“Everyone, including you, is constantly judging everything, dahrrrling. You know you’re dying to spill the beans. Besides, I haven’t seen you this excited since Avatarrr,” responds Mr. Octopus as he casually unsticks his tentacles from the kitchen ceiling in order to sidle in a little closer to the conversation. He doesn’t want to strain his voice. He has a performance tonight.
“I know. It’s just that things are getting flakier and flakier around here. And then there’s the tatoo…”
“What? You’re getting the tatoo!” he asks with feigned surprise. Nothing shocks Mr. Octopus. Nothing.
“I told you that.”
“I thought that dreadful business was still up in the airrr. Anyway, getting back to the point, you might as well write about it. At least for the sake of your own sanity. You are about to turn 40, woman. I think it’s high time you embraced your inner flake.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too. Flake.”
Ok, here it is: I made an appointment with a hypnotist. Big whup. The reason is that ever since I can remember, I have had the compulsion to pick at things. As a kid, I picked at a tiny chip of red paint until the hole got wider and larger and finally resembled a gaping gargantuan reverse wound with the red at the edges and the white underneath. I wonder if that was lead paint? That would explain it. Then there was the finely woven wood that made up my headboard that I picked at until it looked like it had been ravished by a swarm of locusts.
While I no longer have a need to destroy furniture, I have an uncontrollable compunction to destroy my mouth and occasionally the skin around my fingernails. It starts with the gentlest nibble of teeth against inner cheek. Then my mouth twists to one side, as though seductively. Teeth seek out a crusty corner of lip. Gaining confidence, they work their way inward, towards the pulpy middle, pulling off strips of juicy skin. Next, the big guns arrive. Feral fingers tear at flesh until mouth and lips are blood-red raw. At this point, I go into the bathroom to cover up the mess I’ve made with a thick coat of lipstick. A quick clean-up, like a whore getting ready for her next john. Oh, I feel so cheap.
People close to me will catch me mid-pick and wonder what the hell is wrong with me. My grandfather used to tease that if I kept it up, my lips would stretch out until I had to drag them on the floor behind me. On a worse note, my picking has actually led to arguments. Some assume that I am weak for giving into my urge to pick. It makes them uncomfortable. They think I can stop if I want to badly enough.
Now, my mom, Blanche, has since the age of seventeen called me a willful woman. If I had my eye set on something, I went after it tenaciously. I could narrow my focus to a laser beam and thicken my aura until it buzzed around me like an invisible electric fence. Back off, sucka! They didn’t call me the Cobra Woman behind my back for nothin’. Although I’ve softened a lot since my Cobra Woman days, I think it’s safe to say that I possess a virile will.
But this lip-picking thing is something else. Something that I can’t consciously get around. Admitting you have a problem, is as they say, the first step. “Hi my name is Tai and I am a lip murderer.” So one recent morning I woke up and said enough is enough. I fired up the Indispensable Google Search Engine and found a hypnotist nearby.
After a long phone conversation, the hypnotist instructed me to keep a lip-picking journal. Groovy. I like to write. Already, in the space of one day, my habit, or at least the way I look at it has changed from shame to curiosity to fascination. I’m starting to observe it like a living thing with its own needs and routine. I feel compassion for it. I mean, me. If I could draw a picture of it, I would say it’s like a panicked little child.
4/27 11:53am. Just finished lunch. Want to bite bad. What is the emotion I feel now? A kind of frustration? Freud-stration? I love to eat. I love food. I just don’t trust it…hmm…sounds like some relationships I’ve had. After eating, I feel like an animal in a too-small cage. There is no satisfaction whatsoever, no matter how much I eat. Level 7.
See what I mean? It’s dark.
“So, you are really gonna see this…hypnotist?” asks Mr. Octopus.
“Yeah. What do I have to lose?”
“Well, it costs a lot for one thing.”
“Yeah, but just think of what I’ll save in lipstick.”