Funny, isn’t it, the things you get self-conscious about. My whole life I quietly resented little quirks of my features – my nose, my teeth, the usual things people fret about, worrying how they look to the rest of the world, despite the fact that all anyone else thinks is that it’s just your FACE. I’m now old enough and wise enough to realise that not only does nobody else care, but those quirks are a part of me, and I’m the one who turned them into hang-ups. Nobody’s remarked on them, they’ve never stopped the suitors and at the end of the day, they’re a part of who I am. This is the packaging, babe, and I own it! And yet, there I am, on a Monday night, with some stranger on Instagram criticising my feet.
I laughed – because my feet are not, and have never been, a player in my game of hang-ups. And then I thought, what have we come to, when one’s feet are taken to task for not being… Wait, what are feet supposed to be, exactly? Supermodel thin? Glossy? (Seriously, should be my feet be glossy?) Should I have a toe gap? I don’t even know what the airbrushed ideal for feet is, but anyway… what is the world coming to?
“Ugly foot… bloated” remarked some bored teenage girl. (In Italian, but no less rude.)
Now, first of all, I have a chronic injury in my right foot – there’s me doing a half marathon in cheap joggers, that’ll learn me… (Kids, stay in school, don’t do drugs, and WEAR QUALITY RUNNING SHOES) – which means it’s now very slightly bigger than my left. It’s been that way for years and it doesn’t stop me doing things. Even though every day of my life it hums with a dull ache and on a hot day, or if I’ve been wearing heels, that thing will swell up like a watermelon. Don’t get me started about what happens when I fly long-haul – it reaches such epic proportions that one time when I showed it to an air hostess she gasped and hid in the galley. (When this happens I can only refer to it as Footzilla).
In the photo that drew a scathing remark, my foot was as good as it gets. The swelling is barely noticeable. Trust me, Insta-critic, you ain’t seen nothing! And let’s not overlook the fact that in this picture I was having breakfast in bed in Paris and indeed had A WHOLE ENTIRE BAG OF CROISSANTS, so if all you can see when you look at it is a slightly puffy foot, then young lady, your life is a dark and dreary place and may I never have to go there. (Have you ever had a whole bag of croissants to yourself, in bed, in Paris? Nah, I didn’t think so.)
Feet are funny. I know some people have a deep fear and loathing of them – I once lived with a grown-man flatmate who would have to leave the room if I wore toe-socks. (They’re socks that have little sections for each toe, like gloves. They are slightly creepy, but they are also very snug). And there are many others who think feet are wonderful. (I’ve known an actual foot fetishist. And for what it’s worth, I never got no complaints about my tootsies.) But wherever you stand on the matter, feet are hardly deserving of scorn for not being attractive enough. Are they? Or is this like when Demi Moore got cosmetic surgery on her knees and suddenly women panicked because they hadn’t been considering their knees aesthetically, lying awake wondering if their knees weren’t noticeably droopier than yesterday?… Is foot beauty a thing now?
Of course a little grooming is good, but at the end of the day I’ve always put feet in the zone of just being… feet. They’re totally amazing! Mine have taken me to some pretty incredible places. And I take far more footsies than I ever do selfies (my stepdad often remarks that my feet have been more places than I have). They even got me through that half marathon, despite what I put the buggers through. I jog-limped crossed that finish line with gusto.
So thank you, feet, for being fabulous and strong and getting me through years of stubbornly wearing flip-flops in winter and insisting on wearing uncomfortable heels for Nice Occasions. For pedalling me from London to Paris and getting me up Helvellyn and supporting me on the dancefloor even when you wanted me to sit the hell down now, please. For helping me push doors open when I’ve got arms full of shopping and for being big enough to keep my 5ft9 body from falling over every single time it’s upright. You’re really bloody awesome, even when you hurt, and, for the most part, even when you (yeah, I’m looking at you, right foot) turn into Footzilla and frighten airline crew. I don’t like my injury but I do love my feet, and like those other quirks I learned to accept, my big fat foot is as much a part of me too.
And to you, Miss Got-No-Manners of Instagram… my bigger foot is all the better for kicking your arse with. You better run, kid.
(Wear good trainers though.)