02 October, 2012

坦白 · Coming Clean

I often feel emotional when the time comes and I have to trim my fingernails.

To you, it may be an uneventful process. But it always remind me of the times I've felt really depressed about who I am and something I do.

Before my Polytechnic days, I had the habit of biting my nails. It wasn't developed when I was a child nor an act of imitating actors, but simply because it is a habit passed down in my genes.

I felt really depressed and helpless whenever people who don't understand this, say mean things to me like "eww Hui Ying is so gross", "stop biting your nails lah" or even "see,  you bite until your fingers are deformed already".

Of course it's easy for you to say, because you're not me.

I finallly mustered the courage to write this blog entry for a reason.
If you have the habit of biting your nails, especially if you are a kid, just know that
you haven't done anything wrong.

You shouldn't cry because of this habit, because it's not your fault.
You may think this is funny, but this was my struggle, it was my pain of childhood.
When I was very young, my mom had a friend who couldn't speak. But she would hit my hands whenever she sees me, and sign to me not to bite my nails.

In primary school, I would rather my teacher comment that I am holding the pen the wrong way, than to let her see my fingernails. I was afraid my teacher would not like me anymore if she found out, or worse, if I lose my friends. How about YOU try and write the way I did, and try to understand how painful such habits can be to kids, emotionally and physically, before you blame them again.

Then came secondary school life where I tried really hard not to let my classmates see my fingernails. I would even make sure that they don't show in photos.

The picture above was taken back then to welcome a senior back to Singapore. It's the one time I really remembered how hard I tried to keep my secret.

The only picture I know of where my nails showed, was this-

Once in class when I was sec 4, the classmate next to me suddenly exclaimed, "let me see your thumb!"

She saw.

I tried really hard to pretend that I didn't hear her question. I developed envy whenever I see people with pretty hands and/or fingernails. I never had the courage to look at nail polishes, because I didn't want to be ridiculed. ("you don't have fingernails, see nail polishes for what?!") There was once I tried to make myself feel better, and bought a white ink pen to draw little flowers on what's left of my nails. I just wish, I was just like everyone else.
That dream seemed so far and impossible.

Also in secondary school, I finally mustered the courage to look for a solution, especially because my CCA was library and I spend a lot of time arranging the books. An author wrote that she quit biting fingernails not long before her wedding, because she wanted to be able to show others her ring. That gave her the strength and courage to quit the habit.

I had two thoughts then-

(1) How long would it take before I can find such courage?
(2) I feel like, I'm born cursed for that matter.
记得Punggol Plaza开幕不久,我第一次在Ta Zhiang看到假指甲的美容包。当时很兴奋也胆怯,似乎是看到了希望,却也无法鼓起勇气,走进店里买下一包。后来惦记那包的希望,整整挣扎了2个星期才回去买下。
Years back when Punggol Plaza first opened, I saw fake nails sold in Ta Zhiang for the first time. I was really excited like I saw the light at the end of the tunnnel, but so scared at the same time too. I thought of it for weeks before I finally went back one day, and had the courage to buy a pack.
Once in Poly not long after I've kicked the habit, our lecturer set a test where we each have to teach something to someone else in front of the whole class. It was up to the lecturer to choose a random classmate to learn.

That wasn't very long after I've kicked the habit, and my nails were still quite short.
A classmate of ours said that she was going to teach manicure techniques, and then, my lecturer called out my name to be the person learning from her. As nails are really too small for the class to see, everyone came forward. I have to say, I was really really glad I had grown out my nails by that time. But I would never forget the pressure I felt when everyone was focused on my fingernail.
How did I quit?

One day after O Levels examination, I was worrying about the imminent Poly life. I was determined to decrease my number of weaknesses, in order not to be bullied in a new school.
The following months before school started were hell, but I finally manged it.

It felt as if I freed myself. I can now play chopsticks with my friends! I am worthy of touching the piano! I need not hide my hands in photos anymore!

Unless you have a similar experience, you'd never understand how liberated I felt.
From this honest sharing, I wish to convey this message to everyone - If what you say would make people unhappy, and is not constructive at all, please shut up.
That applies to the Chinese people especially, because we tend to comment on things that upset people. If you keep talking crap like "wah, why you dress until like that?!", "How come you no boyfriend yet?", "you gain weight le leh!", "why you eat so much!", don't blame people when they start to avoid you.

Always remember that others are giving you face, keeping comments to themselves too.

You don't see youths going to your house during Chinese New Year to say, "wow you look like you're dying soon", "how come all your hair turned white? Why you so wrinkled? OMG you are almost bald!" or even things like "why all your children don't want you anymore?". So please learn to respect us the way we are, so that we can get along without the pressure of being judged by you.
If you know someone who bites nails, please try to overlook it. Don't stare, don't ask, don't probe. Because if we have a choice, we want to be normal like you too. Just so happens that genes is not up to us to choose. So please give us some space, leave us some dignity. It may be your kind of fun to poke fun at us about it, but it hurts us, really.
If you're one of those nail-biters just like me, please know that it is possible to change. Even if it seems impossible to you, that's okay! Please don't ever EVER torture yourself with this small piece of imperfection. I can tell you that even now when I have nice fingernails, it doesn't solve any problem in life actually. It shouldn't create a barrier around you from the world, so please accept yourself.
If you want, I'd like to be your friend, because I'm more than happy to accept who you are. I won't laugh at your nails, or try to change you. Because you are who you are, you deserve to be loved and cherished, and those nails? They don't mean no shit about you at all.
Look on the bright side, there are things we are capable of doing that people with nice fingernails can't do. Take that as a reason to be proud of who you are.
For those who laughed at me in my face, and behind my back, bringing me so much pain, I wanna say...

if you didn't mean to, please learn to be more sensitive towards others from now on.
And if you still think it's funny to make fun of people who are different, that just goes to show how pathetic you are, and that you have failed in life, but bullying others does not change anything about your failure. If you have perfect nails, that's the great work of your genes, not you. There's nothing worth comparing, nothing worth being proud of for being this normal. And, wait for your karma.
I've been wanting to write an entry about broken fingernails for a while now. Despite finishing it in a day, I had been really hesitant about publishing it.
Now that I've found the courage to do so, I hope more people would get this message, and find the courage from deep within to make a change, or accept others/yourself.