The Nail-biter’s Dilemma

 nailbitingOften, in our lives, we are presented with challenging circumstances that we feel compelled to overcome. Usually, there is some direct, linear way to overcome these obstacles. However, one circumstance that generates myself (and I’m assuming many others) a fair deal of anxiety is overgrown nails or hangnails. This, obviously, with modern technology, can be solved simply with a pair of nail clippers. The dilemma is presented when one is without nail clippers attempting to hurdle the obstacle of an overgrown or hangnail. The problem with an overgrown nail or hangnail is the discomfort it brings to your life. The initial intent of anyone biting their nails is to reduce them to make them less sharp or jagged, and less painful to the touch.

So, the scenario presents itself: you’re driving your car and suddenly your overgrown, scraggly nail with dirt encrusting the bottom half hits the steering wheel. You take a quick glance at it and think, “I wish I cut my nails…” and pay no more mind to it. Until, your thumb begins rubbing your index finger nail and you realize how sharp the bastard is. Again, you think, “I really wish I cut my nails…” but you put it out of your mind because that index finger nail has the last two weeks of germs accumulated underneath it and biting it down to a reasonable size is going to be a task in itself. You find yourself looking outside, trying to keep your mind off the disgusting, sharp, scraggly, filthy, index finger nail but to no avail, you find your thumb creepily rubbing your index finger again. You begin trying to telepathically dislocate your thumb from your hand to quit the constant reminder. Yet, as though you have no control of your hand, your thumb rubs your index finger more quickly and with seemingly more fascination. It seems as if the entire universe is conspiring against you to just bite your damn nail off and get it over with. And so, you give in, start biting your nail, and the dilemma begins –

Initially, it seems purely logical; your nail is long and sharp, so biting it will reduce and smooth it, therefore, no more discomfort. Suddenly, though, a huge hangnail is created through your nibbling. This sucker is buried under your lateral nail fold meaning if you’re going to get it off, it’ll hurt and probably bleed. Yet, you’ve already begun biting, so what the heck? You sink your central incisor and lateral incisor onto the hangnail and tug. It hurts, you can feel it pulling up the skin and you can see blood forming. You’re so close though, so you pull a bit more – and, dammit, you ripped the hangnail in half. Half of the hangnail is still underneath your lateral nail fold. So, you dig in deeper, you grip your lateral incisor firmly and pull steadily with great force, and you can taste blood. Finally, you’ve got it, the hangnail releases, your lateral nail fold is in shambles, but you’ve won the battle. You’re bleeding, so you mend it with your tongue and try to clean up the side of your nail by biting off some of the skin on the lateral nail fold, which in turn only causes more blood. You turn back to the free edge of your nail and begin working on that because that was the original intent. You bite and rip some of the free edge. You bite and rip some more while tending to the bleeding hangnail and lateral nail fold. You repeat this process of biting and ripping occasionally checking to see the progress. Finally, you believe your work is done and so you rub it again with your thumb to see how it feels: sharper than ever before. Small, sharp, jagged edges scratch your thumb’s smooth skin.

Ultimately, the nail-biter’s dilemma is a larger analogy for challenging circumstances in our lives. An unprepared attempt at fixing an impromptu problem will usually create a larger problem or make the problem worse. The more the nail biter bites, the worse the problem becomes. Not only does the nail become worse, but your overall hygiene becomes worse, i.e., your teeth corrode from biting, you’re literally ingesting germs residing underneath your fingernail, and your nail’s health is becoming worse (not just physically). However, with some simple preparation or presence of mind to have the tools on-hand, the problem is solved in a matter of seconds. And this goes for anything, for example, while the fastest human ever is roughly 28 mph and the fastest land animal, a cheetah, can reach speeds of 64 mph, we can just get into a car and blow the doors off of a cheetah. Our species has traditionally relied on tools as a way of enhancing ourselves.

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