I sucked my thumb until I was eight years old. If memory serves, and you know what we say here at TMP: Memory serves, but it’s usually self-serving. Still, who would make that up? I chose to give up thumb-sucking the summer between second and third grade because I had the good fortune to have the same wonderful teacher, Lorraine Shapiro, for the second time and I cared deeply about her opinion of me. Not that she knew I sucked my thumb. By then, I sucked it only at night. Still, I knew it was time to stop.
My thumb was known in our household as Golly, or Golly-Golly, a name derived from the sound I made while sucking. Later, when I acquired a cat, I named her for my thumb, but insisted on spelling it Gali, which led to a lifetime of misunderstandings. And I do mean a lifetime: The cat lived to age 20, spending her twilight years with my parents.
In the newspaper world, “thumbsucker” is the name used for a piece that doesn’t really advance news, just allows a reporter to assemble known facts, often under the claim of “analysis.” I’m not sure why that was the case. “Chin-stroking” or, to be rude, “jerk-off” seem more analogous to me, but maybe I’m missing something. Thumb-sucking is all about self-soothing and very private. (Well, I guess jerking off is, too. Or should be, but there was that man I saw on the Evanston Express, circa 1979.)
Of course, everyone worried I would need braces. I didn’t. I have an overbite, but maybe I would have, anyway.
Did you have a bad habit that you broke for someone else? Did you have a blanket or a beloved toy that you carried far later than others thought you should?
By the way, out of curiosity, I sneaked my thumb into my mouth last night. It held no appeal. I’d much rather have a glass of wine, thank you very much.