I have small feet. On the hottest day of the year when feet are supposed to expand and swell the most, I can maybe make it into a size 5. Why is my foot size important you may ask? Well, it has impacted my life over the years.
I never really knew my small foot was a big deal until the third grade. Before that, people would comment on my petite feet, but I never thought much of it. However, it was during the third grade that my school hired a new gym teacher. He had recently been discharged from the Marine Corps and had, what would now be labeled as “issues”. He called us all by our last names and separated the class into squads. We had to address him as “Sir”, and when, he asked a question we had to yell in response, “Sir, Yes Sir!” or “Sir, No Sir!” Even at the tender age of eight, I knew something was wrong when boys and girls were fighting trying to get promoted to corporal and sergeant, and each gym class started with all of us singing From the Halls of Montezuma.
I would tell my parents about gym class and they would say, “Oh, he was in Viet Nam? Your three cousins were in Viet Nam. Maybe they were friends. Be kind.”
In my parents’ defense, back then, no one questioned teachers. No other parent seemed to mind either, but one day, the school principal happened to come into the gym during drills. She must have seen something she did not like because when fourth grade began, I had a kinder and gentler woman gym teacher.
I swear I am getting to the point, and here it is: It was the shell-shocked marine who first made an issue of my small feet. In fact, it was my small feet that prevented my promotion to the rank of corporal in the Third Grade Armed Forces Auxiliary Unit. To this day, I am not sure what our unit could do legally, but I think by the time the year ended, we were prepared for armed combat. During one of our endurance and survival classes, I tripped and fell to the ground. Of course, the marine noticed and started to yell.
“What is wrong with you? Are your shoelaces untied?” Then, he looked down at my feet, and he was genuinely shocked. “What do you call those things?”
“My feet, Sir,” I dutifully answered.
“Those are not feet! You could not be a marine with those feet! You can’t lead a platoon with those feet!”
Being young and stupid, I was insulted by his remarks. Later, I realized that if the government in all its wisdom insisted on war, kept the draft and expanded it to include women, I probably would get a pass.
Now, let’s fast forward to the start of high school. I went to an all-girl prep school. Before freshman year, my Mom and I went to the uniform store to get my freshman duds. My two sisters had gone through the school before me, so I sort of knew what to expect, but we soon learned that the incoming freshman class had one more item on the uniform list: shoes – bumper toe saddle shoes to be specific.
The salesman at the uniform shoe store put my foot in the metal measuring gadget and said, “The shoes do not come in a 13 1/2. The smallest is a size two. We can give you the size two and some foam rubber wedges to stuff the toes.”
For two years, I walked around with my toes clenched around wads of foam rubber so my shoes would not fall off. Fortunately, junior year brought about upperclassmen uniform changes and the uniform shoe was the same as one of the local grammar schools, so they had the smaller sizes for me to order. My feet never felt so good. I had forgotten what it’s like to spread out my toes.
Since then, the whole small foot thing has proved to be a mixed blessing. For instance, today I can buy children’s Uggs boots for about $40 cheaper than adult size boots. However, not all children’s shoes fit the style demands of adult feet. For instance, children’s dress shoes lack the sophistication of say a sexy slingback. Little girls tend to want their shoes to have lots of sparkles, Barbie or a Disney princess on them. Nothing screams “Don’t hire me!” on a job interview like The Little Mermaid glittering on your toes.
In the full scheme of life, a small foot is a minor nuisance at best, and a nuisance I have unfortunately, passed onto my daughter.
However, now there is internet shopping. There is a rule of thumb we follow when it comes to shopping for shoes on line. As soon as you see a shoe you like, order it immediately. Why? Because every other small-footed woman is combing the same sites looking for the same shoes as you are, and there are not that many shoes that are size five or smaller out there. So, if you snooze, you lose and you are destined to either walk around barefoot or wear shoes with the word Barbie painted on them.