Just as almost all men in Switzerland wield a Swiss army knife, almost all men in China wield a long pinkie nail. It usually measures over an inch and bears a startling resemblance to the formidable talon of an eagle, curling under and becoming more narrow and pointed with length. Foreigners are often wary of shaking the hand of a person who bears such an internal arm.
Why have nine groomed nails and ignore the pinkie? They could consider painting it to make it somewhat decorative.
Some claim that the growth of the nail has an actual basis in history since, in the days of the emperors, members of the royal court grew their nails to great lengths to reflect their status as members of the elite and people who never engaged in manual labor. This set them apart on sight from the common workers of the field or household. It is against this historic backdrop that many men today who are not engaged in work requiring manual labor continue the tradition of growing their nails.
Much like the nail, fair skin also has been a coveted sign of status as it demonstrates that one is not a farmer or otherwise working outdoors all day. Store shelves are filled with whitening products, and ladies of all ages walk along the busy Shanghai streets clutching umbrellas. Entering a drug-store-department-store-shopping-center has become somewhat of a stressful activity for me since the sales ladies launch themselves towards me, shouting and gesticulating as they grab my elbow and shout "Lady Black, Lady wrinkles." This does not do much for my ego.
Of course, other people argue that the nail serves a hygienic purpose. Seated in the back seat of a car makes me privy to continual-disturbing-and-vigorous-and –passionate-nail- and-nose picking. Since I have noticed that a different finger is usually toiling to extract the unwanted unmentionable, I doubt in the validity of this theory. So now lets move on to what happens after they extract the unmentionable.......