Explanation: This is a little piece I wrote for uni two years ago. I’ve just spent the past hour trying to make it fit into the book I’m trying to finish, but finally come to accept that it doesn’t belong there. So I’m posting it here..
Picture a dancer. Scroll down to her feet.
Without much thought one might be mistaken in assuming a dancer’s feet are beautiful, like the rest of her body. After a little more consideration logic should reveal that actually, it makes more sense for a dancer’s feet to be covered in blisters, bunions, bruises and Band-Aids. No one puts her feet through as much grief as a dancer.
One might think that a dancer is forever going for foot massages and pedicures in order to counter the damage that she does, but often is the case that it is the dancer herself who will seek out ways to further damage her feet. There exists a product, a contraption (the name of which I cannot remember) that is designed to contort the ankle at unnatural angles in order to increase arch of the foot. Feet with high arches are to be envied on the ballet scene. When a young ballet dancer finally graduates onto Pointe shoes she will sometimes be advised to pour rubbing alcohol onto her open blisters in order to speed the callusing process. The agony of burning flesh is worth the agony of being allowed to stand on ones toes.
The following I find interesting as well as comforting: The most beautiful feet in ballet – the slender ones with the high arches – are also the weakest. They are the most prone to injury. The strongest feet, the ones that will allow a dancer to enjoy a (relatively) long career in dance are the wide stocky ones with low arches.
This is a beautiful win-win situation: The girls whose wide duck feet cause them to blush with shame at every shoe fitting can smugly remember that they will be in the game longer, while the pretty-footed doe-eyed dears can take comfort in their superior aesthetic beauty as they hobble up and down the halls of the physio clinic.
I have wide feet. Although it has been close to a decade since I last donned a proper ballet shoe they are still hideously – and apparently permanently – disfigured. Patches of skin are discolored and callused in places where they have no business being discolored and callused. I also suffer from a mild case of something called Mortin’s Long Toe – where the second toe is longer than the big toe. People with Mortin’s Toe are generally advised not to go en pointe in ballet because the more even-lengthed one’s toes are, the more solid a base to distribute the body’s weight. I highly doubt this advice stops anyone. It didn’t stop me anyway, and the result is quite a mangled looking line up of toes.
And now the lemonade recipe: My strong, wide, ugly feet have been excellently matched to the wiring of my very being. They are not pretty, but were built to last as I traverse the optimist’s trail, dithering back and forth, picking battles and calling ceasefires within, not knowing where I am going and sometimes not even enjoying the journey. I take some comfort from the notion that my feet are strong, not weak and feeble, I take even more from the belief that they were bespoke-tailored with me in mind. Someone somewhere knows how I am wired and afforded me with the equipment I would need to get through life.