Sloane Crosley: ‘I've tried everything to quit biting my nails'

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The Independent Online

How do you bite your nails? Personally, I like to go in from the side. In cartoons, when characters bite their nails, they move from left to right as if nervously eating corn. I guess they have differently structured teeth to the rest of us because, as anyone who has experienced a molar issue knows, eating with one's incisors has little impact on the mastication of food and great impact on one's respect for rabbits.

I tend to start in the centre of my hand, turning my middle finger on its side and running it through the small crack in my lower teeth a few times until I hear that gratifying crack in my weakened nail.

It's the keratin version of locating the "tear here" indenture on an individually-wrapped breath mint. From there, I draw out a smooth line towards the end of the nail before I cycle back around and chew off the rest.

And once it begins, I can't very well let the rest of my nails go unattended. What am I supposed to do? Walk around with one long pinkie nail like a drug addict from the 1980s? I don't think so. I am literally biting my nails as I write this. Difficult? Yes. Unappetising? Certainly. But a fitting goodbye to a 15-year-old habit.

While not as dramatically incongruous as a midriff tattoo on a septuagenarian, I do find it difficult to imagine myself as the kind of woman I hope to become while casually picking at my nails in public and then carefully examining my fingers between bites as if proudly surveying the damage.

I've tried everything to quit. Actually, that's not true. I've never tried that nail polish that smells like dog food, or hypnosis, or willpower. But I have had the occasional manicure and hoped for the best – an endeavour that's a bit like going for a run in the hopes it will prevent one from ordering cheesecake for dessert. It usually has the opposite effect.

But as soon as I finish this column, I'm going to stop. Promises are harder to break when they're made in public. So this is goodbye, my beloved little habit. It's been good, and it's also been gross, but it's time to polish you off for good.

Sloane Crosley is the author of 'How Did You Get This Number' (Portobello)