Day # 11 Question: I stopped __________ at age ___ …
This one is too easy. I stopped sucking my right index finger at age 10. Yes, I know that’s rather late, but I believe strongly in hanging onto the things that comfort us for as long as possible. According to my mother I was born with a fixation for the finger. In retrospect, I’m not at all surprised that I had the need for an extended and permanent security device. My father was a highly insecure person who was jealous of his own offspring. The mere existence of my brother and I was often the only catalyst to one of his rages. The odds were pretty favorable that from the moment my index finger found my mouth in utero, a relationship was formed. So, it’s no wonder that I resisted when my parents attempted to break the bond I had with my perfect soother.
From about the age of three onward, my parents, at the urging of my pediatrician, tried everything to stop my finger sucking. Their first attempt was to put a pair of little white gloves on me at bedtime, the hour when sucking seemed most favorable to me, as I often fell asleep to the sounds of their arguing. The gloves were a huge failure. The moment my mother left the room, I peeled them off and sucked my little heart out. When it was discovered that the gloves weren’t working, they offered me rewards for giving it up. They, however, soon realized that a one day trip to the zoo was not an equivalent reward for ending the lifetime relationship that my finger and I enjoyed. Their next attempt was to paint my fingernails with a putrid smelling substance intended to curb thumb suckers. Despite the horrible taste and the warning that the polish would make me sick, I fought through its offensive taste. I attribute this experience to teaching me the life lesson that sometimes you have to eat a little shit to get to the thing you really want.
Still, armed with the fear of spending thousands on orthodontics, my parents didn’t give up. A month or so before Christmas, they involved Santa Claus in their quest. While I had a pretty healthy fear of “mall Santa,” I thought the real Santa who visited my home each December 25th was on my side. Turns out that fat fucker wanted me to stop sucking my finger too. He began leaving little notes on my pillow telling me that rat bastard Rudolf, and the other eight tiny reindeer wanted me to quit. Then he got the elves involved. To this day, I don’t trust anyone under 3’2”.
When I began losing my primary teeth, the tooth fairy, with her infinite oral wisdom began leaving notes with a measly quarter, alluding to a much larger financial reward if I gave up the finger. The next time I lost a tooth I went to bed armed with my mother’s fly swatter, determined to teach the tooth fairy a lesson. I was however lulled quickly to sleep by my sucking and awoke to a quarter and warning letter from the fairy. I still wonder if that winged bitch realizes that my finger saved her life that night.
As soon as I was old enough to understand the concept of bullying, my parents told me that if my kindergarten classmates found out about my little habit they would make fun of me. I knew this was ridiculous. I was way too smart to finger suck at school, plus if I ever slipped up and stuck my finger in my mouth during story time, I knew from sitting beside of Willard Cogan, whose hands were always down his pants, that there were kids with far worse vices who would be picked on well before me.
As time passed and years of cajoling continued to prove futile, my parents gave up and began saving for my braces. Then one fateful day I was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. I spent two long weeks struggling to breathe before I finally began to recover. Near the end of my stay my mother made the observation that I had gone 14 days without sucking my finger while in the hospital. She was certain that if I could go that long, then it was highly likely that I could stop for good. I wasn’t as sure, so on my last night in the hospital without the obstruction of an oxygen mask, I stuck my finger in my mouth eager for its comfort. It turned out that my mother was right. No matter how hard I tried to make it work, my finger just didn’t feel comfortable in my mouth anymore. On that night I demoted my right index finger to mundane tasks, like pointing and nose picking.
For those of you wondering how many years I spent in braces, the answer is none. Once all of those funny little gaps between my permanent teeth filled in, my teeth were perfectly straight. However, my brother, the non-sucker wore braces for years!