Wednesday, July 31, 2013

You Know What They Say about Women Who Wear Big Shoes...

Petite I am not.  Delicate, winsome, lithe, dainty...these adjectives belong to someone else.  I've always seen myself as some sort of Amazon woman.  It doesn't help that most of my friends are so much smaller than I am.  One of the troubling things for me about my body has always been my feet.

There is no getting around it:  I have large feet.  My husband has even gone so far as to put on my shoes, lace them up, and comment that his shoes feel a little snug.  Yeah, I don't buy matching walking shoes any more.  Did you know that you can lose weight and drop a pant size or two, but still have to buy the same size shoe?

When I was in high school, it seemed all of the girls I knew wore smaller sizes of shoes:  5, 6, or maybe a 7.  Did we sit around and discuss sizes of things ad nauseum?  I don't think so, but IN MY MIND, the small conversation we may have had about size was blown out of proportion.  I wanted desperately to blend in with the other girls; I couldn't buy a big honkin' shoe size that could make me the brunt of a joke.  It was 1975, after all.  Sasquatch, the Legend of Big Foot had just been released.  I cringed at the connection.

I remember the Saturday my Dad took me to Best to buy some shoes for our upcoming tennis lessons.  I was probably 14 and I was standing before the Chris Evert display of tennis shoes.  I knew I had to have some white Chris Evert shoes, but what size could I buy?   If I wore the shoes to school, and I would, because an extra pair of shoes couldn't just sit in the closet waiting for Saturday to come; I would be wearing them, someone might notice my big feet.  What if one of the girls, or worse, one of the BOYS asked me what size I wore?  I have never been a liar.  And what fool would lie when a shoe size is imprinted on the shoe. I would have to choose carefully.
Never once did the concept of finding the perfect fit enter my mind.  I needed to find a size that seemed NORMAL.  So I selected a 6, and tried to squeeze my foot into the small opening.  There was no way.  The Prince wouldn't have given me a second chance with that glass slipper.  He'd know he had the wrong girl the moment he saw my feet!  How about a 7?  I struggled, and I managed to get my foot wedged into the shoe.  I laced them up and walked hobbled around the showroom.  There was no salesperson to talk some sense into my stubborn head, and my dad was busy trying to find shoes for my little brothers.  The shoes didn't feel GOOD, but an 8 would sound so big.  I think my mom wore a 9, but she was a grown-up.  I was still a kid.  I would buy the 7.  Maybe they would stretch.  They didn't, and my toes were squished inside those shoes every time I wore them for the next year.

Fast forward a few years.  I'm in college, 2300 miles away from home.  I am sitting on an examination table with my feet exposed to the doctor.  "What you have is a neuroma.  That is a tumor that has built up around your nerves to protect them from the surrounding bones.  Perhaps you've worn shoes that were too tight and your bones were rubbing on your nerves.  Your body produced a cushion to protect the nerves, building the neuroma in layers, much like a pearl grows around a grain of sand in an oyster."  Too-tight shoes, huh?  Maybe that's it...

Guess what size feet I have, really.  Well, you already know not to guess 5, 6, or 7.  Not an 8 or a 9, either.  Before I gave birth to three beautiful babies, I was actually a size 10.  And a WIDE size 10 at that!  After babies, I have always worn an 11.

Since having surgery, I have liberated my feet to only wear shoes that fit.  It has been an extreme pleasure to find places like Nordstrom Rack that have shelves and shelves and shelves of shoes that are made for women like me.  They even carry up to size 15!  Sometimes I made the mistake of buying shoes JUST because my feet went into them without any friction, only to discover at home that they were simply too loose and caused problems of their own.

As a teacher of 5th graders, I made a point of talking about my own experience in front of my whole class.  I realized I could be a role model for these kids.  By sharing my story, they were able to see that it's healthy to be who you are and accept yourself as you are.  We talked about how harmful teasing could be.  Children are smart.  They know numbers are simply numbers.  I don't want them to ever judge themselves by the numbers that identify their size or their weight.  I proudly tell them I'm a size 11.  I've even had a few girls who were my size at that tender age of 10.  I've shared my extra shoes with the girls. I know how hard it is to find shoes larger than a 10.

These days, I'm not camouflaging my foot to blend in to the crowd.  It's all about comfort.  If the shoe fits, buy matter what color.  The wilder, the better, especially when it comes to athletic shoes and hiking shoes.  I've had Nikes that looked like Spider Man shoes.  Blue tie-dyed shoes.  Fluorescent green shoes.  Orange shoes.

I love my feet these days.  I jokingly call myself Sasquatch before anyone else can.  If I beat them to the punchline, we can all laugh together. I still don't want to run the risk of people laughing AT me.   I take care of my feet by finding shoes that fit and feel good.  This summer, I'm sporting Merrell hiking shoes and Merrell sandals.  The hikers are men's shoes.  And I'm okay with that.  I love the way my wide foot can spread out on the cushiony footbed without my toes rubbing on the sides.

My husband and I joke about my love affair with comfy shoes and short hair.  I keep going shorter and shorter every time I see my stylist.  "Ellen DeGeneres is going to be checking me out, Honey.  I don't want you to be jealous."

"She's not stupid.  Of course, she would check you out.  You're so hot, Dee."  He knows just what to say to make me laugh.  And smile.

"You know what they say about women who wear big shoes, don't you?" This is my favorite joke.  "We have big feet."  :D


  1. I love Merrels! After a bout with plantar fasciitis these give me exactly the arch support I need. I had the opposite foot problem...I couldn't wait for my feet to grow. I was the only first grader with "kiddie" feet. I wore a size eleven "baby size" while they wore twos and threes in "big kids", so I actually took a razor blade and cut off one of the 1s on my boot so my friend who teased me would think I was wearing big kid boots!

    1. I was trying to figure out if I was exaggerating the way I remembered my fear of being teased. Kids really do that, don't they? See? I was so envious of you smaller footed people. The grass is always greener...


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