I found out something recently that was, to me, a huge revelation.
I have MISSING sesamoid bones in my big toes.
Let me hasten to assure you, it’s not due to my clumsy nature that caused me to misplace them somewhere. I was just never born with them. I was told by my podiatrist that this is in no way my fault, although me being me (glamour-afflicted taobabe), my habit of wearing pointy-toed high heels for such an extended time, had altered the shape of my foot. Although it is not life-threatening, it is rather ugly.
But what can I do. It’s not contagious, and the only way I can pass this affliction on would be through my progeny. Apparently, congenital absence of a sesamoid bone (let alone two) is extremely rare. I’m a rare one.
See this picture? That’s my foot and that’s my x-ray. Those two circles at the base of my big toe are not strange looking bones. They were circles drawn in by my podiatrist, with a ball point pen, as she explained to me why my toe was shifting to the left so much. After decades of wearing female shoes, my toes were starting to take on the shape of the shoes I wore because I was missing important bones to keep them straight.
I asked her what the ramification of these missing bones were. Was it life-threatening? She smiled and said no. It would just mean my toes (I’m missing them on my other feet too) would just continue to shift throughout my life until I died.
From now until forever, I will no longer be able to wear pointy toe stiletto heels. In fact, NO MORE HEELS OF ANY SORT. (cry)
Disheartened to hear that I am a freak of nature, I decided to do some research to see what the disease is and how I can go about fixing this situation. Here’s what I found.
The human body only has five types of bones. We have flat bones, long bones, short bones, irregular bones, and we have sesamoid bones. What, pray tell, is a sesamoid bone? Well, for starters, my knee cap is a sesamoid bone. It lives in connective tissue and it is there to make sure my knees don’t do this:
All jokes aside, it is an important bone, so when it goes missing, it affects the shape of the bones it’s meant to support. Now, you may be asking yourself: Why the hell is this woman belaboring this pointless point?
Well. I’m a Taobabe, and I have my reasons. Bear up with me.
There is a small group of people in Vietnam who have this strange affliction. They come from an area in present-day China known as Giao Chỉ (the Chinese call them Jiaozhi).
They were originally part of the 15 states of Văn Lang, Vietnam’s original name (more about this in future postings), and they have one thing that sets them apart from all the other Văn Lang states.
They also have missing sesamoid toe bones.
The fact that they were the only ones out of all the Viets, from ancient past till now, who had this, let’s call it affliction, points to a genetic inheritance that is uniquely theirs.
Or should I say OURS.
I’m laughing as I type this because I suddenly remember that my mother and her father (my maternal grandfather) also had the same weirdly crooked toes that I do.
Last year, when I was giving her a pedicure, and had painted her toes a nice pretty pink, I noticed the same exact toe configuration on Mom and asked her about it. She told me everyone on her dad’s side of the family had the same odd toes.
Come to think of it, my maternal grandfather’s given name was Kim Chỉ. I always thought his name meant needle and thread, but Mother always said that’s not what it means at all. It was just the name of where he came from. Since he was missing the word Giao, I never connected the name to the region. I bet one of his siblings’ name is Giao.
Since this is coming to me through my mom’s side, I cannot rule out the very real possibility that my maternal ancestors were the people who originated out of that Giao Chỉ region of the state of Giao Châu, which is located in present day North Vietnam and parts of Quãng Đông (Guangdong) and Quãng Tây (Guangzhou).
I must admit, I never thought about the fact that Guangdong was just another spelling for Quãng Đông, which is basically the Vietnamese words for Eastern Region. Same with Guangzhou, it just means Western Region. All I had to do was say it out loud and I realized I was speaking in Vietnamese. I was just letting the strange spelling of the name confuse me into thinking it wasn’t originally a Viet state. But now I know, and knowing means I win.
So now, I’m dying to do a 23andme genetic test to see what the heck is going on with me at the genetic level. Sadly, I know it’s not going to tell me much because the chances of having a large group of Giao Chỉ individuals who have previously submitted their genetic data into the pool is just about zilch. Maybe far far down the line, Viet peeps will have more of a data presence, but for now, it’s just a waste of my money.
But I digress. I need to show you guys some pictures of moder-day Giao Chỉ toes.
The Giao Chỉ people are not just Vietnamese people from the region of Giao Châu. In fact, the word Giao Chỉ is often used to denote the people of ancient Vietnam due to the large area that Giao Châu occupies.
Now, before you go telling me that it’s just an aberrant of nature and these images are just one-off, of people who may have gotten some strange bone disease that are not indicative of an entire population, I hasten to assure you that is not the case at all.
This is an illustration taken out of a history text from two French doctors, P. Huard and Bigot from their Bulletin de la Société Médico-Chirurgicale de L’Indochine volume XV, 5 in May of 1937 pg 489-506. They documented this genetic trait in a population of people, and it was not something that was caused by lack of proper nutrition or an accident.
My toes don’t move outwards. They move inwards. Could it be due to the fact that I wore shoes all my life and my toes just naturally formed into shoe-shape? Had I not worn shoes, maybe my toes might have spread outward in this fashion.
I don’t know, but it’s interesting to speculate.
I am laughing and fascinated with this post!! My aunt’s feet look like yours, and I always wondered about them. She said it was from wearing pointy toed high heeled shoes, but she doesnt anymore because they hurt her. My mom has crooked toes too. Intuitively, I dont think I have this trait, but maybe? My feet used to be “regular bendy” and then when I started taking ballet (as an adult in my 20s), I noticed my ballet teacher’s feet were super bendy, so I made my feet super bendy too because it looked so pretty to have a super exaggerated, bendy foot arch. After I did that, people told me feet bendiness is genetically determined and you cant change it because the bones dictate the bendiness. I thought obviously not since I was able to change the shape and bendiness of my feet. Though I wonder if I have this giao chi trait — maybe it would be easier to do if there arent extra bones in the way for the muscles to move and shift things around. But in general, i notice the skeleton and bones arent as rigid and cemented in place as many people seem to think they are, so I don’t necessarily need to have missig bones to do this. Bones shift and move quite a lot in my experience — ribs, hips, etc.
I think my cousin has this trait slightly, though I am not sure because, even though she is also glamorous, stiletto pointy heels are not part of her look. I am hesitant to have my genetic info be so googleable via 23andme so it’s not my thing, but if you aren’t concerned about it, my cousin has done a 23andme so maybe there are possibly more giao chi descendants taking the test than you think?
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Haha. That’s too funny. 😀 We probably are related somewhere up the ancestral lineage, if we have the same type of toes. As I like to say: Genes don’t lie. I’m really glad my super bendy toes are the result of Viet genetics and not just because I’m some kind of freak of nature. I’m also glad I got the chance to meet you on this blog. Thank you for your response to my post. 🙂
I hope you aren’t in pain and that you will be alright without the shoes you once enjoyed. I have a feet and toes story too but it’s a little different. Anyway, I’m wondering if some other Vietnamese I know have experienced or encountered this also. Thanks for being brave to share something new.
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Beware the rabbit hole of genealogy!!!! It can be nearly as consuming as the I Ching! I became a bit obsessed after a surprise older half-brother showed up in my life and I took a DNA test. My bonus brother is now a big part of my life, and we’ve been journeying into the stories of our ancestors going back centuries. And like the I Ching, that weird tingling sensation of seeming coincidences coalescing into inexplicable stories can be spooky. I traveled halfway across the world to settle in a city that, unbeknownst to me at the time, was the departure point for several of my ancestors to the country where I was born. My 11th great grandfather was married in a church a few blocks away from my home. Yes, you’ll have a much smaller base of DNA matches and perhaps less of a paper trail, but who knows where your toes may lead you! Thanks for another lovely post.
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Stephen, I have no pain in my toes. It’s natural for me, just as your toes are natural for you. We are a bit different genetically is all. Please tell me about your toes story. I always enjoy reading your stories.
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Brian, wow. That’s quite amazing you were able to find out so much about a family you never knew you had. I know Europeans get really detailed information about their genealogy records because so many people have done it. Most Asians get something that tells us…You’re Asian. Well duh. 😀 They should give us a discount so they can build up their data base.
Ok so my toes story has to do with the martial arts I’ve studied and the way my teacher taught it. Basically they taught to literally squeeze the ground with one’s feet. I don’t think I was the only student this happened to but I would practice to a more where holes would form in my shoes around the part where my feet contacted the ground the most. The squeezing, rubbing, motion over time would literally grind that hole in my shoe. I did this to many pairs over the years. Even in regular shoes for everyday activity have a kind of mark there, where it’s faded and the markings have rubbed off a bit. It’s all a bit more detailed than that but that’s it in a nutshell.
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Wow that’s interesting. Did it affect the shape of your physical toes, or was it just your shoes that were affected?
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My feet and toes don’t look very different from before except maybe the tendons are more pronounced. What also happens now is I crack my ankles like how people crack their knuckles, when rotating from the ankle up while leaving my feet grounded. I have startled some people because they hear it and don’t know where it’s coming from.