"It's a gross nervous habit!" said Ruthie's Granny.
Ruthie was tiny and nervous and couldn't help it.
"Ya not gonna find nothing under them arms, so ya better stop pickin'!" said Granny.
If only Little Ruthie had something to make her feel stable so she could not be so nervous. Picking at her arms was the only thing that helped.
One day Little Ruthie was at work. Tough Man came up to the counter and said,
"Gimme your best stuff please!" He said please because his mom taught him to be polite as a youngster. Little Ruthie went into the back of work for the stuff. She picked out the best stuff. She brought him the stuff.
"This is the best stuff you got?" said Tough Man, with great incredulity. Little Ruthie's lip trembled and she went straight to picking at her arms.
"Ew! You can't just start pickin' your arms right here!" said Tough Man. Ruthie kept at it with the arms.
"Hey! I said I wanted the good stuff. The good stuff ain't in those arms, I'm sure of that." said Tough Man. Tough Man stormed out.
Ruthie eased up on her arms when he left. John Boss came over.
"Hey Ruthie. You know Tough Man is a very good customer, we rely on him for our sales of the good stuff."
Ruthie went back to picking at her arms.
"Ew, Ruthie. Work is not the place to pick at those arms."
John Boss had to let Little Ruthie go.
Little Ruthie fantasized about proving everyone wrong. She wondered if there were a way to make what they all said not true. Arm picking was the only thing that gave her relief. Maybe there could be a way for her arm picking to not be gross to people. Maybe she would find something if she kept picking. Maybe she'd strike gold or oil, and her arms would be a national resource of important elements. People would be begging her to pick at her arms. She would have lots of money, could live a lavish lifestyle, and be happy with the money and freedom that came all from picking her arms. She'd pick her arms and long and freely as she pleased, free from judgement.
"Wow, I'd drive a nice car if that happened." She thought.
It did not occur to her to channel her energy elsewhere for the same relief she found from her arms, but she set about to change the way people saw arm picking, so she could continue to pick her arms.
She made signs. "Arm Picking Isn't Gross!" She made more signs. "Other Gross Things Aren't Gross!", "We Want Our Gross!", "Gross? Good!"
"Dirty Fingers Aren't Gross!", "Slugs Aren't Gross.", "Underwear Is Not Gross.", "Food On Floor Not Gross." She didn't have room on the sign to write all of what she meant about the food but hoped people would understand.
Ruthie was a little unsure if she was doing the right thing, because some of the things she wrote about not being gross she actually thought were gross. The anxiety from this caused her to pick her arm more. She felt better.
Gary Crud and Smudgy Doris caught wind of her lone gross campaign. They were both gross and thought it would be good to join her.
"Ruthie I'm always gettin' called gross." said Gary Crud, as crumbs and droplets crumbled and dribbled off him.
"I like butts." said Smudgy Doris.
"We would like to elect you as head of the Gross Organization." said Gary.
Little Ruthie was honored. She picked her arms both in celebration and nerves for the responsibility to come. Little Ruthie didn't want to let these people who believed in her down, so she put her nose to the gross grind and got to organizing. Gross people who came out in droves.
"I love anchovies in my cereal!" said one guy.
"I have snot hair!" said a lady.
"I'm an adult baby and want a mommy." said a man in a diaper.
The organization made a gross name for itself.
People still thought they were gross, but the big fish impact, and the daily mania surrounding them in their small dirty pond made them believe they were making a perception change. More funding was donated and Little Ruthie was even able to afford a nice car based off a non-profit salary.
Ruthie kept very busy and had much responsibility for the community. Her confidence grew.
One day she realized she couldn't remember the last time she'd picked her arms. She no longer had the urge. She looked around while speaking at a big gross rally, all these gross faces hanging on her every word for inspiration and guidance. Suddenly she could not relate. She spoke in rhetoric, and pandered for cheers.
"Gross is great!" she said. "I want to see if it's nasty." she continued. They cheered. She didn't know if she meant it anymore though. The thing that made her gross she no longer needed. Where did she belong in this community she created? If they found out she wasn't gross would they be accept or would they crucify her?
Ruthie got off stage at the rally and looked at the mirror in the green room. Gross people crowded, drank, smelled, and patted her on the back. It was lonely at the top.