Dear Rosanne: Why do some Taiwan men grow long pinkie fingernails?

Originally published in The China Post, 3/29/09

Dear MeiGui;

Why do some local men in Taiwan grow their fingernails very long on their pinkie fingers? I have been told that it is for good luck; that it can bring money; and that it can bring good health among other benefits. Is this true? Or is a long pinkie fingernail just helpful for cleaning one’s ears and picking one’s nose.

What is the real reason for this nail fashion for some men in Taiwan? Further, are these guys gangsters or just normal blokes?
— Call Me Curious in Taoyuan

Dear Call Me Curious;

Actually, the manicuring of fingernails started during the 17th century in China. Men and women from the upper class grew their nails to five inches in length by wearing elaborate gold or bamboo splints to prevent the nails from breaking. Such long nails let others know that you did not participate in any sort of physical labor. Why this fad persisted among the men to this day, I don’t know.
Quite frankly, from my observations, these days a long pinkie nail seems to indicate that the man is a cabbie or works in the traditional market. It also would appear to have no relation to thuggery. Maybe these long nails are simply a way to compensate for the “smallness” of something else. Who knows?
— “For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue to grow but phone calls taper off.” Johnny Carson, American television host

Dear MeiGui;

My boyfriend hates being Taiwanese.
I met him in a popular ex-pat hotspot in Taipei; he’s a sharp-dressing Taiwanese businessman from California. Anyway, in the initial stages of our relationship, our social circle included Western people only — my co-workers and his business associates — so there was no way for me to see that he hated his “Taiwanese-ness.” This realization didn’t come to me until we went traveling down south.
While there, I was up for anything Taiwanese. I wanted to taste all the local flavors and check out the local entertainment scene, but he kept insisting on eating in the Western-style diningroom of our five-star hotel. Then, when I spotted a nifty fishing-singing-beer-drinking spot in the countryside, he went ballistic. He told me that he can’t stand those low-class local people who think fishing and drinking beer on a fish farm is entertainment. And don’t let me get started on his disdain for KTVs.
However, for all his loathing of his country of origin, he’s crazy for local politics while seeming to be oblivious of even the basic facts of American history.
What’s this guy’s deal?
— Identity Crisis in WuLai

Dear Identity;
He isn’t contemplating some type of extreme plastic surgery make-over, is he?
— “Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.” Homer Simpson, American cartoon character