It was Prom Night ’98 when I first realized there might be something wrong with my body.
I was one of those rare birds in high school who missed the free ride to Lifetime-of-Subtle-Self-Hate-City. I got maybe two pimples total and never spent my tutoring money on Clearasil. I was a virgin who didn’t worry about filling out an A-cup because male attention of any kind terrified me. (Hello, teen pregnancy!) I had no clue there was a cabal of girls counting carbs on my cheerleading squad and got seriously preachy when I found out — “We’re all beautiful!”
How I managed to escape the body-shaming brain washing most women go through at that age, I’ll never know. There’s definitely something to the fact that my mother never “dieted” and wasn’t skinny either. Food in our house was healthy because honestly that’s some of the cheapest stuff. Meatless Mondays, my ass! She rarely wore more than lipstick and was scandalized when I let a friend’s little sister pluck my bushy eyebrows for the first time. We were poor urban hippies I guess.
So while I hadn’t fallen into the trap of body shaming (yet), I also missed a lot of the highbrow grooming lessons teenaged girls are supposed to get through osmosis while sitting on the edge of the bath tub and watching their gloms (glam plus mom) put on mascara and bleach their moustaches. I got my first pedicure at 22.
Which brings us to Prom ’98.
It was past midnight and Jay and I sat on a friend’s couch, wrinkling our finery watching “Grease.” (Hello, teen pregnancy!) It was all very sweet until I took off my silver heels and had this horrific thought: What if he sees my feet?
I remember the pit of my stomach dropping like in the dip of a roller coaster at the possibility that a boy I liked would notice my dance-induced corns, hammertoes and cracked heels. Would he be mortified into taking me home immediately? The next day, would he tell all his boys about how my feet looked like they’d been crushing coals into diamonds for a living? Would everyone know that underneath my slouchy socks were the feet of a 70-year-old homeless guy?
A sleepy Jay seemed none the wiser, stretching out on his side of the sofa. (Hello, teen pregnancy!) I reached down and carefully slipped off each shoe quietly so he wouldn’t get riled. With my feet exposed for ridicule I quickly kicked them forward to hide underneath the coffee table. Of course, I over shot it and managed to stub the shit out of my big toe and wake Jay up.
I laughed it off and tried to tuck my now probably bleeding foot under my silk dress — sexily. I tugged at the material to make sure it covered my disgusting and gross feet. Jay reached over to help tuck my toes in — and I thought HE KNOWS! He knows I hate my feet and so does he and we’ll never ever be!
In the end, I think he just thought I was cold.
So whenever I subconsciously climb on my high horse about having avoided the pitfalls of puberty and body issues and stuff I just look down at my not-so-bad feet and realize no one’s safe.
And the Daily Mail agrees with me. According to a new study, because studying is now aimed at ridiculous stuff, “More than two thirds of women are embarrassed by the state of their feet, while one in five were so ashamed of their less-than-perfect tootsies that they avoid going barefoot.”
Weird thing is, despite women feeling prettier with pedicured feet, according to the study, one in 10 spend less than 16 bucks (converted from 10 pounds) on their feet a month. This is my tribe, man. Because even though my boyfriend recoils when I try to play footsie during an episode of “Scandal,” I don’t own any foot perfecting products. I figure I’ll just let go, and let God.
In the meantime, my feet, which honestly aren’t that bad, serve as a daily affirmation that everybody has something. Something that reminds them of some better self who probably never existed and never needs to exist. Like the two-sizes-too-small jeans at the back of my closet I refuse to donate. Why? I’ll never fit into them. Same for the flip-flops I only wear abroad because those people don’t know me.
I’m fine with having a little secret shame and even admitting to it — as long as I can cover it up with socks.