The Issue of My Splitting Finger-Nail (make of it what you will)

finger nail
This is not my nail. It belongs to a much slimmer finger. But you get the idea…

I have this finger-nail (right hand, middle finger, since you ask) and it has the ongoing habit of splitting from centre tip to centre quick (and, again, since you ask, yes it is both bloody painful and bloody annoying). It has been maintained during the last two or three years with the regular application of superglue and micropore but, in this way, I am merely able to cover, not mend, the crack. Very occasionally, the split grows out and when I trim the nail it comes off in one piece instead of two. For a short while it then looks like any other nail on any other hand – except that it still has a thin white line that spreads from top to bottom, along which it almost inevitably, re-splits.

It is my very own Catch 22: it splits because I catch it and I catch it because it splits. I suppose this tendency must have always been there, but lately it seems that repairs to the existing fabric have become increasingly futile.

So, it occurred to me that the answer might be to have the nail removed, with, I must admit, no real idea of how I might go about getting it done, and with an unpalatably high level of uncertainty as to what might be the eventual consequence of such an action. Jumping into anything with no real idea of how it might be achieved, nor what will be the eventual outcome, is never bright, is it? So, I should, of course, attempt to canvas opinion. But what if the general consensus is that complete removal would be the preferred option, even though nobody can explain to me how I might go about getting such a procedure performed, nor where this action may eventually take me finger-nail wise? Would my currently normally keratined hand become:
• Eternally four-nailed
• Eventually five-nailed – with four ‘normal’ and one malformed
• Eventually five-nailed – with four ‘normal’ and one that is, in some ill-defined sort of way, ‘different’
• Eventually five-nailed – with five ‘normal’ but with one of them still continually prone to splitting?

I must admit that, having spoken to others, I have been surprised by the passions stirred by the fate of my splitting nail and even more by how quickly concerns move on from my simple finger-nail dilemma to all manner of associated keratinous anxieties. Arguments have raged in various increments of rancour, from finger-nail splits, through general finger-nail woes, to common toe-nail maladies, on to all manner of podiatric ailments and eventually, through some unknown conduit, onto ringworm. Every possible variantial hypothesis has been pondered whilst the original nub has become side-lined and ignored. The question of the split in my finger-nail and the possibility of its imminent removal from its integral digit, it seems, can only be resolved consequent upon detailed discussion of the advisability of treating Dhobi’s Itch with Tea Tree Oil.

Meanwhile, the split continues to develop. I fear that, even when the ongoing finger-nail situation is resolved (by summary removal; by considered expurgation after firm assurances of satisfactory re-growth or by the miraculous discovery and application of some alternative remedy that negates the need for removal and reverses the division with no adverse reactions vis-à-vis the rest of the hand) I will never feel the same again about my middle finger. It will be somehow different to the rest of my digits, but no longer in a way that might be celebrated. Having flagged it’s disaffection to the other fingers, it will be forever treated with indifference by Peter Pointer, Pinkie and Index Finger: everlastingly reminded it of its own tendency to general flakiness – well, that’s the way it works in my mind anyway.

So, if I possibly can, I’d really like to keep my nail. I’d like to keep my hand pretty much as it is today. I’d like all of my fingers to work together without the fear that one of them might start to react differently when faced with the prospect of being e.g. trapped in a kitchen drawer. That getting cold or getting hot will not provoke it to down tools and consequently drop the whisky tumbler. I can’t continue glueing over the crack, but I also would not consider extraction without at least some assurance that it is all going to work out well in the long run. In any case, I need to do something soon. It’s been dragging on for so long now. The days of twiddling my thumbs must soon come to an end.

If ANYONE has a solution at their fingertips, I would be thrilled to hear it.

The Initial Laceration is the Innermost


I have been self-harming for forty years now – although I think that most people would probably call it gardening. After a day in the garden I have generally accumulated enough injuries to make me of more use to an aspiring Accident & Emergency doctor than the average full-colour text book. If you want to find an example of any one of the myriad ways in which a buffoon can injure himself in the garden, just look me over, you will find it… somewhere. Today, after a day spent digging and building, in addition to the normal array of bumps and bruises, pulls and twists, aches and pains with which I am afflicted, I have a plaster on the end of my finger. It covers an area where a small chunk of finger used to be – where it actually is now, I have no idea. It is not, in fact, unusual for me to leave parts of me dangling from thorn, spike or metal implement during the course of a day’s gardening. There is barely a plant in my garden that doesn’t have a minute piece of me suspended from it somewhere.

The damage I have suffered is, however, not my point (such as it is). The point of my witter today actually revolves around the plaster. You see, in the past, there would not have been one there. What was the worst that could happen? It would not heal properly; it would become sore; it would ooze a little; I might go septic. I would squeeze it, wash it and it would heal. Not so today. Today it might not heal properly; it might become sore; it might ooze a little; it might be sepsis. I might die. I have grown used to my injuries changing their names. When I drop a brick on my shin, I no longer have a bruise; I have a contusion. When I scrape my elbow along the wall, I no longer have a graze; I have an abrasion. When I pierce myself with any one of the dozens of lethal implements to which my garden shed is home, I do not get stitches; I get sutures. And with each change in name comes an incremental growth in seriousness. One word closer to death.

Hence my little cut, sore and swollen that it is, has been treated to a dose of Tea Tree Oil and is currently encased in a plaster, which means that a) I currently smell like a hospital ward no longer does and b) I cannot pick anything (e.g. a £1 coin) up if it is laying flat on the table. It is irksome. Now, I know what you’re going to say and you’re quite right, I could use the other hand, but you miscalculate my direction of drift (aimless drifting, of course, being my forte). You see, what I’m struggling to understand is how my very minor gardening injury has suddenly become a death-threat and, even worse, how it has made me £1 worse off for as long as my right hand is otherwise engaged.

My wife says that I should wear gardening gloves and, whilst I must concede that a stout gauntlet would probably forestall many of the piercings and slashing to which my mortal flesh is prone, I still would not be able to pick up the coin. Furthermore, over four decades of horticultural flagellation I have grown used to the kind of damage that I can inflict upon myself – even if the names have changed, the harm remains the same – but with gloves, I am faced with a whole new range of possibilities: who knows what manner of glove-related injuries are possible. So, although suggestions are always welcomed and good advice is always taken, on this occasion I will stick with the lacerations I know and I will continue to harm myself in all the old, familiar ways.


‘A scar is what happens when the world is made of flesh’ – Leonard Cohen