Julia M., a 25-year-old architectural designer in southern Connecticut (who, like most of the women interviewed for this article, asked that her full name not be used) has been involved in a serious relationship with her computer-programmer boyfriend, Dave, 23, for the past two years, a union that includes cooking, cats, and lots of picking. Although Julia also directs her picking behaviors at her own skin (particularly her face), she finds going after her boyfriend's blemishes, facial hair and yes, even toenails, supremely satisfying. "It's difficult to explain, but picking at Dave and removing his blackheads or ingrown hairs makes me feel like I've done something useful ... something good." Other women concur. "It's like you're fixing something, getting some sort of closure," says Gail (not her real name), 32, a fiction writer living with her boyfriend Peter in Brooklyn. Adds Rebecca D., 32, the general manager of an upscale sex-toy retailer in the Pacific Northwest: "I feel that by squeezing his blemishes I'm eradicating some sort of fault, cleaning him up, fixing him and making him more perfect."
That's DISGUSTING. I'm certainly glad I have no idea what they're talking about.
But let's just experiment with that, hypothetically. Perhaps it would have happened only with the girlfriend I dated the longest, the one who got to know me the best. And perhaps, theoretically, she even sort of obliquely mentioned that once as a reason I shouldn't break up with her: "How are you going to get the ones on your back that you can't reach?"
THAT'S WHAT MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED, IF I KNEW ANYTHING ABOUT THIS AT ALL. WHICH I DO NOT.