible.

I’ve also learned what triggers me to chew my nails, after years of careful observation and thought. (Okay, so really it was ten minutes on a bus a few years ago, when I happened to be both fully awake and not drunk. The point is still valid, dammit!) I’ve found that I don’t chew my nails when I’m nervous, per se, as the thinking usually goes. Rather, I start ‘sucking knuckles’ when I realize that there’s something that I’d desperately rather be doing. (Like shooting tequila, for instance, rather than being stuck sober on a stupid bus. That’s just an example, of course.)

But the realization has come in handy, and helped me to keep my nail-chewing under control of late. So whether it’s a horrible situation that I want to claw my way out of (shopping for high heels with the wife, perhaps) or a time when I’m stuck somewhere away from the ‘hot action’ (nailed to my desk at work during the first two days of March Madness), at least I know what’s going on, and can usually keep myself from chewing away the entire fingernails of the digits on both hands. That doesn’t mean I frigging like the hell du jour any better, but at least I’m starting to see a pattern.

Anyway, that’s my story for today. I hope it hasn’t disturbed anyone too badly — I know a lot of people out there consider nailbiting to be a dirty and disgusting habit. For the record, though, I disagree with that assessment. Sure, it’s not the most sanitary thing one can do with one’s hands, but I think it’s closer to the top of that list than the bottom. And certainly, if I were working in the garden, or skinning animals, or in the habit of jamming my fingers into any other of my orifices first, then I’d agree — putting those fingers in my mouth would be a dirty, disgusting habit to have.

But I don’t garden, hardly ever skin animals (on purpose), and — despite a recent report to the contrary — I do not sit around all day with my thumb up my ass, thank you very much. (And is that really the kind of thing you’re supposed to be putting on an employee evaluation? I think not, boss lady.) So, I’ll try to keep the nail chewing to a minimum, but I’m not gonna get all grossed out by it. Believe me — if this were the most disgusting habit I had, I’d be a far, far happier man. And I’d still be legally able to travel to Florida. I tell ya, those retirees know how to hold a grudge down there. Damn!

Permalink  |  15 Comments



15 Responses to “Chewing on a Problem”

  1. tj says:

    try not washing your hands … ever. you’ll probably stop chewing those nails. *shudder*

  2. Erin says:

    Maybe there’s a 12-step program out there for this? “Hi. My name is Charlie and I chew my nails.” “Hi, Charlie…”

  3. P says:

    the 4-H Club… oh man, i’m still chuckling to myself from that one. how do you come up with all this? however you do it, don’t stop.

  4. Jeff A says:

    Count your blessings, I have a similar problem but I need toenails. Not bad at home but it makes driving on the freeway difficult and God knows how many clubs I have been kicked out of for taking off my shoes and socks in order to get at those tasty morsels.

  5. Riri says:

    I have been chewing on my thumbs for 25 years and with all the support I got from my shrink I am still a slave of my cannibalistic instincts. Maybe we should start a support group together?

  6. HR Lady says:

    But think of the possibilities -don’t ever stop chewing your nails!!! What a marvelous festering pit, an unending reservoir of vengeance enabling cooties!!! Boss chew you out for stupid crap that has nothing to do with you, moron in the express lane at the grocery with 200 items shrugs and grins at you sheepishly while you stand fuming with nothing more than a dozen eggs in your cart, some pathetic comedy club heckler walks up and says hey, I just wanted to thank you -for that cure for insomnia that you just dished out, a random social retard walks up to you at the water cooler and continuously violates the “BIG WALL RULE” … give himher a big smile, nod in agreement (or gratification) and firmly clasp his/her hand in the “Staphylococcal Embrace” with your contaminated digits. They walk away feeling full of themselves and you have the confidence of knowing that for at least a good two to three weeks they’ll be spouting fluids from all the wrong places!!!!!!!

  7. Busy Mom says:

    *pulls Busy Baby away from Charlie*

    *cancels Busy Boy’s (who chews his nails, too)enrollment in Charlie’s stress management classs*

  8. Katie says:

    As a 20+ year nail biting veteran, Charlie, I feel your pain. Heck, I quit smoking and I can’t quit chewing the nails. What I want to know is that do you ever find that your nails are itchy, like they’re just begging to be gnawed on?

    Or maybe that’s just me.

    ewww I’m even grossing myself out.

  9. My ex-boyfriend chewed his toenails.

    While driving. Stopped at red lights.

    Hence the ‘ex’ bit before the ‘boyfriend’ bit.

  10. Marti says:

    LMAO! This is where being a girl comes in handy. I get my nails done every week, and biting them would only mess them up and ruin the nail job I paid to have. If you want to break the habit, try dipping them in Tabasco sauce. lol

  11. Pebo says:

    Hmmmmm….

    tabasco…

    I bite ’em ’till they bleed

    And it wouldn’t matter if I handled horse !*$ (good thing I don’t)

    I smoked for 12 years and quitting that was easier and more successful. The best I’ve ever done is that I left 1 hand alone for about 3 weeks. I had to quit quitting because the other hand was getting mangled.

  12. Sam T says:

    I’m so bad that i chewed both my thumb nails off and I have torn the middle of my index fingers off. I tried to stop, i went three weeks but as soon as i looked at my nails it was unbearable.

  13. Tara says:

    I’m 16 and have bitten my nails the majority of my life. I lived with my mom for a while but then I moved with my dad and all the sudden I chew my nails till they are almost even with my cuticals. Then I chew the skin off the ends and sides of my fingers. I’m much happier living with my father and would go back into my deep depresion if I moved back with my mother so I don’t figurre it’s the moving. I make straight A’s & B’s, am in band, and have a fun social life. I’ve had horrible sexual experiences that weren’t necessarely welcomed me. I wonder if that has finally gotten to me or it really was the move causing the chewing. I have OCD and sometimes think my nail biting is just that. I’ve tried gloves and bandaids but since I play multiple instruments and am always paying them that requires naked fingertips. So I don’t get to keep the band aids/gloves on for long. I can’t get my nails done because I don’t have enough real nail to attatch the fake nail to. I wonder if the nail biting and OCD is a sign of something psychologically bad. We can’t afford a shrink so I suppose instead of mental stability I will settle for finding a cure for my disgusting nail biting. Any cures or comments e-mail me, pretty please and put nail biting in the subject. Thanks. antisocial315@yahoo.com

  14. Preston says:

    Eat really tough-like beef jerky.

  15. Cheech says:

    Charlie,

    Scew those other comments,Nail Chewing is a Life long obsession

    as good as sex. I’m 53 and I’m down to the “quick”.

    Nail Chewing

    believe it or not actually prevents deezeezez! By building up your bodies defenses thru direct contact with the REAL WORLD, you are made safer in you’re day to day contacts,not to mention your hands are cleaner than the ones you’re shaking and are able to pass on the goodness….. theMesmerist

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