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Confessions of a nail-biter - By Rebecca Wicks

Apologies for the lateness of my column this week, but I haven't been very well. And to top it all off, yesterday I broke a nail. Sitting up in bed, trying to think of something to write about, all I can think about is my broken nail. How sad is that? I'm not sure what's bothering me the most you know - the fact that I've broken a nail, or the fact that I've become one of those people who's bothered about breaking her nails. I never used to care about this stuff at all. Before moving to Dubai, I never had any nails and I didn't really give a toss. I used to munch my way gaily through all ten of them and then feast on the fraying edges of my fingertips. I'd bite them all off, then sit back and smile in satisfaction, marvelling at my handiwork.

I was embarrassed at times, of course. When sitting before people at job interviews I used to worry that they were looking only at my nails; bypassing the words I was speaking and the skill-set screaming out from my CV, and seeing only a girl who ate her own hands for breakfast. Most of the time though, it didn't bother me. I'm not sure why Dubai makes me think so differently. Everyone seems to be so manicured here, and maybe, when you get a bit older, you realise your whole life's a job interview. When you're looking to make a good impression on the world, it's really not the done thing, to be dining on your digits.

When I first got to Dubai I made the mistake of getting those fake, gel stick-on nails glued to my real ones in a salon somewhere in Garhoud. How I loved them! I revelled in doing everything I couldn't do before, like scratching them on flesh, drumming them on hard surfaces and using the tip of one to scrape the scum from behind another after a night on the town (oh shut up, we all do it). Of course I knew I was living a lie - behind that façade, a hungry nail-biter was still at large, but no one knew and no one cared and slowly but surely, I become one with my nails. They were an extension of my changing self. Until I had to get them filed off with a drilling machine akin to something from a Wes Craven movie (gulp).

After that torturous experience, I vowed to grow them properly. In typical Dubai style, a mani every two weeks helped to keep my teeth at bay, but occasionally I'd slip. I'd lapse back into my filthy habit with a little nibble behind closed doors. "Just one. Just one won't matter", I'd tell myself. Only then, because the set was uneven, I'd have to straighten them out by nibbling them all, which shot me straight back to square one. Dammit.

Yes, I definitely had bad days, but eventually I managed to grow them all quite beautifully. With not a gel tip, frayed end or ragged cuticle in sight, I was finally whole, a real woman, complete and completely me. Until… yesterday, when my longest, bestest, most beautiful nail (on my naked wedding finger no less) split, crumbled and fell to the floor, in a pub. Oh, the misery.

It's back to the salon for me tomorrow, before my demons return and I bite them all off again. I still have nine lovely nails left and I refuse to let this one incident ruin it for them. If Dubai has taught me anything over the last year, it's that polishing up your presentation skills can really take you places. If only I could do the same for my liver.

Posted: 24 August 2008

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