One time when I was younger, maybe 12, I saw a commercial for some product that supposedly made your feet look better. There was a woman in wedges with calluses covering her heels and this was, apparently, bad. Up until that point I hadn't realized that your feet could be an object of beauty--I had a lot of learning to do when it came to grooming. For example, it wasn't until Rachelle pointed out that you have to shave your whole leg that I started doing that, either. Although in my defense, there is nothing intuitive about shaving. Anyway, this commercial prompted me to take a look at my own feet and let me tell you what, that woman in the commercial had nothing on me. From day one my skin has been an issue--don't get me wrong, it is silky smooth, my complexion is flawless, I have what those in the biz call "luminous glow". But it is completely, utterly and hopelessly useless. For the most part, I can't complain. Yes, I will occasionally rash out horrifically from seemingly innocuous things like fruit juice and sunscreen, and yes, my pathetic little dermis is prone to irritation. But it is beautiful, so I have that.
The real issue is my feet.
When people say, "my feet hurt", I laugh inwardly (sometimes outwardly, it can get awkward) and say "yeah, me too". My feet always hurt. This is not an exaggeration. The skin on my feet is so sensitive that the slightest provocation will raise a blister, or sometimes, just take the skin right off altogether. I had one pair of flats that acted as cheese graters to the back of my feet and bizarrely, the sides too. Funny story true story, I only wore them twice. The first time was to a Catholic church and when I got home that night I thought I might need a blood transfusion because I had lost so much from my now skinless stumps. I also have not yet been back to a Catholic church because reasonable or not, I know what waits for me there. The second time I wore tights with these particular shoes, thinking it would protect from the brutal rims. No such luck. Instead, I got to pull polyester out of an open wound. Tell me how much fun that sounds.
It's funny because I don't really mind as much as I probably should, but what can I do? I can count three hot spots on my feet right now, and I'm wearing flip flops*. It doesn't matter what kind of shoe I wear, something is going to hurt. Right now I have a mass of blisters and calluses on both insteps, the right of which is currently complemented by a six-inch long blood blister, from running in athletic shoes that I've had for a year and a half. The break-in period is over, people. Actually the only pair of shoes that have never marked my feet in any way are a pair of four and a half inch platform wedges that have sparkles in the cork. I would wear them all day if I weren't so afraid of how many dollars I'd be offered.
In some ways their sensitivity has made me stubborn, probably to the point of some kind of psychopathy. I refuse to let them get the best of me. Once I completed a 12 mile hike in shoes that tore my heels to bits in the first mile and a half. I finish every run regardless of how much skin I can feel sliding against itself, raising yet another unholy blister. I wear the highest of high heels and I wear them all night. Foot pain is relative, and at this point I think it would probably be only an attempted amputation that would stop me in my tracks.
I don't know if I would trade my skin though. The scars that result (fun fact: I scar easily too) from my skin sensitivity go way back and serve, in a weird way, as reminders of all the places I've been and all the things I've done. The dark-purple of my heel and up the back of my leg are testament to the hundreds of hikes and walks I've been on, the faint lines on the top of my foot are from the many-strapped sandals I wore in Senegal. Those collections of calluses and blisters on my instep are from two years of running. And I like to think of the many blisters and tiny cuts that I just noticed as a tribute to my own toughness, because though they hurt I didn't even know they were there. It's actually a weird phenomenon, how serious things can get down there before I look. It's probably a deep-rooted psychological problem.
Also my toes cramp a lot. Riddle me that.
*I'm wearing flip-flops because it's a balmy 75 degrees here in New Orleans. Go ahead and eat your heart out, Oregon. But also keep laughing, because I haven't had a decent latte in two months.