Main Piece: “So, also in Italy, I noticed that when someone feels intense…um…either love or fear or…um…trying to control themselves, they take their index finger, they bend it, and they put it in their mouth and they bite it. It amazed me that they’d hurt themsleves in order to control themselves.”
Background: The informant, who grew up in Italy, would see this most often in the context of her friend group. It was common to perform this gesture when wanting to regulate an emotion. The informant noted that it was important that this gesture was done by the individual, not another person, because this illustrates the indpendence of emotional regulation. When asked why one would bite the index finger, rather than another finger, the informant responded that it might be because the index finger is the most prominent and most used.
Performance Context: The informant sat across from me at a table outside.
My Thoughts: It seems, to me, that this gesture is one of autonomy and control. The informant notes that the index finger is a significant component of this gesture since it is the most commonly used finger. The biting of this important, useful finger indicates a sort of punishing and masochistic approach to emotion. I wonder if this gesture is a means of inhibiting the emotion, rather than regulation. Oftentimes, it is culturally unacceptable to show emotion, so this gesture may be a reflection of the stigma of emotional expression.