In March I performed in a new Eve Ensler play called “The Fruit Trilogy” at The WOW Festival, which involved me taking all my clothes off. It wasn’t burlesque or stripping; it was a simple and honest conversation about the vulnerability, mundanity and beauty of my body (yours too!), and it really made me fall in love with myself again, but not just the usual desirous places… All my body parts were getting a look in (and looked at!).
Each article will explore a forgotten part of the woman’s body, rediscovering beauty where it is least expected (Read ‘My Lovely Lady Lumps‘). We’re giving our neglected parts a proper airing out. Move over lips and bums, you’re superb – but today the spotlights’ off you!
Quite literally at the end of your body, and often the last thing on your mind, toes are a forgotten appendage which have lived forever in the shadow of the overbearing feet. The feet get all the glory, the feet get all the press, but the toes actually have a fair bit to say for themselves! Let’s start with the basics; there’s 10 of them! 10 individually shaped little bumps, each with a way and wriggle of their own.
Toes are one of the most tortured areas of our body, with the heaviest burden to bare. Just over 100 years ago in China it was common practice to bind the feet of young girls. Toes were crushed and broken, strapped to the soles of their feet which prevented growth and caused severe deformities. Undoubtedly this was insanely painful, and no better than the chilling procedure of de-nailing so popular as a torture method in Medieval times, often used to try and get a ‘witch’ to confess… I’m pretty sure I’d confess anything if you tried to rip my toenails out…
Tiny feet were deemed beautiful and reflected a social status in China with regards to the fact that they did not need their feet to work. The cultural norm was so deeply ingrained that women were reluctant to take off their bindings when it was ruled illegal in 1911, and government enforcers had to physically remove them in some cases. The last of the ‘lotus’ women are still living with their entrapped feet, but future generations can let loose their toes and enjoy the freedom they deserve!
Historical horror is not the only weight the humble toe carries. They carry us; everyday. Toes are key to balance and work hand in hand (or toe to toe) with our feet to keep us upright. The Ancient Greeks and their love of athletics, namely running, also highlight their significance. Your toes hold your entire body weight – the big toes obviously taking most of it. The length of our feet actually increases our speed of running, so the longer your toes are, theoretically, the more ground you can cover and therefore run faster. So if you’re a fast runner, you may have your long toes to thank. More evidence of their vital role as the diddiest supporter of the human form was unearthed in Ancient Egypt. Known as the ‘Greville Chester Toe’, the discovery of wooden artificial toes in the Necropolis of Thebes hails them as the oldest recorded prosthetic.
Toes may be physically useful, but they’re often considered ugly or smelly, prone to corns or fungus. But really take a look at your toes and you may be surprised by their uniqueness. Go ahead, give them a bit of time. My big toes are a little hairy (yes, hairy), they all tend to go along in height order and I’m proud/disgusted to admit that I can still bite my own toenails! The little one on the right foot has a strange consistency that I can only describe as a lumpy serrated edge. This could be something to do with a childhood mishap… Many years ago at a dance competition, I caught my little toe in a hole in the floor whilst doing the splits – eek! I managed to break it, actually the only bone in my body I’ve ever broken, but my little toe was deemed so insignificant that it was left to heal on it’s own. Now, though aesthetically bizarre, my right little toe has a history, a story that far outweighs its tiny size.
It’s worth thinking what our toes can tell us about our past as well as how they’ll carry us into the future. Supposedly, your toes tell your story; from who you are to where you are from. In some respects, they are a gateway to your soul. You can have your foot read – something not far off a palm reading, I’ll let you figure out the difference – and learn about you. The form of your toes reflects your character. For example, my nicely graduated toes indicate that I’m practical and precise and that my personality is just as neat as the size of my toes. Anyone who’s seen my bedroom, may disagree… but I could be the anomaly?! Don’t despair, if your toes aren’t well ordered and you have a longer second toe, this suggests you have strong leadership skills. In fact, there seem to be positive qualities found in each toe regardless of the length, so whether you’re a big toe creative thinker or have a short 3rd toe and relaxed view on life, your toes may be revealing more than you think…
It is also thought that simply looking at your toes can tell your ancestry. We’ve got a family tree sitting at the end of our feet! A long second toe means you’ve got Greek in you somewhere. A big toe towering over 4 level toes suggest Germanic. I don’t know how much truth there is to this, but some believe your toes are the keepers of these origin secrets.
Now I think I’ve said enough. Toes shouldn’t make us squirm anymore; it’s time for them to twinkle!
- Photography: Ricardo Amato