Your opening line: I really hate it when _______. Five minutes. Go.
I really hate it when my husband chews his nails. He was free of the habit at some point, proof in my young wife’s mind that nagging works, and then he started again out of nowhere. Nervous habit, he says. Sure. We all have them. But the click of his teeth against his fingernails when we’re watching TV, or out having dinner–whatever–it pains me. Like I can feel it, the pain of his gnawed-down cuticles, the snap of his own flesh as he tears it away. Sure, nails are dead tissue but still. It’s disgusting. It’s terrifying. It’s morbid.
But he doesn’t understand all this. To him it’s a tic, one he picked up as a kid and doesn’t really want to put down again. His nails look awful but that doesn’t bother him. Sometimes he bleeds. But he figures it could be worse: knuckle cracking, maybe, or a horrible nervous laugh. It’s his one vice, he says. Maybe. I haven’t tallied them. And I think that says something good about our marriage, that I haven’t, so maybe I should leave the nail thing alone.
There was one time when I was talking to him–we were out for ice cream I think–and he was listening, nodding, and at some point he started chewing his thumbnail. I guess he’d finished his ice cream. And I’m trying to ignore it, trying to carry on, but the longer he chews the more uncomfortable I get, like my spine is in the wrong place and my chair is uneven, and I can’t remember what I’m talking about and all of a sudden I’m talking about Cher, and how I wish she were better and hadn’t done all that pop crap, and then he takes his thumb out of his mouth and says,
“I like Cher.”
Which I didn’t know about him. And if I didn’t know he liked Cher, what else don’t I know? Which makes me think I should be tallying up everything. I should be paying more attention.
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