posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken

Fingernails are overrated. You heard it here first. For a whole lot of years, I have been a (go ahead, wince) nail biter. Right down to the quick. Short as they could get without actual surgery.

Yeah, it wasn't attractive, as my mother constantly reminded me when she wasn't slapping my hand away from my mouth in public. Even after I graduated from college. For some reason embarrassment didn't stop me. Who'd a thunk? Neither did antidepressants.

So it was certainly a big surprise to me when, about two or three years ago, I realized I had stopped biting my nails, mostly. As days passed and they grew, I wondered what had made the difference. Hadn't won the lottery. Hadn't hit the New York Times bestseller list. Robert Redford hadn't called to take me away from all this. (My husband understands this fantasy. He says.)

For a while I just kept an eye on the situation, and when the nails grew to a respectable length, I invested in some nail polish and other manicure paraphernalia (if you will). Nothing too bright or colorful, just a flash of pearl.

Before too many weeks had passed, however, I began to note the downside of having fingernails. First, have you seen the pictures of the Guinness World Record longest fingernails? Just Google "fingernails" and prepare to be grossed out. EEEWWW. How does that woman .... never mind. I began to notice women on television with looooong nails--the odd way they press phone keys, and how on earth could they keyboard? (I'm so old-fashioned I almost put "type".)Fingernails

Luckily I'm not a finger snapper, because that was one of the first skills to go. Then I had trouble getting eggs out of a carton. I understood that kneading bread or mixing (yeah, I do it by hand) meat loaf would be a more difficult experience, but sewing? It's hard to thread the needles and stitch. Gardening--I hate to wear gloves and end up with mud crammed under my nails.

And let's not talk about buttons. The ones on shirts, bad. The little ones on handheld electronc games, worse. The reset button on the bathroom light switch that trips when we turn off the bedroom fan, the worst. (I have to find a toothbrush for that--and yeah, I push with the handle end. Someone else's toothbrush, of course.)

I always assumed that having nails would make it easier to put on earrings, bracelets, necklaces, things like that. Nope--at least, not for me. I have learned over the years how to compensate for my nail-less existence and can't at this point get the hang of fastening anything with these protuberances at the ends of my fingers. I can barely scratch my nose.

And don't even mention prying recalcitrant caps loose, or any other use of these nails as the tools they were probably evolved to be. My nails peel in layers if abused even slightly, even when glued with a couple of layers of polish.

Besides, fingernails are costly--both in time and money. I now have full manicure sets both at home and at the campground where we spend summer weekends, plus nail files in my desk and in the car. I have had, for the first time ever, a few professional manicures, and I am collecting a nice selection of pearly polishes in various light hues.Nail_polish_2

I may not be biting these suckers, but I am still fidgity enough to be poking at them a lot, and I admit the result, while not as bad as being bitten to the quick, is often.....uneven. At the moment I have 2 good nails, 5 respectable nails, and the rest were victims of a conference where they turned the lights off after a big lunch. Hey, I had to stay awake somehow!

My friends have been indulgent about this nail thing, if not sympathetic. Last winter when I was making a big presentation for the historical society, my buddy Coop, noting I was just off crutches from a stress-fractured leg, wished me to "break a nail."

Yep. Getting out of the car. Index finger, left hand. Thanks a lot.

(Disclaimer: the nails in the photo are neither mine nor the Guinness record ones. Whew)

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