Getting something off my chest
WASHINGTON -- Columnists -- particularly humor columnists -- are desperate folk. Under the constant tyranny of deadlines, frantically hunting for something to write about, they will shamelessly mine their own lives -- anything to find 700 words. To get a cheap laugh, the most pathetic of them will readily forfeit their privacy and their dignity. I was thinking about that the other day when I looked down in the shower and discovered that, apparently, I had grown a third nipple.
Yep, it was right there on my chest. Hadn't been there a week before. It was a small, pinkish, disturbingly familiar-looking protuberance. That is when I decided to call my dermatologist.
Now, I know what you are thinking. You are wondering why a man 50 years away from his last zit would have a dermatologist, and I'll tell you. (Of course I will. I'm barely 100 words into this ghastly thing.) I have a dermatologist because several months ago my fingernails began to rot. A few turned a wan yellow, like the old paint on the wall of a flophouse. Some cracked. Some buckled like a highway during an earthquake. This disgusting malady is caused by a fungus which has proved nearly invulnerable to pharmaceuticals. My right thumbnail resembles the shell of an oyster, and my left forefinger is so unsupple that I can use it, and have, to turn a screw.
My point is, I did not want a third nipple. I was already feeling like a spavined, misshapen old gnome.
So I first did some research on my own, and though what I learned was not particularly comforting, it was interesting. Colloquially, these things are called "triple nipples." Medically, they are "supernumerary," which is interesting because that's also the term for other similarly useless things -- those guys who stand around in umlauted operas wearing full body armor, holding spears and not singing.
It turns out some famous people have triple nipples: Mark Wahlberg, Joanna Krupa, Tilda Swinton, Lily Allen and Carrie Underwood. Carrie had hers removed, but most people don't, and some people joke about theirs. When "Titanic" star Bill Paxton revealed his, he said the disclosure was just something he had to "get off his chest."
Oh, and women with triple nipples were persecuted as witches in Salem because it was common knowledge that that was how the Devil liked to take his milk.
Sort of interesting, but I still didn't want one.
Most of the literature said that extra nipples tend to be congenital -- present at birth -- which prompted my first, somewhat hopeful, question to Dr. Stolar: "OK, so people just don't grow extra nipples in their 60s. Right, doc?"
"Oh, yes, they can," he said.
They are congenital, but they could have been hiding only to pop up to the surface later in life, like bubbles in a septic tank. Now he seemed to be warming to the topic. He said, "I once had a woman patient with four nipples."
So things were looking bleak. Then I told him where mine was -- just above my ordinary nipple. He laughed and said I could relax. Triple nipples are almost always below the real ones. I probably just had a boring old skin tag.
Most of me was relieved, but part of me was a little disappointed. There would have been at least one more column in reporting how I could use my trip nip to revolt women and scare little children.
Gene Weingarten can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.
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