From the Department of Don’t-Try-This-at-Home

Ignorance is not always so blissful.

I am losing a fingernail because of this. Not in a girly sort of oh-I-broke-a-nail kind of way, I mean losing a fingernail as in my-fingernail-is-falling-off-of-my-hand.

This, and a bad knee combine to make me feel a bit like a leper.

Or a zombie.

Mmm… zombies… Make it a double.

Ever wonder why they don’t call those toxic, pink drinks with all the fruit in them “lepers?” It would be way more appropriate, as the next day you will resemble a leper. And, if memory serves, be about as popular.[1]

There are some basic things a single girl needs to know. Married girls too, unless you’re married to a forest ranger or physician or something. A generation or two ago, most public educational systems in the U.S. thought they could remedy this knowledge-gap by instituting what is euphemistically called “Health Class” in the schools.

I am, as a result, blessed with a general knowledge of birth control techniques, and know what “reds”[2] and quaaludes looked like in 1987.

Also, I know how to treat venomous snake bites.

I grew up (and took Health Class) in New Jersey. There are about three venomous snakes in New Jersey.[3]

What I did not learn and what I now pass on to you:

If you, the intrepid woman who Can Hang Her Own Pictures, Damnit, or Finds Herself Inspired by Martha Stewart to Attempt Reupholstry, or Who Just Wants to Nail Something – Is That Too Much to Ask, ever hit your finger with the hammer (or slam your finger in a car door by accident, or whatever), and you wind up with a Very Nasty bruise underneath your fingernail, you should do something about it.

What you should do is this: if it is throbbing, and the nail turns all kinds of colors, and your finger swells way up, go to the doctor, in case you have broken something. If it just throbs and hurts like hell and turns colors and swells up a little, do this:

1)   Take six or eight Advil (or scam high-dose ibuprofen from your boss, who takes them for her back and is a Saint).

2)   In a few days, when the swelling has gone away, get a needle, heat it way up with a match or a candle. If the tip is a little bit red, that’s more than plenty hot.

Take the needle and make a little hole in the top of your nail (no, not underneath, a la the Viet Cong). I mean put your hand on a flat surface and puncture the nail from the top, just a little, until you can see serum (clear liquid) or dried blood. The point (Heh, heh. Ick. But you gotta) is to relieve the pressure that the blood will have built up between the layers of your nail (yes, your nail has layers — which you already know if you’ve ever a) been bulimic, or b) had a Bad Acrylic Nail Experience). If you do this, you will not lose the whole damn nail (as I am about to) when the pressure of the dried, congealing blood forces the nail’s layers apart and the top part falls flat off.

There you are. Forewarned is forearmed. Any good Outdoor Medicine, what-to-do-when-you’re-camping-and-something-gross-happens-to-you Guide will tell you this. I recommend Medicine for the Outdoors, by Paul S. Auerbach. http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780323068130 It’s good to invest in a book like this to keep around the house, even if you don’t camp or hike or think you’ll need it, because, as I wail over my Way Ouchy fingernail, I ask:

Who knew?


[1] You’d like to be known as the spouse who challenged all the CEOs at the telecom conference to a who-can-sing-Danny-Boy-the-loudest competition? Drink up.

 [2] Surprise: they weren’t all red! I think these may have been amphetamines of some sort. I very much doubt anyone calls them “reds” anymore, or indeed calls them anything at all, since crack is probably the thing now. 

[3] They all listen to Sinatra.

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