Before I married Gene, I kept two little secrets from him:
1) I am super sensitive, never forgetting a negative comment. Ever.
2) I have ugly feet.
And no, I am not exaggerating. According to my foot size, I should be taller. My sister and I both stopped growing at five, five, but her feet settled on a dainty size seven; mine were determined to keep going until they reached the most common size of all taller women…a nine.
A nine would be bad enough, but a nine wide? I was destined for sneakers…all because of pride and shoe worship in my teen years. Entering high school, and wanting my own style, I bought a pair of black penny loafers—a style Seventeen Magazine deemed fashionable back then in the eighties. The nines were gone, so I squeezed my poor feet into a size eight and a half. I thought they’d be okay if I stayed cool in thin socks, but something about high school made my feet sweat and swell; by the end of the day, they throbbed. But I still wore the loafers, admiring how small and fashionable my feet looked in them. By summertime when I finally freed my feet, a large bunion protruded from the side of my right foot, and a smaller one on my left. Staring downward, I was shocked to see my grandma’s feet and the end of my own legs. My feet never fit comfortably in the average shoe again. I wonder if I would’ve tossed the loafers if I knew they were deforming my feet.
Gene and I met and dated in New York City, where I was able to keep my feet hidden in dark shoes most of the year. No need to show my imperfections at this stage in our relationship. I’d rather he think I was beautiful head to toe.
And kept hidden I did, until the day he said beach. Gene grew up in a beach town, so it was natural to head to the ocean with a boogie board on a hot day. Who wouldn’t want to have fun at the ocean? Answer: only me and my ugly feet.
I had to say yes, so I concocted a plan: I’d wear sneakers until we set up our chairs and beach blanket. Then I’d kick off the sneakers and quickly bury my feet in the sand before he could see my two imperfections.
My sneakers sank into the powder soft sand, weighing me down as I walked; Gene went barefoot. He endured the heat like hot coals for a while; then ran toward the water to cool his burnt heels.
A refreshing breeze rode in with the waves as we set up our spot of the beach. The clean air smelled tropical from coconut scented sunblock. It was a perfect day for the beach, and my plan was working; I didn’t kick off my sneakers until we were sitting in our chairs. I wiggled my toes into the cooler part of the sand, almost hidden. Then Gene said, “What’s on your foot?”
“Wow, you’ve got an extra toe.”
He laughed, the worst thing he could do for my ego.
“Let me see them,” he asked as if I was hiding a “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” exhibit.
“Don’t look at my feet.” I buried them deeper and held my book up to hide my face, hide my sensitive side. In one minute, my secrets were uncovered. Any more talk about extra toes and I might’ve cancelled our engagement.
But Gene said the right thing: “I love everything about you, even your extra toes.”
Well, that comment deserved a kiss.
Since then, I’ve grown up, accepted my flaws, and forgiven my husband for his insensitivity. I’m sure God would rather me have extra toes than extra pride anyway. So my feet keep me humble.
Now I’ve moved on to hiding the little wart on my hand so Gene won’t say I’m growing an extra finger. I guess God’s still working on me.
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