As an adult (well, 26, married, step son, mostly counts) people can be a bit shocked when they realize that I still suck my thumb. Most folk don't even realize for the first year or two, if ever. In my case, the oddity of the act is mostly drowned out by my extensive collection of other personal peculiarities.

They don't realize, for the most part, because I spent the vast majority of my upbringing learning the fine art of concealment. My parents and elder brother spent the 14 years between the ages of 4 (when he really ought to have grown out of this by now) and 18 (well, he's left home, nothing much we can do about it now) trying hard to break me of the habit. Not a chance of course, an oral fixation like thumb sucking, when you hit your twenties, is there for life. I drink the supposedly foul varnishes that parents apply to their childrens hands to keep them out of their mouths like cocktails, I can get my thumb out of my mouth when Someone In Authority looks my way so fast you'd swear it had never been there. Mostly, people just think I like to rest my head on my right hand a lot.

So, what is the perk? What is the personal benefit? None, beyond that most precious of all things, a little moment of warm comfort that makes the world a softer happier, more embracing place. Fluffy animals, moments of intense happiness, moments of fear and worry and moments of intense concentration all bring it out in me.

As a programmer, I can only really work with one or other hand 'plugged in', to the extent that a patch of the right hand side of my space bar is always the second cleanest thing in my office as a result of it's constant contact with the cleanest (I strongly favor the right hand, though in the strictest sense of the word, I am Ambithumbsterous, being capable of deriving satisfaction from either right or left).

Is it an addiction? Oh yes, absolutely. I am a thoroughly orally fixated person, I chewgum, I tend to eat slightly too much, I'm an on again-off again smoker (comparatively easy habit to kick from an addiction perspective, just hard from an emotional motivation one) and I talk too much. The thumb is just the first entry in a long list, but it is my favorite, the one I would be least prepared to give up. For many years I lived with a sort of all permeating low grade guilt about it, felt that it was 'un-manly'(whatever the hell that means) or childish or in some way destructive of the moral fiber. A couple of years ago however, I had an epiphany, I realized that by doing it, I hurt no one, myself included, and really did nothing negative, on the contrary, I made myself a happier person and nicer to be around. Once I fully embraced that fact, I learned to embrace the act, and at this stage, quite frankly I couldn't give a fig if people know or care (not that that changes the learned concealment behaviors, which interestingly enough seem to be just as ingrained as the thumb sucking itself).

In terms of negative effects, the only ones I can think of are the reactions of people who spot it but who do not know the Whole Me, and the difficulty of unexpectedly needing to shake hands with someone when one has a wet digit. The buck teeth I was promised by parents and dentists alike failed to materialize, indeed the only physiological evidence of my fixation seems to be a small patch of ever so subtly callused skin on the back of my thumb, just above the last joint, where my lower incisors make contact.

Well, that about covers it, I think.

Oh, no, it doesn't. I can just hear you (yes, you, you know who you are) mutter 'Huh, must be a sexual thing, probably latently gay' or somesuch.

I've considered this in some depth, and I really don't think it follows (well, I may be latently gay, though I rather doubt that as well. All experimentation in that direction seemed to lead to dead ends). Granted, I occasionally suck my thumb at some point during really good sex, which tends to make it better, but it isn't in and of itself a sexual activity, perhaps a catalyst. Existential MSG, only without the carcinogenic nastiness. Taken in isolation, there seems to be no direct sexual stimulation that I can detect. Obviously, being breast fed, it is perhaps oedipal at some level below that which I can perceive, but I would even rather doubt that. (I can however do things to nipples that would make some in the audience shiver in a delightfully thoughtful manner. Perk of the vice I suppose)

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