Some guys, obviously having doubts about their masculinity, make fun of other guys who wear flip-flops or sandals or, as they call them, "mandals," during the warmer months. Screw 'em. Open footwear is not only cooler and more comfortable, but as I learned one summer amid the sharp volcanic rocks along the Big Island shores, it provides valuable protection in and out of the water.
But, sadly, I won't be strapping on my sandals or sliding my feet into flip-flops or—best of all—going barefoot as much as I normally would this summer, just like I didn't last summer or several summers before.
Have you seen that animated TV commercial for whatever Big Pharm is pushing on toe-fungus sufferers these days? Little creatures, perhaps getting their annoying cues from their pals the Scrubbing Bubbles, are shown jacking up toenails and feasting on the cheeses and jams inside.
Several years ago, the real-life version of these same little creatures took up residence under my right big toe. You didn't notice them much at first, but soon a yellow ring formed where skin and nail meet. Over the weeks and months that followed, the ring turned into a yellow stripe, then the nail became half white, half yellow and then the whole nail took on the color of piss.
The healthy white color would come back and try to mount challenges. Several times it would appear it was getting the upper hand—the upper hand on a toe—but then the buggies would wake up from their fattened slumber and start munching again, and in no time, it'd appear again as if I had painted my big toe with Orly's Shades of Urine No. 4 (without the clear gloss for extra sheen and protection).
Now, having Ol' Yeller protruding from your right foot does not hurt anything physically. My toe still works fine, and clipping the nail is actually easier because it's more brittle than a healthy white nail. But there can be damage to your psyche, particularly if you have a partner who says things like:
"Oh dear God, when are you going to do something with that disgusting toe?"
"You want sex? From me? You with that disgusting toe? Forget it."
"Get that disgusting toe out of there."
The sight is even more horrific if you're in a swimming pool. The rippling water creates a magnifying effect on the cheese-on-a-stick that is your diseased big toe.
Over-the-counter creams do nothing to help de-yellow my deformity. Those buggies must just slop 'em up like so much cream cheese. No, to get rid of them, you need the pills that Big Pharm hawks in those commercials.
Why yes, of course they're expensive.
I discovered this during an annual physical. After all the scoping and lubing and pulling and probing and prodding, the doctor asked if there would be anything else. I pointed to the miniature school bus protruding from the hole in my sock.
"Oh, that's disgusting," she said.
But she went on to explain that the pills are not covered by my HMO because this was a cosmetic issue, not a medical one. My out-of-pocket expense would be $200, and she decided that was more than I could afford so she would not write the prescription.
So I lived with the big yellow toe some more. But the doctor called a couple weeks later with some good news: my blood work had detected a possible liver problem! If further tests confirmed that I faced possible life-threatening complications from a bad liver, it could be argued that my big yellow toe was a symptom requiring correction with the pills that would now be covered by my HMO.
All I had to do was go to a lab, get a poop sample kit, fill said sample (over three days of, uh, poopings) and if the numbers came in my favor—in favor of a bad liver—my toe problem would be solved.
Well, the numbers did not come out in my favor.
Damn you, perfectly healthy liver, damn you to hell!
Now my sandals draw cobwebs in the closet. Oh, I still wear them if I'm in a situation where I don't give a crap whether anyone sees the banana Popsicle that is my digit. In fact, it's great for frightening away pesky small children. But a lot of times I do care and have to resort to a growing collection of Vans—the great shoe bridge between sandals and tennies. Like sandals, you can just slip them on without having to bend over and lace them. Like tennies, they cover your yellow toenail.
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But this may be the summer where I finally bite the co-pay and fork over the Benjamins. For just a couple weeks ago, I heard the following:
"Oh dear God, what is going on with your middle toe, the one two toes over from your disgusting big yellow toe?"
Sure enough, that same foot's middle toe was embroiled in a losing battle with the fungus bugs. The nail eventually fell off and was replaced by total mellow yellowness.
I'm off now to make an appointment to see my doctor. I can just imagine how many weeks out they are going to schedule such a non-emergency ailment. Hopefully there will be a real problem with my liver this time.