Why Fingernail Droppings?

I am writing my life story, one of the many books I've been writing forever and never finish. I have titled my book, "Fingernail Droppings, The Story of My Life" and some people have asked why that is the title.

This is from the introduction to my book.

(REMEMBER this is first draft so it may not read anything like this IF/WHEN the book gets published)

As a young child I bit my fingernails. I was fidgety, nervous I guess, so I developed a hand-oral fixation. But I didn't like the way biting my nails made my fingers look. So around age 11 I stopped biting my nails. Instead, I started obsessively painting them, caring for them, making sure they always looked perfect. If one nail broke, the others were cut down. And if I found a chip in the nail polish, well, that meant it all had to come off. I rarely used nail polish remover to get the polish off. I would just chip it off with my teeth. It was a precise process. I would start the lifting of the paint with my teeth then continue it by scratching or pulling off the paint with my hands until all my nails were again a blank slate, ready for fresh nail polish. 

No matter where I was, in class, at a friend’s house, in church, or sitting in my living room watching TV, I would chip off my fingernail polish. This of course would leave behind, what one friend called, “fingernail droppings”.

Funny that I am using the word “would” like this is past tense, because it’s not. I still do this and I am almost 50! I tend to my fingernails daily. Whether it's cuticle care, applying another coat of paint, buffing them, filing them, or scraping the paint off of them with my teeth, my nails must always be perfect.

I tried fake nails one time and within a day I had pulled them off...like the nail polish, with my teeth.

I went and got a professional manicure and pedicure once. It was nice but I can’t afford to do that several times a week. And I actually prefer to do it myself. I do a good job so it really is a waste of money if you ask me. My hands and feet get lotioned-up several times a day and a couple times at night. I push back my cuticles, clip the skin around the nails, buff and gloss my nails, all the important stuff.

As a teenager I couldn’t afford to buy nail polish, so I usually just stole it from the drug store. I was a red or hot pink nail polish person back then. When they were shorter I would do white or light pink but a few years back my daughter introduced me to black nail polish and I really like it. Most people over 40 think it’s a ridiculous color for someone my age. I like ridiculous. 

All the crazy colors are in now and they are so much fun! I like to wear blue a lot, and purple, especially during football season (Geaux Tigers!) and sometimes I will even wear the dreaded brown (I am not a fan of the color brown). I like gray too. There is so many pretty shades of gray. Red seems kind of dated to me now, but I do still wear it occasionally, especially at Christmas and around  Valentines Day.

I could over spiritualize and over analyze this almost 40 year habit, my hand-oral fixation that wont allow me to just wait till I get to some nail polish remover before removing the paint. Why must I paint my nails one day and then, if I see one chip or imperfection, chip it all off the next day? Does this obsession with my nails say something deeper, crazier about my mental state? Probably.

But I think it's more like a metaphor of my life. 

I could leave life plain and unpainted, blending in with the rest of the world, and that wouldn't be a bad thing. I could spend money I don’t have to get someone else to make my life look better than it is, but that would be a sad thing. I could paint my world every now and then for special occasions, and that would be pretty sensible. Or, wanting one thing to be perfect, I could chip off the nail polish and apply a new color, fresh every day, just because it didn't match or had started to peel. 

And as you looked down at the fingernail droppings I left, you would see the color I was that day and hopefully, have good thoughts of me.

That's why Fingernail Droppings is the story of my life.


Anonymous said…
I love the metaphor, Carole- and my favorite line in this is I like ridiculous because I think it summarizes your very real, down-to-earthness and how you own who you are.
Love it! Keep writing.