Thursday, February 09, 2006


I have acquired a new accessory. And No, it’s not a leather purse, pearl necklace, or stunning garnet ring. And, No, it’s not two new long black hairs on my chin or a wen or wart on my nose. But still, it is personal, physical, and practical. Far more practical then I ever realized such an accessory could be.

My new accessory is attractive. At least I think it is because I’ve never had one before. And it is unbelievably useful. I can press open seams when I am doing patchwork with it. I can separate thinly shaved sandwich meat with it. I can easily pick up needles or loose change with it. I can count and control my knitting in a convenient way with it. I can peel oranges with it. Separate the backing from self-stick tape or decals with it. Find and re-start the end of stretch wrap with it. Separate coffee filters. I find it convenient for hairdos. With this accessory I can more easily separate GD’s hair into segments for braiding. But, despite all this, I can’t pick my nose with it. And having said that, obviously it is not a pocket knife or box cutter.

By now, I’m quite certain you’ve guessed what it is, but before you snap this window shut and mutter, “Man, is that ever dumb!” let me explain. Yes, the new accessory is just what you suspected. A thumb nail that actually extends a wee bit past the end of my thumb.

Now it’s not that I was born without thumbs or that I am missing any fingers. It’s just that until only a few years ago, my nails were so soft that it was impossible to grow and maintain long nails. Sure, the odd time, on rare occasions, I had artificial nails. And they were attractive enough, but a bitter disappointment in other ways.

They made my hands feel clumsy. My fingers felt like they were suffocating, unable to breathe. Guiding them was about as difficult as a seriously palsied hand trying to guide a quill pen. Because they were false extensions, I was never certain which direction they were pointing or plunging.

So, with artificial nails, I was afraid to handle babies. Afraid I might accidentally scratch their delicate skin. Goodness knows, every time I gently scratched my nose or chin with those nails I ended up with a painful red rasp mark. When I pulled up my undies with those nails I regularly scraped the skin off my thighs or punched holes in my delicate lingerie. I couldn’t put nylons on with them without ripping them. And with this kind of snagging and hooking happening, I left a scarred trail behind me and ultimately from this stress, the first nail to fall off in the bread or the pudding was my thumb-nail. How disgusting is that?

And I couldn’t help being crushed, when my elderly neighbor, on seeing me with artificial nails, broadcast to the whole world. “Did you see Roberta’s nails? Obviously she doesn’t do a speck of work around there?”

But in recent years my own nails have hardened. They no longer so easily flex, split into layers, or break. So now I have this thumb nail on my right hand that is just right. Easy to maintain, it won’t fall off, and it doesn’t gouge babies, snag things or get in my way. It’s strong, without being brittle. I have found it useful and practical. And I intuitively know the extent of it, the force of it, the length of it. Never realized before now, the distinct advantages of a sturdy thumbnail – a thumbnail that is not a graft, but a valid extension of me self.


So for me, someone who wants to write, needs to write, etc., amidst my mundane existence, I thought this was quite amazing and worth writing about. Don’t you think so?


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