I am baffled by many parts of the human anatomy, but none more so than toenails. They are the strangest part of our bodies. There is nothing out of the ordinary about mine in particular, but the more I think about them, the less I understand.
First off, what are they made of? Translucent cockroach carapace? Albino lobster shell? It’s disgusting. It makes me feel 99% human and 1% insect or crustacean. I’ve heard they are made of dead skin cells which doesn’t make me any happier. I’m walking around with a petrified skin graveyard on each toe and that is supposed to seem natural?
And why do the tops of my toes deserve an exoskeleton but my sensetive nipples remain exposed to the world? I am fleshy “hamburger helper” everywhere else but my toes are covered in shatter-resistant Gorilla Glass™ like they use on iPhones. If toes are that fragile by design, why not just drop them altogether and go with a blunt-ended stump foot like the one that awesome field-goal kicker in the 1970s had?
Do you ever wonder why the toenails cover just the tips and tops of the toes? With all the Looney Tunes cartoons I’ve watched, I would guess humans have been dropping rocks and hammers on our feet for so long that we needed some extra protection down there. But if the body is going to go to all the trouble to grow a thick “skin shield” for your feet, the toenails we ended up with are pathetic. Shouldn’t we have a giant “footnail” that looks like a baseball catcher’s shoeguard? If the Acme Anvil Corporation stays in business and humans continue to evolve, I bet in a thousand years we’ll all be clipping our footnails.
Speaking of clipping toenails, I have a confession to make. In the thirty years I’ve been in charge of trimming my own toenails, I still haven’t figured out how fast they grow. Do I need to trim every three weeks? Two weeks? Do they all grow at the same rate? The big toe seems to be an outlier, growing at cancerous levels, requiring constant monitoring and maintenance. The rest of my toes seem to only need attention once or twice a year. And, truthfully, the pinky toenail is a lot like Pluto. Its entire classification is in jeopardy. Let me put it this way: If a regular-sized toenail is like a hard hat for the toe, my pinky toenail looks more like a bald guy wearing a crystalline yarmulke.
So our toenails grow and we are all clueless about it. What do we do? We weave a special sheath for our feet to protect ourselves (and others) from our razor sharp, out-of-control toenails. Socks are a requirement for nearly every social occasion. Even if we wear shoes, we wear socks so we don’t accidentally destroy them like documents going through a paper shredder at tax-time. And in those rare times when we aren’t socially required to wear socks, the fear of injury or bodily harm dictates that we do anyway.
My wife is terrified my toenails will slice through a main artery in her legs when we sleep in the same bed at night. Apparently, she didn’t realize she married a velocirapter. In fact, this has become the only consistent trigger for recognizing when I am due for a trim. If she wakes up in a pool of blood and has gaping, knife-like cuts across on her shins, I know it is time for me to clip my toenails.
Also published on Medium.