Through my youth, my mother always screamed with disappointment when my feet grew to a new size. Not even acknowledging the fact that my height was growing to scale with my feet, she would only comment, "Sheesh, your feet are so big!" Even my friends, shorter than me, all taunted me for my huge feet. Sometimes they would try on my shoes and squeeze the inch of toe room that their petite "twinkle toes" could not accommodate. Then they would smile at me and smirk, "Wow, you have GIGANTIC feet, ha ha, mine are so small!"
I promised myself that I would wear a pair of old patent leather (though they were actually made of plastic) flats while I slept to keep my feet from growing (like a retainer). These were the patent dress shoes that I would wear only twice whenever their was a red egg and ginger party or wedding that I had to go to. They were tight and cheap. But when that technique didn't work, I tried to scrunch my toes under themselves to keep them from growing. Even in class, when I was supposed to be reading or focusing, I would scrunch my toes so hard that my face would contort in vain too.
And now, that I am older, I wish that I could have spent my whole life letting my feet sweat and get nasty. And not have laid dark and shameful in the cubbyhole under my chair because now that I am older, I have just begun to see where these feet could have taken me.
These feet have danced into the night, these feet have gotten me to school and back. These feet have marched in rallies. These feet have wrapped and played around the legs and feet of boys (good and awful-mostly awful). These feet have fought off an assault. These feet have raced off from my home in San Francisco to a shit hole called "Los Angeles."
These feet have walked three continents. In Europe they were the feet of a "Chinita" greeted with an irritating "KONICHIWA!" wherever she went. In Taiwan they were the feet of a "white-washed ABC" because there are no big feet, or big girls like me in Taiwan. In America, they are simply "big and ugly."
And now, at 22, my feet learning to get that old familiar stink again. When I book it from place to place, when I come back from TAE-Bo class, when I dance barefoot-- they smell like shit. Though they could sweat more, if I really pushed myself. And I am trying. I am addicted to the smell of sweaty feet. It is a craving that I have denied through my adolescence. But now, it's an addiction I must satiate.
Where will these feet take me? These smelly, sticky, blistered feet? These huge, wide, and unpedicured feet? Maybe I will walk alongside my sisters who also have huge feet. Maybe I will walk along my sisters who have small feet. And we will walk-- together to wherever sthe fuck we feel like going.
(and walk... and run... and kick... and love how our sweaty feet smell like revolution)
From Judy Yung's "Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco"
"Widely practiced in China from the twelfth century to the beginnings of the twentieth century, footbinding involved tightly wrapping the feet of young girls with bandages until the arches were broken, the toes permanently bent under toward the heel, and the whole foot compressed to a few inches in length. Despite the excruciating pain that it caused, parents continued to subject their daughters to this crippling custom because bound feet were considered an asset in the marriage market, a sign of gentility and beauty. So difficult was it to walk far unassisted that it also kept women from "wandering," thus reinforcing their cloistered existence and ensuring their chastity. Although footbinding was not widely practiced in America, it is still applicable to this study as a symbol of women's subjugation and subordination."
I also had smelly feet. I actually liked the smell of sweaty feet when I was little, only mine though. My uncle would complain of the stench when I would remove my socks and shoes on the weekends in Kindergarten. They smelled a lot when I was in elementary school, and less in middle school because I did not run around and play so much. Instead, I sat with the other girls and we would talk about other girls, try to guess who shopped at Kmart and make those kids feel like shit for being poor. (Even though I lied to my friends and told them that my slingback pumps were from Nordstrom's when they were really from Payless.)
Those were the years that our feet were still, our mouths spoke nothing but garbage. And ashamed in school of my huge feet that grew a half size each week, I would even tuck my feet into the cubby area under my desk so that nobody would look at them.
Because before I knew it, I was 14, and I had the biggest feet of all my friends.
(So Mr. Golden, are we still the delicate creatures you imagined in your bestseller?)