I’ve always been a nail-biter. I think it started in the womb. While other tots were sucking a thumb or a dummy, baby me was ruthlessly and methodically cannibalising his own tiny digits. By the age of five, I had hands like Gordon Brown’s. It’s a good job nails regrow or I’d probably have carried on going. By the time I’d reached my 12th birthday, my arms would’ve been gnawed down to stumps and I’d have had to cut the cake with my head. Probably.
Then, a couple of months ago, I stopped. There was no conscious decision behind it, no miracle cure. It wasn’t even scheduled to be part of my quest for perfection until a bit further down the line (or at least until after I’ve mastered the fine art of weight-training without absent-mindedly shouting out the number of reps as I go – quite annoying, apparently). No. I just stopped.
So now, without really understanding how I did it, I have the best-looking manicure of my life, which I never tire of flaunting. Woe betide anyone who sits next to me on the train. Yes, mister alpha male businessman, those are my gorgeous hands capering into your peripheral vision as I flip the pages of my Metro slightly more emphatically than is appropriate. No, I will not sit somewhere else. Look ye upon my cuticles and despair!
Three months ago, around the time my bad habit finally bit the nailbed, I started dating someone new. Were the two things connected? It seems reasonable that – in much the same way a new job demands a new haircut – something in my subconscious registered that impressing a new leading man might require a pair of hands that didn’t look like Freddy Krueger had put his gloves on inside out.
Which, of course, would instantly put me in direct contravention of the First Dating Commandment: never change who you are for a partner. They should like you just as you are, macerated stumps and all, shouldn’t they? Even if you like to pick your nose in public places. Shouldn’t they? What about alcoholics? Pyromaniacs? Bankers? What about people who collect those decorative plates advertised in the Daily Express, with a clumsy gouache of Princess Diana smiling beatifically at a landmine? Try liking them for who they are.
Now, far be it from me to argue with the FDC, but I have a theory. It runs that, for all the fairytale is to find someone who likes ‘the real me’, surely sometimes we need to change – just a bit – if we’re to attract the type of person we want in our lives. Perhaps we shouldn’t see it as changing for someone else. Perhaps it’s finding someone that changes you. And so long as it’s a change for the better, I’m happy to be a lover, not a biter.