I’ll tell you what no one wants to talk about: their toes.
I could get people to discuss intimate details of their financial or their love lives before they would open up about their feet. Oh, sure, there are exceptions.
“I just had my first pedicure of the season!” says a friend of mine, showing off her toes with a stylish French polish in a pair of bright red sandals. I am also wearing sandals and make sure my feet are hidden under my chair as I compliment her lovely toes.
(Lovely toes! I think. Who has lovely toes over the age of 50? It’s unnatural.)
The undeniable fact is, while our personalities get richer, our humor evolves, and our empathy grows, our feet just get uglier by the year. I once met a woman who said it was a requirement for every older woman to paint her toenails.
“Otherwise,” she insisted, “you look Amish or dead.”
I’m not sure which of these my feet look like but (no offense to the Amish) it’s not a good look. I discovered dark purple nail polish covered the discoloration better than any other color and I made it my signature look. For a short period, I thought my troubles were over. Then I discovered, to my horror, I had toenails growing in the wrong direction. These toenails were growing up rather than out.
I went to a podiatrist. She was completely disinterested.
“Yes, it might be a fungal infection,” she admitted, but the test to determine this was extremely unreliable and there was no cure if the results were positive. “Most people over fifty start to develop these sorts of issues,” she went on, as if I were wasting valuable medical resources coming in with my poor, overgrown nails.
“Here’s what you do,” she continued, and reached beneath her desk. Instead of emerging with some sort of high tech pill or salve, to my alarm, I heard the whirring of a motor.
“You just buy a little Dremel saw and file them down,” she said, “you might get your husband to do it for you, if he’s willing.”
In moments, she had sanded down the offending nails. I was flabbergasted that this was what it had come to: I now needed to file off offending parts of my body with equipment purchased from the hardware store.
I returned home with this news to my husband, Peter. Unlike me, he was delighted with the news. Peter loves do-it-yourself solutions and, conveniently, he already owned a Dremel saw. Peter happily donned a facemask and began buzzing off our toenails. He seemed to be enjoying himself entirely too much.
“This is great!” Peter exclaimed, seeing months of toenail accumulation disappear under the drill. “I could do this for a living!” I suddenly had visions of Peter showing up at county fairs and farmer’s markets with his little saw.
“You could bring it to the next family reunion,” I suggested. “It would be a great way to get to know people better.”
Now regular dremelling keeps my toes, if not attractive, at least not unsightly—assuming most of my peers have diminished eyesight and I stay in low light. My only consolation is, like so many other things, I’m not alone.
Now when I see folks wearing socks with sandals I don’t judge. I assume, just like me, they’re hoping I’ll appreciate their ready smile, or their quirky outfit, or their uncannily accurate observations on the weather. Like me, they’re hoping I’ll notice anything—anything at all—before I notice their toes.