Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I knew a man who was afraid of feet. I wondered, for a while, if it wasn’t just revulsion, but no. It was fear. His close friends teased him by putting their own bare feet near him, but I thought that was better left to them, since frightened fists aren’t in control, and then there’s the trial. “Your Honor, I invoke the Piggy Defense,” and then I would have to show my feet to the jury so they could understand his terror and acquit. I hear he has married. His bride agreed, before God and these witnesses, to wear socks at all times when they were together. His own feet he just pretended were not there, the way I avoid my face in the mirror in the middle of the night.

My son’s feet started out miniatures of mine, broad chubby things with fat toes attached higgledy-piggledy. A little pigeon-toed, so I bought him white high-tops until the bird stage flew past. Fat feet stuffed into tall shoes; he became sturdy and fast. Those feet grew into his father’s feet and beyond, and today he is proudly stylin’ in his 13s.

I can’t pass by baby shoes without comment, and filled with baby? Irresistible. Shoes so tiny Annie says they should hang from a rear-view mirror. I admire the sneakers, so short and broad that they’re round. She favors the work boots. The wee Mary Janes are sweet, but I’m alarmed by their slick soles and inferior athletic potential. Send a child out in patent leather and she will not make the track team.

When my husband relaxed, his feet were perpendicular to his legs. Ninety degrees of bone and tendon. I teased him, commanding his foot to point; his toes contorted as though they intended to manage with or without the foot. Later he didn’t think it was funny anymore, and I started to see him as one big, rigid ell.

I’m fond of my own feet – my toes are cute. I don’t decorate them, though, because they are shy and avoid attention. They perform well whenever they are needed. They remember dance moves I’ve forgotten. They walk around like champs. When I swim, so do they. I don’t turn my back on a friend, so when one started to hurt, I bought them both the best arch supports the aisle at RiteAid had to offer. No excuse was too flimsy to wear Birkenstocks. I installed insoles inside my fluffy slippers. All this and more I would do for my feet.

I can’t remember owning a pair of high heels after 1986. [I first wrote high hells. This is the degree of my animosity.] My son was born, and it seemed as good a time as any to take the vow. When you’re carrying something plump and unpredictable, like a baby or a slippery Virginia ham, the more rubber on the road, the better.

I heard a story about a chicken who had no feet, so I stopped feeling sorry because I had no shoes. His owner wraps his feet so he has better traction on his stumps. I learned a lot from that chicken, and now I’m satisfied if my own stumpy feet are wrapped for traction, if not for style.

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