It all started innocently enough. In Sunday’s newspaper, I read an article about recent studies that suggest the longer your ring finger is compared with your index finger, the more likely you are to be aggressive, athletic and prone to depression. Huh. I immediately checked my fingers. Fortunately, I along with most women have a symmetrical ring-to-index ratio. These kinds of studies are always accurate, so this explains why women are tranquil spectators who never ever get depressed.
According to these oh so scientific studies – involving rulers and a method of rating aggression which (I’m not making this up) measured how hard college students slammed down the phone after hearing rude comments – people with asymmetrical finger lengths, palm sizes, wrist diameters, elbow widths and ankle circumferences are likely to be violent phone slammers and thus a danger to society.
The article went on to say that “scientists have been measuring and comparing hands, feet, ears, limbs, etc. to see whether they provide clues to personality and behavior.” Here is where I immediately thought of Michelangelo’s feet. Well, not Michelangelo’s own feet, but the feet on some of his statues and painted figures. If you study these works, you’ll notice that the 2nd toe on each foot is longer than the first. Michelangelo stole this idea from the ancient Greeks who saw the long 2nd toe as an attribute of the gods. Ever since then, the toe has popped up (or out as the case may be) in various artworks as a sign of royalty, beauty, and intelligence.
So far so good. Thinking this would be fun to mention in my blog, I begin looking though my collections of images for a closeup of the feet on Michelangelo’s David statue. None of my slides really do the toes justice so I resort to a Google image search. My son Ethan, groggy and hunting for a box of cereal, walks by my computer just as the screen fills up with naked Davids. He gives me an odd look. “I’m doing some research,” I explain. “Oh, okay.” He sounds perfectly satisfied.
I find a 3D reproduction of David’s toes which will have to do. But now I begin to worry about credibility. My source for the whole “long toe = Greek god” theory is just a conversation I had several years ago with another professor in my department, so my academic conscience (the equivalent of Jiminy Cricket but with a red pencil and wearing a cap and gown) starts pestering me about verifying my facts before I go publishing hearsay. The other little voice in my head (the naughty one who never got his degree because he flunked out) says “hey, you dufus it’s just a blog.”
I listen to Jiminy because he’s much more annoying and besides I don’t want to turn into a donkey, which I learned from the Disney movie happens if you ignore the cricket voices in your head. I commence a highly academically-rigorous search. I go to Wikipedia.
Now you probably do internet searches regarding length of toes all the time, but this was a first for me. I learned enough for a whole seminar which I hope to someday teach called “Feet Throughout the History of Art.” In the meantime, I will share with you the highlights of my first lecture: "Everything you will ever need to know about long 2nd toes."
Many Ancient Greek and Roman statues sport longer 2nd toes, including the famous statue of Emperor Constantine (of which we only have a few fragments so no one has been able to compare elbow widths to test the agression theory).
The name for the longer 2nd toe condition is Morton’s foot after the podiatrist Dudley J. Morton who is most famous for describing it in the 1930s.
The Statue of Liberty has Morton’s feet.
Henry VIII chose his court advisors based in part on whether they had long toes. I’m thinking he may have been better off using other qualifications. Like their ability to give him good dating advice for example.
Morton’s foot, also known as pes valgus, is considered a disorder by doctors because the longer second metatarsal can lead to weak ankles and flattened arches. This explains why Zeus, Aphrodite and the Statue of Liberty all wear orthopedic sandals.
When you do a search for anything toe related, you’re going to learn more than you ever wanted to learn about foot fetishes. It’s beyond a little bit frightening. Do I dare click on a link that has both “podiatrist” and “sexy feet” in the html?
The Cinderella fairy tale has been forever ruined for me by one overzealous interpretation.
Roughly 20% of the population has longer 2nd toes. 70% have shorter 2nd toes and the other really freakish ones have toes of equal length. What? What’s that you say? My first two toes are exactly the same length? Dang. What the heck does that mean?