A few months after birth, human babies discover two chubby feet affixed to the end of their tubby legs. They gaze, fascinated at these perfect appendages topped with wiggling tiny toes. As soon as they can grasp their feet with slobbery fingers, they shove the newfound toes into their drooling mouths.
Mothers find babies’ soft feet and dimpled toes to be irresistible as well, often smooching or blowing raspberries on the padded soles.
Fast forward twenty years later, and those formerly kissable baby tootsies have become purely functional body parts, requiring meticulous personal hygiene to ward off potent foot odor, locker room fungus, planter’s warts, and a most foul substance known as “toe jam” – a repulsive combination of sock fuzz and dead skin cells, bound with sweat. Ew.
Recently, my family of five packed into our mid-sized SUV for a twelve-hour car trip from Maryland to Florida.
“What’s that smell?” I asked about a half hour into the trip. My keen olfactory nerves were picking up a repugnant aroma that might only be recreated by locking a jar of beet pickled eggs in the back seat of a 1974 Galaxie 500 over a long hot weekend in August.
The smell grew in strength, and soon our daughters were pinching their noses shut. We pulled over to locate the source of the odor. We searched for a carton of curdled milk in the trunk. We looked for a rancid tuna sub under the seats. We opened the glove box half expecting to find a dirty diaper. We looked to see if a stowaway squirrel was decomposing under the hood.
Finally, our noses guided us to the third row of seats, where our teenage son sat obliviously listening to his iPod, his huge flip-flopped feet tapping to the beat of the music.
Hovering my nostrils carefully over his hairy toe knuckles, I took a big sniff.
“Found it!” I yelled, and stumbled faintly back to the trunk to find a fresh pair of socks and some emergency talcum powder so we would all survive the rest of the trip.
But unappealing foot odor and toe jam become mere child’s play a couple decades after raging teenage hormones quiet down. Forty something feet are a veritable Three Ringed Circus with cracked calloused heels, curled thickened nails, burgeoning bunions and their dwarfed sidekicks, “bunionettes.” Add a painful corn or two, and you’ve got a real freak show.
How does one go from playing “This Little Piggy” with smooth perfect baby toes to the knobby hardened feet of middle age? Let’s face it: the Five Piggies are getting old. After 40 or 50 years of going to Market, The Big Toe Piggy has decided to take a detour and is now pointing in the wrong direction, The Piggies who stayed home and ate roast beef seem to be doing relatively well in their snug sedentary routine, but the Piggy who had none has collapsed onto his side from severe starvation. The short Piggy on the end isn’t crying “Wee! Wee! Wee!” anymore. Apparently, years of anxiety have caused him to curl up into a fetal position, and he is now hiding under the adjacent toe.
Many forty-something folks make a vane attempt to stave off the aging of their feet, investing hundreds of dollars annually in pedicures, toe rings, polish and exfoliating devices such as “The Pedi Egg,” which could double as a nifty parmesan cheese grater.
Unfortunately, nature has dictated that our feet get kinda ugly no matter what we do. So during the summer sandal months, please do keep your tootsies clean and trimmed, but don’t get too carried away. After all, what’s the sense in putting lipstick on your Piggies?
- Top 10 Foot Care Tips (joyofspa.com)