A while after Mike and I began dating, he asked me to help him out with a bad habit: biting his nails.
“Every time you see me do it, yell at me,” he said.
I am a person who is very easily irritated. This may be a result of living on my own for several years, but I believe it all began in childhood. I was always a bit of an anxious person, even as a little one. I hated getting in trouble, so I would report any of my misdoings to my mother in order to avoid getting caught and facing unknown consequences. I also detested it when my brother got reprimanded, and I would beg him not to act up just so there would be no unpleasantness. Of course, I often failed in this venture.
I suppose that this kind of behavior is exactly the kind of thing that made me so fastidious and fussy. If you’re the kind of person that notices everything, it’s difficult to be easy going or unbothered by everything. But, I was surprised by the fact that the habit Mike despised in himself did not irk me one bit. In fact, I barely noticed that he was munching on his fingers all the time.
But then, he brought it to my attention. He gave me a task. And, being the good student that I am, I complied.
Then I proceeded to become utterly and completely annoyed by his nail biting.
It was a slow process. At first, I genuinely wanted to help him, and I believed that if I just pointed out to him each time I caught him nibbling, I was helping him do away with this pesky little compulsion. But, it soon became clear that he was never going to quit, no matter how gently I nudged him. Then, it just became instinctive. I’d hear the clicking of teeth against nail, and I’d look over at him and say:
“Michael!” (Read: “Quit it!”)
I know this is obnoxious, but I’ve somehow become trained to hone in on it, and it’s now my compulsion.
In turn, Mike has learned to just try and avoid my stink eye. When he begins chewing on his nails, I’ll snap my head in his direction, and he’ll try to trick me by resting his hand on his chin or scratching his cheek. But this doesn’t fool me. In fact, it’s so silly, that usually, we erupt into laughter each time it happens.
This is not to say that I don’t have many, many annoying habits. Though I may not bite my nails or pick at my feet, my constant worrying is probably my worst quality. That slight anxiousness I felt as a child? It has mutated. My tendency to worry can hit epic proportions. Though it frustrates him, my very sweet husband will say to me:
“What can I do to make you feel calmer?”
And I wish there was an answer. But the truth is, once I am in a pattern of worry, it’s very hard to get out of it. Mike will tempt me with a back or foot rub, but even these won’t work. I’m hopeless.
It must be infuriating to live with someone like me.
One of the nice things about being in love is the feeling of being accepted. When first meeting a new love, a person is consumed with affection and fluffy clouds and sunshine. The new mate seems perfect, wonderful, without any bad habits or faults. This is usually because the crazy has to be revealed slowly, carefully so as not to scare the other person away. And then, little by little, each partner become less ideal and more like him or herself. It has to happen. No one can keep up the fantasy forever.
So, both the members of the couple then take a look at one another and think, “I can’t tolerate this for another day,” or they shrug and say, “I’ll take it!” I believe that when the latter happens, it is one of the safest feelings in the world. And when a person can look at his significant other’s flaws and think, “I want to marry this person and spend my life convincing her she has nothing to worry about,” well, that’s magic.
Despite the fact that Mike’s nail biting has become a habit we both dislike, it is pretty insignificant compared to the things I adore about him. Plus, he puts up with my neuroses, which means he is totally on the losing end of this deal.
Last night, I woke up to find that my fat cat, Harry, had taken up valuable real estate on my side of the bed. I was wedged between him and a pillow, sweating and uncomfortable while he snored away. I looked over at Mike only to find that he, too, was twisted into an equally awkward position, crouched on the lower part of the bed, pathetically clutching a pillow. Aggie, our female cat was sprawled on his other pillow at the top of the bed. It seems that she hijacked his side of the bed, and he submitted to her will.
At first, I thought:
What is wrong with us?
And then, I just kind of giggled to myself. We haven’t just grown to accept one another’s quirks, we’ve gotten to that place where we’ve successfully melded our insanities to form this weird, happy little life together, nail biting and all.