Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Shameful Behavior

Shame: it's a powerful motivator.

Do you wonder how many habits you have that you pass onto your children? I wonder if some habits are part of our genetic make-up and if some are just learned behaviors. For example, I have always bitten my nails for as long as I can remember. And, I don't just mean a nervous habit. I mean, I would bite my nails until they bled. I can recall many nights as a child AND as an adult, lying in bed at night, unable to sleep because my fingers were throbbing from pain. And now, my 3 older kids all bite their nails too. I hear my own mom's voice in myself when I say, "If you don't stop I'm going to make you wear gloves!!!"

When I got married, I got acrylic nails for the wedding, and I was hooked. I've had acrylic nails for most of the last 11 years. But last year when we moved to Texas, I decided to let them come off - due to the higher cost of fills and also our lack of discretionary spending in the family budget. So, I went right back to biting my nails. I never really made a huge deal about it to myself. I figured, I don't smoke. I don't drink. I'm not (too) overweight. So I have this one habit? So what? But whenever I tried to find one person, just one person, who had uglier nails than I did, the search was futile.

Then, this summer, I went to a party with my very good friend. She introduced me to her friends (none of whom I had met before). One lady in particular, we'll call her Min (after Min the bitchy neighbor in King of the Hill - do I have to tell you again how much I love that show?) asked me, "Do you bite your nails?" to which I replied, "Yeah. I do." She wrinkled up her nose, like she'd just smelled a poopy diaper, and said, "You know you really should stop that. It's gross." So I said the first reply that popped into my head: "Wow. That didn't make me feel self-conscious or anything!"

Yes, I had just met this girl (woman? Lady? What do you call a female peer who's mid-30's?) about 3 hours previous. Up until that point she'd been really sweet and (I thought) sincere and genuine. Then she blurts out a social faux-pas like that?

But, know what? It was effective. I have not bitten my nails since late June. Right now, I have RED nail polish on my nails. They aren't long or glamorous, but they are long enough that I can scratch my own itch without resorting to finding a fork or a hairbrush or some other scratchy-scratcher.

So, while I think her method embarrassed me for a moment or two, it also motivated me. I didn't hang my head in shame for the rest of the party, but I think I did shove my hands in my pockets. But so what? I think she knew that what she'd said was a social misstep, and I tried to be the bigger person by just moving on.

It's funny, though, if someone close to me (like my sister or my husband) had said something like that I probably would have just told them to shut up. I guess because I figure they love me despite all my personal flaws. But having a total stranger notice my flaws and call me on them, that's pretty humbling.

So I guess the next time I need to lose weight or get a wardrobe change, I should ask a stranger his or her opinion. Or maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment.


Emily said...

Well, I'm glad you found it motivating! But some people are socially inept!

Jennifer said...

OMGosh. I would have totally blurted something like that out, but not have meant in any way for it to hurt your feelings. I say stuff like that all the time, and I definitely know that is genetic because my mom does it too. I have one of my very best friends thanks to telling her that her new hair color looked like crap and she needed to go back to blonde... and we had only known each other (through work) for like a couple of weeks.

So I apologize for Min. She may have meant it, but I wouldn't have.

McVal said...

Wow! You're right! I would've totally been self conscious after that little meeting.
So, big question... Do you still see this woman at social events? And are you BFFs now?

jori-o said...

Interesting. I never really thought about it, but what you say is so true!

Anna See said...

you are so right! stuff like this sticks with us forever. like with our kids, something we say might not do it, but the shame from a friend might.

Min is a jerk.

Jen said...

Jeff bites his nails and then chews on the pieces for hours. It is gross. I hate it.

Michelle said...

That is obnoxious! I think a lot of these traits are inherited in personality. I am a firm believer in the nature in the nature vs. nuture debate. My daughter who is biologically my husband's and his ex-wives has a lot of her personality traits even though she is now 8 1/2 and has seen her 5 times since she was 2 1/2. Nuture can have some effect but personalities come from birth.

Bridgett said...

Good for you but weird for her. Really weird.

StaceyC4 said...

Wow, I'm glad that worked for you but I think I would have spent the remainder of the party shooting daggers at her from my eyes!!

Mommymel said...

Glad to hear it worked for you. I just recently tried to stop biting, too, but when my nails grew out I just couldn't stand them. They constantly chipped and snagged and scratched everything, and I'm just so much more comfortable with no nails. Maybe this winter I'll work to bite less, but keep them short anyway with clippers.

Vicki said...

I have absolutely no nails and I hate it, but I can't stop either! Since you love KOTH so much, you might like this. My little guy watches it with us while he falls asleep (he says he wants to watch Bobby) and lately he has been going around stomping his feet and saying "BOOM BOOM BOOMHAUER!" Hmmm. talk about influencing your kids I guess huh?

Wendy said...

You know what I call mid-30s same-age peers?


Because about 98% are just evil insecure bitches who want to make you feel bad about yourself.

This I have garnered from living in 4 different states and 7 different places over the past 8 years. It's the same everywhere.

So I have very few IRL same-age friends. Maybe... one? That I'm not related to? All my other friends are older than me. 40s-50s or older.

I'm glad her method was effective for your habit that you hated. But I wouldn't go out of my way to hang out with her!

Shinade aka Jackie said...

Ha I love your quote in your comment box.

I live in Oklahoma now but I was born and raised Texan. Once a Texan always a Texan. I know that sounds terrible but our family laughs about it all the time.

Most of them still live in Texas. But, we were the moving around type. We lived in Maine for about 10 years and also Georgia for a short while.

We left Maine and moved back down here to get ready for retirement. But gee whiz...we couldn't afford the Texas side of the lake. So we be Okies now.

I think it's wonderful that you have quit biting your nails, especially since you are so happy about it.

But, I must give you a lot of credit girl!! I just don;t think I would have been quite as polite as you were if someone was that nasty to me.

Wow I love your blog. I am so glad you dropped your card on me!! You are definitely going to be a regular read!!

Also to answer your question about genes. They say babies actually gnaw on their finger tips in the womb. That is if you are a nail biter. I am adopted and my mother had the most gorgeous and well kept nails all of her life.

I am 52 and for the life of me ZI still bite my nails if I don't have on fake ones.

My biological mother who I met when I was 25 was also a nail biter. So there you go!! you are guilt free. Some one somewhere in your family is also a nail biter and you inherited it genetically.

Oh my I have written a small book!! I better get out of here and get moving on down the road!!

You have an awesome blog!! I hope you have a terrific evening!!

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

Which one of my friends said it? I don't remember. I thought it was Adam. Regardless, so rude.