I Am That Girl Now

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I think they got the wrong message out of Cinderella

It just so happens that I was reading the last part of the Cinderella story last night-- not the Disney version, but ye olde version complete with the stepsisters hacking off parts of their feet in order to fit into Cinderella's shoe. So it made my jaw drop completely when I read this:

It is 8 o’clock on a serene blue morning in Beverly Hills and Dr Ali Sadrieh, a podiatrist, has just performed a 45-minute operation on a client, cutting a section of bone out of her toe to shorten it. She was awake during surgery, watching a film; next week Sadrieh will do the same thing to the second toe on the other foot. There was nothing medically wrong with the toes, but his patient didn’t like the way they protruded over the lip of her high-heeled Manolo Blahniks.

Welcome to the wilder shores of La-La Land, where cosmetic surgery has finally travelled the full length of the female form. Down the phone line from California, Sadrieh’s voice is upbeat: “Toes are the new nose,” he tells me happily. “Just a little marketing phrase I’ve coined.” His demographic in Beverly Hills, he explains, includes a high percentage of young attractive women who take care of their feet: they have regular pedicures, paint their nails and wear shoes that expose their toes, and they are unhappy if the second one hangs over the edge.

There's another chick in this article who was so unhappy with her feet (which, truth be told, sound like they looked just like mine, isn't that a cheerful thought?) that she had freakishly extensive surgery that they called a 'full foot lift'. They basically changed the whole shape of her foot. Her FOOT. That she uses to WALK. Because she felt that her feet were ugly, she chose major surgery (including for the love of God FAT REDUCTION ON HER TOES) which left her unable to walk for weeks, wracked with pain, and she's still on crutches and hobbling around.

The part that really killed me was the end, where it was indicated that this is the new plastic surgery fad that's sweeping the nation (or, at least, the parts with too much money and not enough common sense or self-esteem), because even pretty girls are discontented with how their feet look. So, I guess, yay for them, because now they can get surgery for that and finally move on to finding some other imaginary quality about their bodies unattractive.

Wow. People, I have seen a great many feet in my time, because they're the one thing that (up until this point, apparently) haven't haven't had the "approved proper shape" declared by the powers that be and thus forced people to be exceedingly self-conscious of them. Folks let the feet fly free all summer long, even people who cover up all other body parts, and so it's easy to get a look at a whole lot of feet and get a realistic view of what the range of "normal" is for human feet-- and that's a pretty damn wide range. I think what I'm trying to say, here, is that this may well be the only body part that I don't have some kind of issue about, because I've really never seriously thought that there was a "right" way for feet to look.

Let me tell you about my feet. I have feet like my mother's, only longer, which only makes sense since I'm taller, too, so my feet are proportionally different from hers. They are short in length, size six and a half, and are majestically broad; I don't so much have regular feet as I have tripods. They're pure hell to try to shove into those pointed pumps that people like so much for some reason (I do not get it, I may never get it, and I am grateful that due to the natural shape of my feet I have never worn them and so don't have my toes permanently jammed into that wedge shape). They have very high arches and lovely narrow heels, qualities which once made a dance teacher of mine very jealous. They have massive callouses, almost entirely on the ball of each foot, which adds to the fun of getting the things shod. They are very sensitive on the arches, and I have found that if I can relax the arches of my feet, I relax everything. They are goddamn strong. They are tripodal, which gives me an extra boost in balance. They have forcibly kept me away from entire species of shoe which, if I had fit into them, would have hobbled me or left me mincing along, unable to stroll across the Loop in the mornings, unable to put on a burst of speed to get to the elevator right before it closes, unable to walk for walking's sake any time I choose. They have, in doing so, shaped my life and my personality. I'm sure that some people would find them very ugly, but I find them to be similar to the rest of my body and my personality-- elegant in spots, broad and unashamed in others, scarred and rounded and curved and cute and cheeky. They are my goofy, rolly-polly adorable feet, and I have to say that the thought of having them surgically altered startles the hell out of me, because...

Well, first of all, because they're FEET. People: feet look funny. I may experience blind spots to anyone's body issues but mine own, but feet? Feet I understand as being very individual and exceedingly random, because, well, LOOK AT THEM. Feet! Even the word is great fun to say. FEET FEET FEET.

I admit, I still have a lot of issues about my body, and about what other people think about it, but on this particular topic I seem to have found a place to stand. (Er. Pun.) Feet are made to carry us, to hold us up. Feet are extremely utilitarian. Sure, you can dress them up, and that's great fun, but at the end of the day these suckers are meant for locomotion, baby, and I respect that. If I hold onto that firm respect for my very utilitarian feet, and start looking at the rest of my body, I find very utilitarian awesome bits everywhere.

Check this out, for example. I know this ought to be an obvious concept, but it still blew me away: bones in different people are different sizes and shapes. I mean, maybe I knew it on one level, but I had absolutely no idea that the same bone from two different people could look THAT MUCH different.

Your hip sockets can point at a very different angle from someone else's! Your femur can have a drastically different bend at the "neck" than someone else's, which really makes a big difference in whether or not you can do the splits! Bones grow on a SPIRAL! Did you know that? I sure as hell didn't. And once I started thinking about how different just our bones can be, it occurred to me that all the other stuff on top of the bones is able to be just as different.

Back to feet for a minute: what really astonished me was just how different my thoughts on what feet "should" look like (i.e., a huge range of possibilities) to what other body parts "should" look like (a much more limited concept). It makes me think that there must have been a point back in my childhood, before puberty and all the issues that came with it, when I felt about my whole body the way I feel about my feet: vaguely aware that there's some stuff I can't do with it because it's just made that way, and that there's other stuff that it's pretty awesome at, and feeling pretty good about it on the whole. And-- the thing is, yesterday I didn't know what that would feel like at all, and now I have something to base it on. Which is pretty cool, you know?


  • I am gobsmacked how anyone would go the pain of having foot surgery just for looks!!! I had hammerlock toes, and suffered for years before opting for surgery to break and shorten the toes so I could walk in some sort of comfort... and I am telling you, it was the MOST PAINFUL operation ever, and recovery was hell, cos I had metal rods protruding out the front of my toes for 6 weeks... imagine stubbing them, which I did often.... excruciatingly painful!!! So to do it deliberately just for vanity is totally BEYOND ME !!!

    By Blogger Chris H, at 11:19 PM  

  • Feet are meant to support our whole body when in standing and walking position, and frankly, uhm... Isn't that all we should ask from them??

    Vanity surgery for that. Uh. Well. Lack of common-sense and too much of a wallet, indeed...

    Funny thing: it was years ago, but in a French magazine, there once was an article about the different shapes of feet, and the author wrote that the shape that is 'adapted' to those awfully pointy shoes represents about only 10-15% of the population. Talk about the lowest common denominator shaping the needs again...

    By Anonymous Kery, at 2:02 AM  

  • Meg I know I say this every bloody time you write an entry but you are a legend, and I love the way you look at the world.

    By Blogger Shauna, at 4:00 AM  

  • Hey, those bone pictures are really cool... Oh wait, I almost forgot what I wanted to say. Holy GOD, if you don't like how your shoes look, CHANGE YOUR SHOES!!! Don't cut into your friggin FEET! That's crazy!

    I have Women's Size 11 feet, and it's been sometimes annoying that I can't wear specific styles, but I NEVER considered lopping them off!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:51 AM  

  • Well I sure hope that trend never makes it to the midwest. I like my feet, with it's longer 2nd toe and the French pedicure I get once a month. Although I am ridiculously envious of women with thin ankles. I will never ever have a thin achilles heel--it's just not the way I'm built. I envy those thin women who have no fat around their ankles. Which, frankly, is stupid. What a thing to envy. I guess, taken to extremes, with unlimited cash and limited important things to do in life, foot surgery would just naturally follow. God, what a life you have if that's where you end up.

    Didn't Japanese women a long time ago break their feet and bind them so they'd be teeny tiny, for their husbands or future husbands? I remember hearing that story on NPR a while back--how it's illegal to foot bind but some women were still doing it. So the obsession with feet isn't new, it's just translated differently to our country.

    And, yeah, when your toes hang over the ends of your shoes, you just need a half size bigger.

    I really liked your research and interpretation on bone structure and how that translates to different bodies. Brilliant.

    By Blogger Laura N, at 2:09 PM  

  • Oh duh! I forgot, I like my feet so much it's the image for my blog.

    That's goes back to the Original Angry Fat Girlz and we all put pictures of our shoes on our blogs when we started. I'm too lazy to change it, I guess.

    Anyway, there you go Meg. I like my feet.

    By Blogger Laura N, at 2:11 PM  

  • I have always been quite pleased with the fact that my second toe is shorter than my big toe so there is a graduated descent down all my toes. My husband's second toe is longer than his big toe which he maintains is normal (whereas I am a freak!) and an abiding memory of my honeymoon is going round the Louvre in Paris with him pointing out all the ancient statues of greek goddesses with toes like his- ie conforming to a standard of beauty at that time. What I am getting at is, yes we are all different, and clarly fashions change- but WTF? getting surgery on something so minor? people who don't have real problems are clearly doing their best to invent some- and the sad thing is that fixing this won't be the end, as they will then fixate on something else. If your feet hold you up, and walk you places, and don't hurt, then what does it matter what the exact shape is (I confess to painted toenails...)

    By Anonymous Jane, at 2:18 PM  

  • I learned why women wear wedged-shaped shoes on an episode of "What Not to Wear." It creates an optical illusion that elongates the leg, thus making you look taller. So there you go!

    By Blogger PastaQueen, at 12:45 PM  

  • I actually like pointy-toed shoes - they fit me for some strange reason. I'm definitely not on the cutting edge of fashion by any stretch... :-) Your toes don't get squished into the pointy part at all - the point part is longer to get that look. Some pairs can be quite comfortable. I guess I have normal sized feet or something?

    Interesting post!

    By Blogger Keebler, at 5:51 AM  

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