Andrea's column: What's your resolution?
As the new year approaches, I can't help but think of years past when I made lengthy lists of things I would improve about myself and bad habits I would kick. Believe me: I've had many obsessions that needed to be kicked to the curb. One, in particular, my mother called "filthy" and "disgusting."
I was a nail biter. One of those kids who went from sucking my thumb -- which became unacceptable and no longer cute when I got to a certain age -- to chewing on my fingernails. As I look back, it seems like a natural segue but it drove my mother mad.
It seemed like if I wasn't eating, I'd be feasting on a nail until I reached what Mom called "the quick." She would walk past, yank my hand away from my face and tell me to stop.
I must have been about 9 when she learned about a product guaranteed to cure me. It came in a small bottle similar to those that hold nail polish and, like that product, had a brush attached to the cap. The instructions said to apply the liquid to the biter's nails. One nibble and the foul taste would be enough to stop them from doing it again.
It's hard to believe my own mother would think I was dumb enough to fall for that. I could smell the stuff as soon as she finished swabbing it on. Once she turned her back, I snuck upstairs to the bathroom and washed it off.
Not long after that, Mom took me to the drug store a few blocks from our house. In addition to the pharmacy area and soda fountain, the establishment had a couple of glass-enclosed counters with shelves of jewelry, pretty perfume bottles and other gift items.
Mom pointed to a red leather case with a zipper and asked the clerk if we could look at it. Inside were nail and cuticle clippers, a metal file, and all sorts of things to make fingernails beautiful. Mom promised that when I stopped biting my nails, she would buy the case for me.
I tried. But my fixation was so ingrained I would have had to walk around in my little brother's boxing gloves -- something my father threatened but never followed through on -- to conquer it.
My ritual followed me to high school but when a friend introduced me to cigarettes, I bid the gnawing adieu. My nails grew long and strong. I bought a manicure set and a polish called Dusty Rose. My parents, though, weren't happy with my even more "disgusting" and "filthy" dependency.
Over 30 years later, my father asked me to stop smoking. I told him I would and wrote it on my New Year's resolution list. The following year's, too. In October of 1993, I succeeded. I set a goal for the upcoming year to start running. I didn't want to gain weight.
I ran every day. Mom worried that was too much. She didn't say it was "filthy" or "disgusting," though, so I figured I had made some progress.