Tooth and Claw As I Get Older


Once, I could tear sticky tape with my teeth and break thread with them when stitching. Today, the front teeth I once applied to tape and thread no longer meet for the purpose.

My bottom teeth resemble tumbling tombstones in an abandoned graveyard. Today’s orthodontists would probably remove a couple in childhood, but back in my schooldays they didn’t take out healthy teeth. Chances were, I would lose a few anyway at some point. One upper tooth that stuck out was restrained with a brace, but that was it.

One of my wisdom teeth never came through completely. When I mentioned it to my dentist, he sucked his teeth and said it was an awkward one. If he thought it was a tricky one, I wasn’t going to push the point. The gaps between teeth at gum level due to gum erosion now require something resembling a bottle brush to keep them clean and infection-free, and although recent x-rays show that two upper teeth no longer have roots, the other teeth seem to be holding them in place.

I still have them, so – as Gran used to say – mustn’t grumble.

Claws Nails

My mother bought me clear nail varnish at an early age in an attempt to stop me biting my nails. I was hooked.

Through my secondary school years my nails were permanently painted. I would remove the varnish on Friday mornings to apply fresh colour during double Latin in the afternoon at the back of the class. (My hands went into my pockets when passing the staff room, where Miss Blossom, the games mistress, would threaten varnished nails with acetone from the science labs.)

On leaving school I was gainfully employed in the public library, where I found that varnish quickly wore off my nail ends when searching for TLIs (Tickets Lost in Issue) through wooden trays of loan records in the Brown issue system (that’s book-card-in-customer-ticket, for those who haven’t read my post Olden days in UK Public Libraries #3). Married life brought washing up which nail varnish rarely survived for long. It was now only applied on the verge of going out and didn’t survive long after the event.

I’ve always had strong nails, but for the last decade, one nail has been splitting at the end (third finger on the right hand, if you’re interested). In the past couple of months the one on the little finger next to it has been showing signs of doing the same. I suspect this may be some kind of nutrient deficiency, but why it should affect only those fingers defeats my nutritional knowledge. (If you know, please share in the comments.)

I read somewhere once that fingernails and hair keep growing after death…


Like most other teenagers in the 1960s (regardless of gender) my hair reached my shoulders. Fed up with washing it in a bucket when on a camping holiday, I cut it with nail scissors in my twenties. (This was married life BC – Before Children – when we didn’t squander money on campsites with facilities.)

I’d been told by a hairdresser that my hair was thick (as in a lot of hairs) but fine (meaning thin). In my fifties, when I tried growing it again it hung limp and lifeless instead of lush and lustrous, so I had it cropped again. Not with nail scissors this time; I could, by then, afford a hairdresser as it was AD – After Departure of my adult children. (Although they tend to return at intervals.)

It isn’t only my head that is less hirsute than before. For some time now I have not needed to shave my legs when they appear in the summer. As if to make up for this, hair now grows vigorously in places where it isn’t wanted. I have moles on my arms and legs and a couple on my face, but some are so pale as to be hardly noticeable (I like to think). At least, I hadn’t taken much notice of them until they sprouted hairs.

When my children were still at home, I used to encourage their suspicion that I had witchy tendencies. (How else would I have known when they were doing things they shouldn’t?) I needed no witches’ marks in the form of hair growing from moles on my chin to lend authenticity, and I certainly don’t want them now!

Serves me right, I suppose, for claiming the kudos without serving the apprenticeship.

12 thoughts on “Tooth and Claw As I Get Older

  1. I love this Cathy, it resonates fully with me. My children always thought I had magical powers too. Amazing what recognising certain traits in children who are lying can do for you. As to hair, mine is still growing at a phenomenal rate all over the place. If I did nothing I am certain I could get a job with the circus immediately.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That must be a genetic thing then – like some babies being born bald (all mine) and some being born with a full head of hair (my adoptive sister’s).
    The witchy powers were aided by the fact that four children had four collections of friends… and all with parents I got to know. Even allowing for some overlap in the friendships and the occasional sets of siblings, that meant an awful lot of grassing adults (in the hope I’d do the same for them) who would recognise my children when out and about.


  3. That’s interesting… My husband damaged his nail beds by falling against the car door while he was waiting for hip replacements and crushing his fingers in the top of it. I’m assuming his nail beds are damaged, but his nails have grown through since as thick as the claws of some LARGE mammal.
    I suppose it depends on the type of damage.


  4. I wrote a long rambling response early this morning, but my ipad didn’t post it, so took it as a sign.
    Your Blog made me think about each of those aspects of myself and my experiences were somewhat different. The dentist when I was a child was situated over a sweet shop! I had 11 of my milk teeth out aged about 10, and had a huge dislike of the gas ever after. I had two teeth removed aged 14 to make room for my teeth, but still had one grow behind the others in the roof of my mouth. Had that, and impacted wisdom teeth removed in my 30s. The removal was easy at hospital, but recovery was painful. My hair strands are thick, but didn’t have so many. Always envied my sister and 2 of my daughters their very thick, waist length blond hair as mine never grew past my shoulders. My youngest daughter laments the same as I did. I am feeling much happier since Saturday having had all the old lady curls cut off, and have my pixie cut again. I’d rather shave it than have it like that. My nails were my pride and joy, but in recent years have been very weak, very short, as they flake and split. In spite of taking Vit D.
    Ageing is certainly challenging.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh dear, I can, unfortunately relate to a lot of this. Teeth, yes. Although I wish I didn’t because I am one of ‘those’ people who are reluctant, scared, downright terrified every time I visit my dentist. It doesn’t help that we have lost our lovely dentist, used to the trembles of a mad woman, to a practice too far away to visit. (Perhaps we should move?)
    Nails? Oh yes indeed. I too used to spend plenty of time and money on nail varnishes and treatments. I loved bright colours on my toenails, the sign of a ‘tart’ according to a friends mother. Ah well, so be it. I’ve probably been called worse.
    But yes, like you they are no longer the hands of my youth. I had beautiful hands, small with slender fingers. My wedding ring was a size H, but needed it resizing to an L a number of years later. I blame housework and children.
    Then again, I blame them for a lot of things.
    Hair? My crowning glory? Hardly. It is so fine (thin), poker straight and lifeless. I gaze in envy at almost everyone. There seems to be no-one with worse hair than mine.
    Every time I try a new hairdresser I tell them exactly what I want. Long, thick wavy hair. I don’t mind what colour it is, I have tried almost all of them in the past. They laugh and proceed with the usual ‘bob’, not realising I am deadly serious. Although it seems that no-one is ever happy with their hair, so I suppose even if I did have luxurious locks I may just pine for a short wispy elfin cut.
    I sound quite the catch, don’t I?
    I think I had better stop now before I complain about the state of my body thanks to the aforementioned housework and children.
    Thanks Cathy for helping me to realise I am not on my own! This aging lark isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs is it?
    I may just have to find a cauldron and make the most of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Let me know when you find that cauldron – I’ll bid for shares in it. Your hairdressing memories reminded me of when my children were smal and we have a friend-of-a-friend who came around to cut everyone’s hair at home for a pittance. When my eldest daughter’s turn came to sit in the hair chair (she must have been around nine or ten at the time) Kim asked her how she wanted her hair cut and she said ‘longer’.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Great post Cathy, much of which resonates with me…teeth, hair, nails have all gone through a metamorphosis as I age. Although I must say the grey hair is fuller and stronger than the previous head of hair so I’m enjoying all the fluff! Aging is such an interesting phenomenon, the changes the bodies makes, the confidence, the lack of worry about what others think. Some of it is very good, some not so lovely. Warmly, C

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agreed about not worrying about what others think. It isn’t just the time saved in the morning since I stopped using make-up daily; it’s the luxury of rubbing my eyes when they’re tired or itchy without getting that panda effect.

      Liked by 2 people

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