Category Archives: B the B


Maybe a blog post will help me collect my thoughts. They’re a bit scattered at the moment. They come under three main headings:


I don’t usually think much about physics, though I am grateful to it for providing my family’s income, but today there’s a big announcement from an NSF-funded collaboration called LIGO telling everyone that gravitational waves have been detected for the first time. I know a tiny bit about this because this is exactly my husband’s field, though he (sadly) didn’t work on this stuff himself. But we know lots of people who did, and it’s fun watching them have their long-awaited moment just now.


At the start of 2015 I said that taking the kids skiing was something on my wishlist for the year, along with fixing our shower and going to New York. Well, miracles do happen and we fixed our shower up beautifully last August, and we went to NYC twice, and now, finally, we are about to go skiing. A few weeks ago I got all proactive and booked two nights at Liberty Mountain in Pennsylvania, about two hours’ drive from here, as well as a private ski lesson for the kids with us in attendance, so we can start them off right. (B and I have both skied a little, though not for years.) I was delighted with myself for using a Friday off school to get the nights I wanted, and crossed my fingers that the weather would cooperate.

Well, there’s no snowstorm forecast for this weekend, so in that sense I suppose the weather didn’t entirely shaft us. But in other ways my timing was serendipitously awful. Both school districts (now that we’re in two) decided to have school this Friday after all, to start making up for the week that was missed due to snow, so now I have to take the kids out of school for it. (We won’t be the only ones absent, I’m sure.) Valentine’s parties that were meant to happen today will happen tomorrow instead, and they’ll miss them. Dash will miss his vision therapy session today, because we weren’t doing VT when I booked this. And Mabel was very annoyed about missing her ceramics class on Saturday morning, because she loves ceramics and she is suspicious of skiing, which she’s never tried.

Finally, the weather forecast is not for snow but for extremely cold temperatures on Saturday. I decided nobody would want to slide down a mountain on two planks in a possible high of about 14F (before windchill) – that’s minus 10 C at the warmest – so I cancelled the second night at the hotel and the second day of skiing. It will be cold tomorrow too, but hopefully not so cold that we don’t get in some more time on the slopes after the one-hour lesson is over.

And of course, B has to rush away from work early, today of all days, when they’re all congratulating themselves on what great sciencers they are and having cake and partying it up in their novelty physics ties and their socks and sandals.*

Silver lining: Mabel gets to go to ceramics after all. Here’s hoping it makes up for the dental appointment we have scheduled for Monday, when she gets yet another crown. Worst teeth ever.


The final thing that’s got me not settling down to anything today is that I heard back from the agent I’d sent the new-and-improved version of my book to back in October. It had taken so long that I knew nothing wonderful was going to happen, so I wasn’t surprised when she said no, but it was a very nice no. Basically she said she likes it a lot but she can’t take it on right now because she’s too busy, and she gave me some suggestions of people I should send it to. She said nice things like “charming” and “delightful” and “I hope to see it in print some day soon.”

So do I, y’know.

So now I have to gird my loins and write a better 500-word synopsis and send it out again into the world, and a colder and less cosily familiar world at that. The realm of Irish publishing is very small – and it’s a very Irish book, so I think it has to start there – which means there aren’t that many options for places it can go, and I’ve exhausted all the personal contacts I have. I’m trying some UK agents too, but without luck so far.

So that’s where I am. Photos of smiling children on skis to come, I hope. Or news that we broke our legs.


* They don’t really wear socks with sandals. Hardly any of them do. I just like to tease him about it.

Autumnal moments

Every time the wind blows, a flurry of yellow leaves rain down twirlingly onto the lawn (I use the term loosely, and optimistically) and the deck outside my window. It’s very pretty. The autumn colours are spectacular just now. And here I am, inside, listening to 80s music and my children playing/fighting/play-fighting, because suggesting that they go Out Into Nature is clearly ridiculous.

Yellow leaves on the deck and the grass beyond

B ran a marathon this morning, and we didn’t make it into the city to support him even though it was a local one, because everyone was too shattered from the rest of our busy weekend, which included a 5k race wherein Dash won the Under-12s section and a lot of pumpkin carving and walking. (Pumpkin walking, if you didn’t know, is following a trail in the woods that’s lit only by jack o’ lanterns, with hot chocolate or hot cider at the end. It’s magical and romantic and enchanting, so long as you don’t trip over a log or have a terrified toddler with you. We did neither, and it was nice.)

Glowing pumpkins at dusk with a musical band playing in the background

So instead of hotfooting it into town at the crack of dawn (or a little after) and dragging unwilling childers onto the metro and around the nation’s capital to crane our necks and possibly mis-time the encounter with our one runner of choice, we slept in, got up slowly, collected our pumpkins from the woods, had an ice cream at the farmers’ market, and bought ingredients for lasagne. Dash made a chocolate cake – with a certain amount of supervision because when you’re dyslexic a 2 can look like an 8, apparently, and other such potential disasters – and it’s really all quite peaceful.

Red, orange, yellow and green leaves with the sunshine behind them


One more thing for when I run the world

I’m just sitting here watching the little running-man figure that represents my husband on the handy live-tracking feature cruise his way to 40k and beyond in the Boston Marathon. Because he is All That And A Bag of Chips, so he is.

You might think if I really loved and supported him we’d all be there waving banners and shouting ourselves hoarse, but we’ve done that before and to be honest, big marathons aren’t great to support at because there are so many people you might easily miss the one you came for and then you’ve dragged two children all over a strange city for not much and everyone’s grumpy and too hot/wet/cold/hungry. I blogged about it before, if you want to know how it goes.

But I’m here to complain about something else. If you’re American (and you haven’t read my rant about Harry Potter), it might come as news to you that books published in the US that were originally written and published in the UK or Ireland or pretty much any other English-speaking country are always re-edited for US publication. That’s why you pretty much never see “colour” or “realise” or “jewellery” or “pyjamas” in print, and might not even know for a long time that they’re legitimate spellings in other parts of the world. But it’s worse than that: they don’t just change the spellings. They change the words too. They “fix” the words so that the American audience isn’t confused by trousers or footpaths or bin men or woolly jumpers.

They might even want to change “all that and a bag of chips” up there to a bag of french fries. I don’t know if they’d bother to ask me about it.

I’ve always been aware that there was such a thing as a US edition, because I was the sort of child who would read every word, including the boilerplate text on the second page where they tell you where and when it was published and which imprint it is and sometimes even what font was used. I noticed that all my books contained a copyright notice that began “Except in the United States of America…” and some blatantly stated “This edition not for sale in the United States of America.” If you’d never seen that, you wouldn’t even know there were separate editions at all – and US books do not have a similar line implying that they’re not for UK (etc.) audiences.

But I do think they’ve stepped it up recently, as some of my friends have suggested when I get annoyed on Facebook about changes made to books that just sound ridiculous. I’m reading a Marian Keyes (Last Chance Saloon – I already own it in Dublin) that I picked up at the thrift store. It’s not my only US edition Marian Keyes, because my collection is large and garnered from both Here and There, but this one has had some really painfully out-of-place changes made to it. The characters are Irish, living in London. In the first couple of chapters I’ve already come across references to the “garbage collector”, the “closet” and “liquor store”: none of these ring true, to say the least. Even if it’s the narrator’s voice rather than a direct statement, the characters would not be thinking about anything in these terms and the result for this reader is about as distracting as the CLANG of a dropped anvil.

If you’re wondering, a garbage collector is a bin man, a closet is a cupboard or a press, and a liquor store is an off-licence. It’s true that the average American might not immediately understand those terms, but then they have two options: they can ignore it and just keep reading, or they can go and find out. With the entire Internet at most readers’ disposal, that’s not much of a demand. And if publishers didn’t keep pandering to the US readers by making these changes, they might already have encountered them in other books.

Last night in bed I found the most egregious thing to date: there’s a crude joke (look away now if easily offended) about someone being nicknamed Flora because “she spreads easily”. (Flora is a brand of margarine.) Now, I know that’s what it must have said originally, but the copy I’m reading had “she opens easily”. Maybe the person who made these changes didn’t know what it meant; maybe they did but they thought that making it look like a flower reference would be a clever way to keep the joke but make it accessible with minimal changes to the wording; I don’t care. It’s wrong! It’s a liberty too far.

When I am in charge of the world, such books will have minimal changes made and a glossary or footnotes added to explain unfamiliar terms, if deemed necessary, without distracting the reader or changing the author’s voice. That’s all.

(He finished the marathon, by the way. Way to go, B the B.)

Busy weekend

It’s been one of those weekends we get about twice a year when everything we have to do happens at the same time.

Mabel and Dash carving pumpkins

Friday night was community pumpkin carving. Yes, the whole town got together to carve pumpkins, with live music and free cookies. Some of the finished products were amazingly artistic; ours were more about giving the pumpkins some sort of facial features before anyone melted down and/or stabbed people with sharp implements. But the end result was a little magical.

Many jack-o-lanterns

Saturday morning was the culmination of a lot of hard work on B’s part, when the 5k fundraiser for the elementary school, which he had organized, happened. First there was a 1k fun run that Mabel made me do with her. She kept having to stop so I could catch up. I’m not very good at running. Still, we made it.

Spousal duty meant I had said I’d help wherever helping was required, and I was assigned the very important job of sweeper. This is the person who goes along at the end of the race to let the course marshalls know that they’re done because the last person has officially passed. B said I could ride my bike if I wanted, but I’d have to ride “really really slowly” so maybe there was no point. Like an idiot, I believed him, so I set off on foot, only to find I had to jog to keep up with the walkers at the back, because every time I came to a marshall I had to have a little conversation with them, and then I’d have to catch up again. Next year, should I be so called upon, I will take my bike.

Lake and trees

I wasn’t racing, so I got to stop and take pretty pictures

After I slogged back up the hill to hear that Dash had made good time in this, his second ever 5k race, we all partook of bagels and coffee and hung around for the raffle and the prizes. We didn’t win either, but it all went off successfully and a large sigh of relief was sighed in our house when the whole thing was over and done with.

That evening there was pumpkin festival part deux, which is when they set all the pumpkins out in the woods with candles in them and we go for a spooky walk, enhanced by sightings of forest folk, the elusive Goatman, a fairy ring in the distance, sounds of thrumming drums and eerie wails, with hot chocolate and hot cider at the end. It was so good we did it twice – once in twilight, and once in pitch dark with just the lack-o-lanterns (and a flashlight) to light our way.

Jack o lantern with howling wolf carving

I dreamed of pumpkins all night, which wasn’t actually terribly restful. But never mind.

This morning was just our regular farmers market, which runs all the way to Thanksgiving, but it was a glorious morning for it. The kids all disappeared to Kidland (the tree over yonder), where apparently there were two sets of elections and several speeches in favour of the environment and pacifism, while the parents lounged on the grass in the breezy dappled autumn sunlight and discussed yesterday’s events and how lovely it was to have our children off climbing trees and ruling the world with no help required.

And this afternoon there was a birthday party – that lovely low-key sort with chips and cupcakes and the merest gesture towards some carrot sticks and celery, because a party from 2 to 4pm really doesn’t require anything in the way of food – that all took place at a playground, with some fun games for the children, where the parents once again – pretty much the same parents we’d been seeing all weekend at every event, which is just fine because we like them all – mostly stood around chatting and marvelling at how we could now kick back and relax at these events because our kids are just that leetle bit older…

Mabel eating a powdered donut

The challenge was to eat a powdered donut on a string without using your hands. (But once you’ve taken the first bite, it’s okay.)

And for once we left before anyone lost their rag and viciously pinched anyone else (by anyone, I mean Mabel, and by anyone else I mean some poor innocent smaller child) and it was all just a lovely end to a busy weekend. And now I have a glass of wine and I can look forward, if that’s the right phrase, to all the other things that are coming up, starting with a Kindergarten field trip tomorrow, then the IEP meeting on Thursday, then Halloween, then Mabel’s birthday party and then my trip to Ireland All On My Own. After all of which I will come back and collapse in a heap and spend the next two weeks frantically catching up on work and lazily deciding what side dish to bring to Thanksgiving dinner because we’ve been invited to friends, which we accepted with alacrity.

Also, I have nearly finished another pair of mittens. These ones go with my scarf.

It’s a busy time of year, is all.

Angels in the architecture / spinning in infinity

My past and my present are squashed into one moment, right here right now.

B put Negotiations and Love Songs on tonight while we were eating dinner. “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes” and “You Can Call me Al” and “Me and Julio down by the School Yard” are songs I can sing all the words to without even being aware that I’m doing it, but then it got to “Something So Right.” And it sends me straight back in Boston in 1993, looking at summer sunlight on splintery wooden floors in a rental condo full of Irish students, feeling absolutely positively in love, swooping and reeling with the words of the song and the amazement of being 20 and finding out that it’s all true and hoping with all my heart that he feels it too.

And now I’m sitting here looking at our children.


The approach of Valentine’s Day, mind you, fills me with ennui. It’s not about the husband; we are happily united in our decision to pretty much ignore it. But the children, or at least the pre-schooler, is not merely expected but actually required to bring a Valentine for everyone in her class; so much so that we were e-mailed the list of names at the weekend so that nobody would be left out. Now, a pre-school Valentine is not much – a square of cardboard, maybe a heart shape, store-bought or home-made, with or without a Hershey’s kiss, pink pencil, or other such tiny offering. But SIGH, it’s another THING I have to DO. She’s not the one who will download some cute printables or pick something up in Target or, heck, pull out a sheet of pink construction paper (as if we had such a thing to hand): I am.

I don’t even know if the second-grader is meant to do anything. He’s off school that day, so maybe we can just pretend it’s not happening. I don’t know at what age Valentines stop being a “friends” (that is, classmates, not actual friends) thing and start being a romantic thing in this country. Does he have a few years to go yet? He’s not a tween till he turns 8, right? I still have a couple of months in hand.


In Boston in 1993 I did not ever look forward to this point. When you’re twenty you will never ever be forty, boring, going to school board meetings for the thrill of it. Life is a blank canvas and the world is yours to conquer.

And when you fall in love when you’re twenty, you can just be in love and not worry about what’s going to happen in the future.


However, as the man said, still crazy after all these years.



Things about me

But first I have to steal one of my husband’s points about himself, because it’s so wonderful that it deserves a wider audience:

For some period around the age of 7, I became convinced I was actually Orinoco Womble. The Wombles merchandising at the time included chocolate bars, and I would look at my miniature pointy-nosed face in confusion when visiting the newsagents.

For full enjoyment of this fact, you have to know what both parties looked like: 

Stunning resemblance, no? (Also, clearly there’s no argument about whose son Dash is.)

Now that there’s no topping that, here are some much less interesting random facts about me.

1. I played Miss Prism in selected scenes from The Importance of Being Ernest in high school. I knew everyone’s lines.

2. Around the same time that my future husband was posing as a womble, I used to hide behind the sofa when the Daleks appeared.

3. As soon as the weather gets cold, I lose all blood from my fingers and toes, which is very useful when I want to dress up as a corpse for Halloween but otherwise annoying.

4. I had three boyfriends in first grade, but not one more until after I turned 18.

5. I can still recite, phonetically and probably unrecognizably, the “We are now approaching a station; please mind the gap” phrase from the Prague city train system. I can also ask for two beers in Czech.

6. I have not, and never did have, any wisdom teeth. This does not mean that I am less wise than you, but rather that I am more highly evolved, so there.

Tell me a random fact about yourself.

Way too many things to think about

It’s October tomorrow. That means I’ve a lot of planning to do. For instance:

Planning in further detail our trip to Ireland at the end of the month –

  • what I’ll wear
  • what I have to buy in order to wear these things 
  • how I’ll masquerade as a stylish person instead of a slobby soccer mom who wears the same pair of jeans and scuffed mary-janes every single day
  • if the kids need new shoes for all the walking in rain that will happen (answer: yes)

And boring stuff like

  • car seats to borrow
  • things for kids to do on the journey


  • touristy-type things we might do when we’re there, now that the children are a little older
  • people I need to contact to see if we can pin down when we might see them
  • how wet an Autumn they’ll be having for those specific two weeks

Also, not to forget,

  • working out our best marathon-viewing opportunities, because of course B is running the marathon

Then, as a subheading, we have not merely

  • Halloween in Dublin: do we have to bring costumes? what costumes? where will we do the trick-or-treating? does B want to do some sort of elaborate themed family thing? (Answer: over my dead body; only if he organizes the whole thing; therefore, no.) Dash is talking about some variation on last year (Luke Skywalker) that involves a green lightsaber (very specifically) and a brown cloak and I think it’s just a ploy to get a new lightsaber when it’s neither his birthday nor Christmas.

but also (sigh, sunrise sunset, etc),

  • Mabel’s fifth birthday, in Dublin: do we have a family party? In which case, where? Can I bake a cake in our Air B’n’B rental apartment? Do we bring presents to Dublin? (No. What sort of idiot do you take me for?) But then I need to buy or order presents before we go so they’re here when we get back.

And of course, planning a birthday party with her friends for the weekend after we get back, when we’ll be only just over the jet lag but I’ll still be expected to infuse us all with sugar some more and again and repeatedly, unless she wants a broccoli cake which sounds to me like a great idea but maybe not to her brother’s taste.

Which planning will not be a trivial matter even though I can just bung an evite out there (thank the deity for evites; I love ’em) because we’ll have to figure out

(a) just girls?
(b) which girls?
(c) just girls and one boy?
(d) siblings?
(e) just the one sibling of the one boy so Dash has a friend?
(f) and the one who’s the twin of one of the girls?
(g) but then, what about the boy whose birthday party she’s attending next week?
(h) parents?

And then we have to hammer out the decision in such a way that she doesn’t decide the next day and every next day after that to change her mind in some new and unspecified direction. Which probably means just inviting feckin’ everyone.

And then, there’s always looking way ahead to Christmas and making a cake and planning to go to the Nutcracker for the first time and whatever other things we should do when we have Christmas here instead of in Ireland.

So you can see why planning what we’re having for dinner tonight has just fallen completely by the wayside. Maybe there’s something in the freezer.

Slow-flowing river
Think calming thoughts.

Ancient history

I like Connie Willis. If you’ve never heard of Connie Willis, well, you’re just like the guy in my local bookshop, except that you probably don’t work in a bookshop so the fact that she’s a really great and popular and quite prolific fantasy writer is not a travesty. But he, he was a travesty. I don’t know why Books-A-Million is still alive when all the Borders Books in the area have closed down.

Anyway. This is a very long lead-in to what will probably turn out to no longer be a remotely funny anecdote when I finally get around to it. And I’m not there yet, you’ll have to wait.

I don’t get in a lot of reading these days, and when I do it goes in fits and starts. It’s usually an author I know and love, because I don’t have the patience right now to try out books that might be anything less than great. I’ll happily re-read old favourites rather than attempt something new – hence the total revisiting of Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey’s relationship earlier this year. But I discovered that Connie Willis had written a new* book – in fact, two – and put them on my birthday list. B gave me Blackout for my birthday, and I saved it to read on the way to BlogHer. I finished it last week and discovered that it’s not so much the first in a series of two, as half a story, the other half of which is another whole (even fatter) book called All Clear. So of course I had to get my hands on All Clear ASAP, without even waiting for Amazon.

Connie Willis books

This is why we ended up visiting two bookshops in two days, and why Dash ended up getting two new books in two days, even though there’s a perfectly lovely library with plenty of reading matter right there in our town. (Mabel also got one new book.) The first bookshop didn’t have any Connie Willis at all (see above), but Dash still had to get something, and he chose a National Geographic Kids book on tigers. The next day in a much better-stocked Barnes & Noble, he picked up a National Geographic Kids book on Martin Luther King and was all excited, so who was I to deny my son the reluctant reader such an educational item?

[Here, just to keep up the thrilling suspense (ahem), let me mention how great those National Geographic Kids books are. Dash is a bright, curious kid with a great vocabulary, but his reading level is not high. So trying to keep him engaged with a book that’s easy enough for him not to stumble over every word is often a struggle, because so many of the first readers are insultingly simple. He likes the “I Can Read” superhero books, and they are at a good (easy) level for him, but he also has a selection of the National Geographic ones, and those are what he looks for now in the bookstore.

National Geographic Kids titles]

Oh God, now I’ve built it up so much that I’m afraid to tell my piddly little story.


Schoolkids in America know all about Martin Luther King. The Civil Rights Movement is heavily featured in kindergarten, if not before. Even the nursery-school attendees know about him, thanks to Martin Luther King day in January every year. As an Irish schoolchild, I did not have Martin Luther King anywhere on my radar, but I must have heard his name somewhere along the line.

So at the start of secondary school (seventh grade) our history teacher began by looking at the pictures on the front cover of our textbook, Renaissance and Reformation, I think it was called, and asking if anyone knew what was depicted. Looking at a drawing of an oldy-timey man with long hair hammering a scroll to a wooden door, something I had seen or read elsewhere came back to me, and I tentatively raised my hand.

“Yes, Maud?”
I was diffident but smug: “Is it Martin Luther… King?”

As I said the first two words, it had occurred to me that there was often another one appended. Adding the “King” was an afterthought, really. I thought it would make me sound even cleverer.

Sadly, one word makes all the difference. My teacher went from admiration to amusement in the space of that single syllable. (Though really, she should have been doubly impressed: I knew two historical people, after all, even if I didn’t realise it myself.)

This morning I was recounting the story to B, who somehow had never heard it before. Dash wanted to know as well. “You knew about Martin Luther King too?” he asked, incredulous.

Whereupon B had to get all smartypants: “Martin Luther King TWO? There’s a sequel? ‘He’s back and he’s mad.'”

*New as in three years ago, apparently.

The hustler

What you might call our first date was, I believe, an arrangement to meet up at our university (in the last week of Easter break) and play some pool. With a friend, probably. To the uninformed viewer it might have seemed casual in the utmost. We might have had lunch in the totally unromantic UCD canteen first. Or maybe we pushed the boat out and got one of those little pizzas on the second floor. I should remember, but I don’t.

What I remember is the pool table. We went down to “The Trap”, which is what everyone called the pool tables and juke box in the basement of the Arts building, beside all the lockers, and put some coins in a table. I think we found our mutual friend (through whom we had first met two weeks earlier) down there; we certainly weren’t alone. It being the holidays, the place wasn’t thronged with students avidly avoiding lectures, but it wasn’t deserted either. Some people could reliably be found in The Trap no matter what the season or semester.

Now, don’t be imagining I’m some sort of pool shark. Tom Cruise and Paul Newman would wipe the floor with me in half a second flat. But ever since my friend and I used to push the white ball around the empty table in the Dunlaoghaire Motor Yacht Club with our hands, or watch the coloured balls lining up with those lovely clicks through the little window to the table’s innards, or even when my late lamented Uncle Brian tried to show me how to hold a cue at the age of about seven, I’ve had a sort of affinity for the game.

(My granny used to watch the snooker on TV. That took some concentration, before she got the color set.)

So B was the one who showed me how to play. (I won’t say “taught me” becuase that would imply that I have learned and am now able to do it.) I know the rules and can slide the cue towards the white ball and almost always make it hit one of the others. Something usually goes in a pocket eventually. I don’t really care. I love watching the skill of others, the ones who do know what they’re doing. I love the almost-frictionless roll of ball towards pocket, watching an engineer calculate the angles, or pretend to, hearing the satisflying click (or the rumble when the white goes down and you wait for the table to send it back to you).

So there we were on our date, having a nice game of pool, not exactly knowing where this was going or how to move things forward. I leaned on the table. I put my hand a little too close to where his hand was also leaning on the side of the table as we waited for our friend to take a shot. The sides of our little fingers touched, and a tiny electric shock went through me. That was enough. The direction was set. Fate was on notice.

Wednesday will be our ninth wedding anniversary, by the way.

We used to play a game of pool now and then, whenever we were in a bar with a pool table, with a couple of friends or just the two of us. I didn’t get any better, but I still enjoyed it. Last week on our vacation we had an early dinner one night in a not-very-Italian restaurant attached to a very American bar. We passed the pool table as we walked through the bar to our booth seats. I made a mental note of it. When dinner was over and ice-creams had been screamed for and ordered (politely) and said thank-you for (politely) I suggested we might just see if the pool table was still unused on our way out.

It was. Probably we should not have stopped for a quick game of pool in a bar with our seven year old and our four year old, but we did, and nobody cared, and it was fun. It was fun to impress the kids with this thing they had no idea we would ever do. It was fun to let them chalk our cues and retrieve the white ball and suggest what we might aim for next. They were just about old enough to keep their hands off the balls and the other cues for long enough for B to wipe the floor with my pathetic effort (it takes me most of a game to get my eye in, and it had been a few years) and clear the table, clonk clonk clonk, like a pro.

Or maybe I’m still just easily impressed by some people.

Mini pool table
Not to scale


One wholly superficial thing that tends to make an otherwise nice-looking man less attractive to me is long fingernails. Long dirty fingernails are, of course, worse. I had a huge crush on a guy in college until I noticed his nails, and that – happily for me because I was more insignificant than a gnat in his eyes and he was probably a total asshole anyway – put the kybosh on the crush. I was once again able to attend my Greek and Roman Civilization tutorial without blushing furiously and fumbling my pen the entire time.

So when I met B the B, I was happy to see that his fingernails were perfectly groomed. Not long at all. Maybe a tiny bit on the short side, to be honest, but whatever, there is no too short. Unless you’re talking about my History teacher in high school who used to bite his so low that they were painful to look at. (No crush there either. Not a hint of one. Good teacher, though.)

So anyway, B and I had probably been married quite a while before I realised that he never clipped or cut or filed his fingernails. “What do you do?” I asked, mystified. “I bite them off,” he replied. They don’t look bitten. They just look neat. I never see him biting them. I decided that I could live with this, and decided to pretend we’d never had that conversation.

Trouble is, apparently it’s genetic. Dash lets me cut his nails very nicely now that he’s, you know, seven; though for the first few years of his life I carried the nail clippers with me and would give him a manicure whenever he dropped off in the carseat. Mabel, on the other hand, is a whole other kettle of keratin.

When she was a baby, I suppose I managed to cut her nails as required every now and then, but since the age of about two she’s been biting them, just like her father does. They’re too short, but they don’t look gnawed, exactly. I tell her she’ll pull off too much and hurt herself, but it hasn’t happened yet.

She also bites her toenails.

I suppose some day in the distant future she’ll want to wear nail polish enough to stop herself biting, or else her joints will seize up in old age and she won’t be able to get her toes to her teeth any more. In the meantime, this is just one fight I’m not really fighting.

She’ll probably blame me when her boyfriend dumps her for doing it, though.