“A person who, because he has corns himself, always treads on other people's toes,” answered the Roman Candle in a low whisper; and the Cracker nearly exploded with laughter.” Oscar Wilde
Toes. Baby toes and the feet they're attached to can be so cute. Like a fresh puppy, slightly puffy, perfectly symmetrical- little piggies all lined up suckling off momma. “…and this little piggie went wee wee wee…”
Perhaps it is instinctual that exposed baby feet invite a tickle. I can’t help myself. “Tickle, tickle, tickle…,” I whisper in baby babble. And if the knee reflexes and pulls away from what we all know is a startling sensation and the little bundle smiles- ah, we’ve made a connection. The baby is one of us. We share a wonderful characteristic despite being separated by three-score and ten. We can be made to laugh if tickled. What is that about?
But no one wants to look at my decaying, disfigured, hi-milage feet, let alone tickle them. I don’t blame them. They are so ugly my grandchildren yelp and look away if I appear un-socked. So unappealing most dogs won’t even smell them- they typically sniff higher. So rough and gnarly my wife recoils in agony when my foot accidentally grazes her during the night. “Dear! My leg is bleeding! There must be a porcupine in our bed!” Pathetically, I’m not man enough to confess so I pretend to go looking for the critter. “The bastard escaped, dear. Just go back to sleep.”
If you’re young and seeing your grandpa’s feet disturbs you as much as imagining grandma and grandpa getting naked under the sheets, then it’s best you read no further. On the other hand, if you’re curious about what life might look like in the future, then by all means, sit back, relax, and let an old man tell you about the trials and tribulations of trimming his toenails.
Newborns double their weight in roughly five to six first months. That’s a benefit of having all young cells- they divide often. Science is still learning about the differences between new cells and old cells. So, it is a bit of a mystery that the cells of an old man’s toenails double in length in far less time. What evolutionary goal does that fulfill? If you have an idea, please leave me a comment.
There’s another difference between new toenails and old toenails. Thickness. If it were not for a tape measure showing me shrinking, I’d swear on a stack of 45’s that an inch-thick toenail is making me taller (if you don’t know what 45’s are, click here). So thick most over-the-counter toenail clippers don’t open their mouths far enough. I have to rummage around an old toolbox to find a pair of wire clippers to do the job.
I’m quite certain there will be a day when wire clippers won’t do the job anymore. I’m thinking about climbing through my gardening tools for a tree pruner- preferably an electric one. Or maybe a stump grinder.
This morning, I was staring at my gnarly toes with a pair of clippers, challenged by how I was going to reach them. That’s when the analogy hit me like a wet noodle. Yes, young cells are like wet noodles- flexible, pliable, and can move with ease in any direction. A baby can as easily suck his or her own toes as their thumbs.
My old sack of cells has grown rigid like a rusted chain. They used to bend and twist on demand. What once a simple task of hanging over my knees to trim my toenails has become an ordeal requiring careful calculations as to what angle is still possible. It requires grit and determination to join the moans and the groans from asking muscle, tendon, and cartilage to yield just one more time.
Just this morning, shaking and perhaps an inch from reaching my big toe, my princess returned home from shopping. She noisily bounces over, all excited to show me her new things. Does she not know the extreme focus it takes to trim my nails? Can she not see that I’m within striking distance, and if interrupted, I would have to start all over- twenty minutes of my very valuable time will be lost? Nope.
She opens a couple of boxes and then points at her toes. They’re all painted and have little red hearts and yellow flowers. All ten toes are a beautiful work of art. She does a dainty, girlish twirl and dances around as if in a field of fresh daisies. She thinks she’s six years old again. I look at her toes and then mine. I cannot find an appropriate analogy that would be useful in describing the differences. I slink back into my chair. There are no words.
For a brief moment, I consider transitioning. Perhaps estrogen injections will both soften and shrink my toenails. And if I grew heavier on top, it might provide the leverage I need to reach my toes. Nor would I be burdened by societal notions of what is masculine and what is feminine. Having another, a pedicurist even, touch and manipulate, carve and shape, and paint pictures on my toes would only be possible if I didn’t have to be concerned about what my friends would think. I might have to wear socks when visiting the pool. Hang ten!
Eventually, her chronological age catches up with my age-defying princess. She finds the TV remote while I return to sulking and trimming my nails. She settles on a news cable channel playing an advertisement for a ‘senior’ toenail trimming system. It comes with a nail trimmer that looks eerily similar to my wire clippers. The system includes long extension handles with a magnifying glass that allows one to be nearly standing when trimming. All for less than forty bucks.
Just as I was ready to take my first big clip, the news aired an interview with a former presidential candidate suggesting that I might be part of a cult and need to be ‘deprogrammed.’ Because I didn’t vote for her, she claimed that my fellow cult members and I were a big pile of deplorable misogynists and bigots. Startled, I look up, taking my attention away from my trimming job. I can’t believe I’m hearing this. Reprogrammed? Interned? Just because I voted for the other shmuck?
“What is a sensitive person?” said the Cracker to the Roman Candle. “A person who, because he has corns himself, always treads on other people's toes,” answered the Roman Candle in a low whisper; and the Cracker nearly exploded with laughter.” ― Oscar Wilde, Oscar Wilde Stories for Children
When something sharp meets soft, tender flesh, or a bunyon for that matter, the result will generally be bloody. My momentary lapse in attention caused me to miss my toenail and slice through the side of my big toe.
Having secured a bandaid around my toe, I finally have the courage to ask her. “Dear, how much did turning your toes into a work of art cost?”
“Forty bucks. Why do you ask?”
“I’m going to transition.”
Have a great weekend.