Too Much Cuticle: Long-Nailed Males, East and West

Long nails on man hands tapping the dash. Long nails on man hands texting. Long nails on the man hands of a taxi driver. Long nails on man hands turning the pages of the Qur’an. Long nails on man hands serving you Nasi Padang. Long nails on man hands – used for what in the bathroom? Long nails on man hands – get in the way much? Long nails on man hands – victory over the inner-nail-biter?

Embark with me on a bizarre and bilateral I.B.I. study of long nails on man hands.

In the West, ‘the coke nail’ is something to scoop and snort blow with – or at least they’d have us believe.

My guess: the coke nail is often more cliquish than functional. Moving it further into the symbolic sphere of fashion, musicians like Reggie Watts are sporting them – long after it has ceased to be fashionably edgy. That’s m’ man!

As an insiders’ fashion statement, a joke or a functional nose-feeder, long nails on Western males elude to self-inflation – or are a means to that end, anyway.

Sporting the coke nail for Thanksgiving Dinner? Need a quick back story? This time there is an Eastern solution. [Sorry Hitch.]

Long nails on the Eastern male probably mean she. This is a phenomena known as ‘bencong‘ -ism (and she’d probably be sporting a crucifix because Jesus (America) accepts anybody, whereas its parents and moderate/progressive Islam dot dot dot.)

Otherwise, having excess cuticle is usually a reference to an epic Hindu fable from the Mahabharata – therefore making it a sacrilege as sported by some Muslims in Indonesia (while also being a simple, chewy homage to the religions of their ancestors).

In the Mahabharata, Bima is sent on a quest to retrieve the water of eternal life from the bottom of the ocean. The creature that sends him is an arch-enemy in disguise. It was a quest our boy Bima wasn’t expected to return from. Along the way down, Bima encounters a great serpent. The fight scenes drag on like a LOTR marathon and in the end Bima isn’t doing so well. Remembering the technique of self-control, Bima straightens his back, closes his eyes and meditates. He meditates until he has complete control over his heart beat, breathing and hunger. He meditates until his thumbnail grows long enough – you might guess what finally kills the serpent: impaled on Bima’s coke nail!

Our man Bima: Don't give us a thumbs up.
Thumbs up to our man Bima – the Wayang Golek puppet.

Just as happened in the West, long nails on males lost their original purpose and moved further into the sphere of cliquish fashion. The countless Muhammeds of Java sporting the kuku Bima (Bima’s nail) might only say it’s good luck, but during the Majapahit Hindu Kingdom (14th century) every I Nyoman would have known: long nails proclaim self-mastery and self-control – of the non-nail-biting, Buddhist sort.

So misconstrued has it all become nowadays you can buy ‘Kuku Bima’ energy drinks (Jamu) – to make you powerful and perhaps a little longer, they say.

Strange privilege for me to be able to conclude…Long nails on males, East or West – while representing two very clashing mobs – are all about one thing: the bigging up of ones self.

Would you ever grow a kuku Bima – or a coke nail? And which mythology would you prefer? Are there any others we should know of?

Bima defeats the human condition - with his coke nail.
Bima defeats the human condition – with his coke nail.

2 thoughts on “Too Much Cuticle: Long-Nailed Males, East and West

  1. I was always under the impression that long nails on less than all of one’s fingers are meant to represent a white collar job (in asia at least). The idea being that you don’t work with your hands. So a symbol of class.

    • While this work-related nuance might build a vain appeal – especially in modern days – this probably came later. The Mahabharata story of Bima is pretty widespread and I’ve seen many workers of menial jobs & office jobs sporting long nails. Is it a small continent though? 😉

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