Monday, December 17, 2007

Das Foot

Yesterday on my run, I was paying more attention to the woods and beautiful scenery than on the trail ahead. I was running deep somewhere within the trail system of UWF, enjoying the peace and tranquility of a December late afternoon. The temperature was "cool" and "crisp" (49 degrees, but it felt like 44. I know, I know, I should HTFU. Sorry!), and it felt pretty good to be running. I had donned my trusty tights (the ones that were a little too big - so I was pulling them up the entire time), a long sleeved shirt, and my beautiful blue running shoes.

The shoes I love. The shoes that I ran the Timberlake half marathon AND Clearwater in (I've already made the mistake of wearing race flats during a half-IM... never again. I couldn't walk normally for a week afterwards.) Essentially, I love these shoes. They have happy memories. They are HAPPY shoes. And now..

Well, now they're covered in poop.

And why?

Because I was "in the out to lunch club" and wasn't paying ANY attention to where I was going. OR, where I was stepping. But it's just so easy to drift off while I'm trail running... I know, I know - I should be paying more attention to my footing and surroundings, and believe me - I've taken a tumble more than once. But running on wooded trails, with only the sound of birds and wind as your company is, in my opinion, the essence of beauty.

Which is why, at exactly 48:16 into my run, I found my right foot covered in horse manure. I checked the time, because it made such an interesting "splat" noise. I was briefly annoyed at both the horse and myself, and then pressed onwards. What could I do? Really?

I kept running, and when I crossed the creek on the way back to my car, I made sure to rinse the bottom of my foot off in the flowing water. Well, first I checked for crocodiles (even though it's "cold", you can never be too cautious. Just like sharks: they're there, even if you don't see them...) - and then dabbled my foot in the water.

It really didn't make that much of a difference, but at least I tried.

But my shoes were still gross. Gross, but well loved. I guess that's just what happens when we use stuff.

And what does "Das Foot" have to do with my hose spattered shoes?

The truth, is that I really don't like feet. Yes, you read correctly. I don't like feet. Not poopy shoes, not uncomfortable heels, or too-tight bike shoes (all uncomfortable in their own way), but I'm just not a fan of feet in general.

Especially my own.

I'm not really sure when this started. Perhaps back in high school, when the "Most Beautiful Feet" Award was presented to a fellow classmate. I remember sitting in Ancient History, looking at this girl's feet - perfectly shaped, gracefully arched, with a narrow width, no foot flab (for me, acquired after years of wearing running shoes...my feet just sort of spread out, or at least that's what I tell myself), and manicured nails finished with a pink, pearly white polish. I had to admit, they were beautiful feet.Didn't look a thing like mine. And they were perfect for strappy sandals and high heels.

Later, as I was examining my own feet after Track practice, I remember thinking how different my feet were. First, strappy sandals just didn't fit PERIOD. So I always wore flip flops (still do). My feet are just a little too wide, and the straps look as though they're cutting into a meaty sausage. (Not to imply that my feet ARE sausages, just in my humble opinion - as I see my feet every day - fancy strappy shoes like that aren't really made for feet like mine). Second, my feet were pale, whereas Rachel's were tanned and lean. Mine were short, and stubby looking. And my big toe looked disproportionately large, compared to the rest of my toes, which all looked really small. My pinkie toe, and the pinkie toe nail were almost non-existent. And, to top it all off, the red nail polish that I had so carefully applied two weeks earlier, were flaking and chipping off.

It was then and there that I decided that I didn't like feet. Especially mine.

So I kept them in running soes, sturdy sandals (ie flip flops), doc martins, ski boots, track spikes, and threw in the occasional "old lady" high heel (the ones with lots of support, no sass, just shoe...the kind that Grandmothers - you gotta love 'em - wear because it helps them balance...) when I gave a violin concert or went out on a fancy occasion. My feet were supported, but rarely let out. Except for when I life guarded in the summer. Or, when I ran around the house and backyard. My feet were usually bare, but covered in dirt and the smell of the Earh. Then they actually looked "normal" because they were the same color as the rest of my body. Not pasty, er "Nordic" white (as in never-see-the-light-of-day white that one gets when spending one's childhood in Wintry Minnesota).

My foot fears haunted me throughout college. When I rowed, I always took care to bring an extra pair of socks to practice. I had been warned, well in advance, about the various foot fungi that lurked in the shoes of rowing shells (unless you're rowing in your own boat, chances are the boats will be shared. And because the feet/shoes are nailed down into the gunwale of the shell itself, a new pair of feet will row in the same shoes almost daily). Put your bare feet in at your OWN risk!

I would carry an extra pair of socks, just in case the first got wet, or fell in the water (which happened once when I flipped a double. I remember kicking around in the middle of the Mississippi River, while my socks, which were already half way down my foot, came off and slowly sank to the bottom. Almost as though some invisible force from beneath the current had snaked its creepy hands upwards and snatched away my socks. I felt the tug and relinquished said socks. A small sacrifice to pay to the gods of the Mighty Mississippi). But as I clamored back into the upturned boat, I had another pair, safely tucked away in my shorts, ready and waiting. My feet were safe.

Triathlon has done little to improve my opinion about my feet. I've lost countless nails, have innumerable callouses, and have been forced to reconcile with the tan lines from miles upon miles of biking and running.

My Mom has been great: she's gotten me all sorts of really great foot lotions, nice smelling creams, and even a pair of socks to help keep moisture in my feet while I sleep. While these remedies DO make me (and my feet) feel better, it doesn't solve the problem.

Okay, here we go. This is the biggie. One of my big fears or phobias (depending on how you look at it)... Worse than 80s music and wet sweatshirt sleeves. Even worse than sharks and crocodiles. Not quite as bad as mean or unethical people - but almost as bad...

I hate it, absolutely HATE it, when other people touch my bare feet.

I can't explain it. I don't know why, how, or when it got this way.

It became really bad a little over a year ago when Nathaniel was about to get home from his second deployment.

Correction: this phobia started when I got my first (and last) ever pedicure.

My Mom and my neighbor had suggested that I get a pedicure - just a nice way of treating myself, pampering myself, and making myself look nice for when Nate finally got home (ironically, my feet were the last thing he looked at). So I set up the appointment, and made sure I could get an hour off from the YMCA, where I was the fitness director.

Everyone was really great about it, and couldn't wait to see my polished feet when I returned. (I managed to sneak back into my office before I was forced to reveal my feet...)

I got to the appointment, and the pedicurist helped me pick out a nail polish (Smokin' Havana Red!) She was really sweet, and loved nails. Even though she was a mere 4 foot 8, her bright red fingernails and bright orange toenails made her appear larger than life. Her bright white hair, and pink lip stick shone through, and I could tell this woman was serious about her colors.

And feet.

"Just put your tootsies in this nice, hot bath, and I'll be back in a few minutes."

I looked at the chair, parked right next to what looked like a plastic bin with water jets. I took my shoes and socks off, and made for the plastic bin as quickly as possible. I had just finished teaching my 9 am "Low Impact Aerobics" (something I probably won't ever do again!), and the odor from my shoes and socks was downright offensive. Even though it was "low impact", I made sure everyone got a good workout. Including me.

Darn it! I knew I should have washed my feet!

Pedicure lady looked up a few seconds later, sniffed the air, turned her hair in my direction, and then quickly looked away when she caught my eye. She busied herself with the phone, and pretended to have not looked up.

I pretended not to notice.

This was going to be a long hour.

Sigh.

After a good 15 minute soak in hot, bubbly water, Pedicure lady came over.

I felt that something needed to be said about my feet, in lieu of the smell. "I'm so sorry," I babbled. "My feet are gross! I just got done teaching a class, but didn't have time to change my shoes - you don't have to touch them if you don't want. It's okay!" This was more for my benefit, than it was for her. I could feel the anxiety building as she examined and scrutinized my feet.

"It's okay hon," she said. "Most people only get a 10 minute foot bath, but I thought you could use a 15 minute one..." she trailed off when she saw my horrified look.

Were my feet really that bad? I thought.

"I just figured that with you being an aerobics instructor and all, that you might enjoy a little extra time off your feet." Again, she trailed off and busied herself with examining my feet.

I was speechless, but watched her poke, prod, and run her hands over my toes.

I winced. It was all I could do to stay seated in the chair and not run out, barefooted and screaming. I felt her fingers all over my arches, feeling my nails, running her hands over the little hairs on the tops of my feet (like Hobbit feet! But THANK GOD BLOND! so not noticeable...well, now you all know. oops.)

I felt my hands grow sweaty, and I wish she would just start the damned thing.

Didn't she know, couldn't she tell how much I hated feet? And second, by agonizing second, it was just getting worse.

My stomach clenched. I secretly hoped that I didn't throw up.

After she had decided that my feet were fully disinfected, she got out her clippers, trimmers, shears, and whatever else she had in her kit. There were some items that I didn't even know existed! They looked like a cross between a scalpel and the thing the dentist pokes you with when he's testing for cavities... All devices that would surely bring pain and discomfort to my already sweaty feet.

IS there a bathroom in this torture chamber??? I thought frantically.

Because if my sweaty hands weren't enough, now my feet were sweating. So was my back.

And worse, Pedicure lady could tell. Because she got out a towel and wiped them down for me. The same way I wipe down my bike after a wet ride. (Just my feet, not my back.)

No longer are my feet gross, but I'm gross. This was getting way out of hand. Yuck yuck yuck! I started scanning her walls, in search of a drink of something strong. Vodka would do. Hell, even nail polish remover had some sort of alcohol in it... I'm sure it would do the trick. Pedicure lady looked as though she had some sort of lithium or Valium laying around (hello! plethora of bright colors spread all over her body + chronic cough of a smoker)... at this point I was even considering lighting up a cigarette, even though I don't smoke.

Anything to calm me down.

And then she did it. She found my major fault, the thing that has been plaguing me for years.

She found the wart on my big toe. Sorry if you're squeamish, this is way too much information. But it's integral to the story, to part of who I am (literally). So bear with me.

The ONE TIME I didn't wear socks in the boat....

"Woa! What's this? Hiding something, are we?" she proclaimed, a little too loudly, as she found the wart. Did I have a temperature? I felt feverish! She peered, she poked, and then she declared, "I can shave some of this down for you, and then we can shape your nail to cover it up. But..." She stopped for a moment, and then continued, "I don't usually see ones that look like this, though..." she crumpled her forehead, lost deep in thought. No doubt, wondering the best approach of attacking my big toe wart. I felt myself involuntarily swallow a bit of the post-class energy bar that I had consumed on the drive over. Gulp.

Good times.

Even writing this now, I can feel my heart beat quicken, my palms start to sweat.

I felt as though I was having an out-of-body experience.

I watched, in disbelieve, as she raised the scalpel, and proceeded to peel away layers of skin. It was simply too much, more than I could handle.

I clenched the seat, so hard that my fingers turned white, and my finger tips turned blue. I focused on breathing, steady. I visualized a "happy place", and did my best to not focus on the sawing sound coming from somewhere down near my big toe.

I squirmed, I looked away. I tried to guess how many times she had dyed her hair, how often she did her nails, and how many different colors of nail polish she had on the wall (hundreds!) - but nothing could distract me from the fact that this woman had her face a mere 2 inches from my toes, her hands on my feet, peering intently at a big flaw.

Finally, after what felt like forever, she had finished the job to the best of her ability.

I could have really, really used a drink at this point.

"I can't make it go away, hon. But this will do better. I don't recommend the French Pedicure, because that'll only make it more obvious. But the Smokin' Havana will look really nice, and people will hardly notice your wart."

Thank God there were no other customers in the shop. Actually, they probably would have made a mad dash for the fire exit the first moment I took of my shoes.

She then clipped my nails, and my feet once again grew sweaty.

And more sweaty.

Where WAS the bathroom?!?

When she started going at my cuticles, I could feel the beads of sweat begin to pop on my forehead. I tried not to squirm, to seem too uncomfortable. This was, after all, what she did.

My stomach clenched. Again, I swallowed, and tried to not reproduce my energy bar.

I didn't realize how nauseated I would feel while getting a pedicure.

Her job, was to peer at feet. Mine were only one of a gazillion she had already seen. So what if I had a little wart? So what if my feet were a little stinky? No one is perfect!

But no matter how I tried to rationalize it, it didn't make me feel any better (liken this experience to going to the gynecologist. NOT fun.) - I was just miserable.

When she got to the actual nail polish, I breathed a sigh of relief. Which Pedicure lady took as a sign of pleasure.

"That there," she exclaimed in her Eastern North Carolina accent. "That there polish looks go-od!"

She had finally finished, and was no worse for the wear. I, on the other hand, was scarred for life. Having her touch my feet, examine my feet, peer intently at my feet, was just not fun. Again - this is what she did. But I had my own foot issues, which had just gotten 100 times worse.

All in a measly 60 minutes.

Before my pedicure experience, I didn't really like feet. Afterwards, I HATED them, and was decidedly uncomfortable with other people touching my feet.

Socks, I can tolerate. Socks are nice. They cover up hairy, pale, and even smelly feet. They keep feet warm, they keep them comfy, and they keep them confined. I can deal with Nathaniel rubbing my feet - as long as I'm wearing my warm, squishy socks. Otherwise, all bets are off.

In retrospect, my feet aren't all bad. Just something I don't particularly enjoy. But I'm learning to love them: they serve an important function, do a lot of great work for me, and are literally - my base. I'll treat them with lots of tender, love, and care. Massage lotion, moisturizer socks, and slippers are all wonderful treats to help my feet stay comfortable. But I draw the line at a pedicure. By this point, I'm pretty good at doing my own polish, thank you very much!

Then again, it doesn't make that much of a difference. Because the polish usually flakes off after a long ride or run. Horse poop or not.

1 comment:

Train-This said...

Oh my goodness, I couldn't get past 49 degrees. FORTY NINE DEGREES! LUCKY YOU!

:_) Mary