What is it with women and clothes? What is it with women and shoes? What is it with women and jewelry? What is it with women and make-up?
Clearly, I wouldn’t know about women and shoes. I was not endowed with good feet when I was born. Hell, what is there to be ashamed about? I was not born with even normal feet, so my relationship with shoes has been bitter from the start. From childhood, my shoes were custom-made for me. During adolescence, when I tried to wear the orthopaedic shoes (ugly, but functional) less and less, I found it not even close to enjoyable when my mom had to take me to shop for shoes that I had to wear on occasions—those normal shoes that I had to wear during the times that I had to go to formal parties. My gown and attire were easy to sew or to buy ready-to-wear, but shoes . . . not! There were a number of occasions where I wore my long gowns with rubber shoes or rubber soled corduroy boy shoes.
To me, shopping for shoes meant endless hours of frustration, embarrassment (imagine having to hear your mother explain endlessly to strangers how you have to buy only special shoes because of your special feet), disappointment and finally (during the times that I was lucky), success at finding that rare pair that fit. Or at least that rare pair that looked functional—functional in this sense meant, that my feet in this pair looked as normal as possible. My mom would buy several pairs of the same shoes and my friends would think that I had only this one pair of shoes that I wear all the time until they visit the house and see ten pairs of the same kind.
Class picture taking times during elementary were also special times for me, because my mother would allow me to wear regular Mary Janes, although, there were still some class pictures with me looking so nerdy in eyeglasses and leg braces. Those were the days!
Growing up in our hometown in Marikina (the former town, now city, known for its shoes), somebody found a way to make me ladies’ shoes with heels. She made a special wooden mold of my special feet and lo and behold! After several weeks, I got two pairs of ladies’ shoes with heels. I was so proud of them and instead of looking up when I walked, I would always be seen looking down at my new shoes!
Even with these feet, I was still able to participate in childhood games at home. It seemed ironic that I was exempted from Physical Education classes the whole of elementary and high school and yet at home, I participated in games like piko, tumbang-preso, langit at lupa and patintero. I was almost always the “It” because I could not run well and most of the time I would have wounded knees and legs from frequently falling down, but I sure had a great time. I remember one time in high school, a very enterprising and adventurous P.E. teacher allowed me to participate in a game called “Caterpillar”. There were two lines of people holding on to each others’ waist and the objective of the game was for the head part of one line to catch the tail part of the other line, thus the name “Caterpillar”. Being one of the smallest persons in our high school batch, I found myself at the head of one line. A much bigger and taller girl was next to me in line. As the game commenced, and as our line started to follow the tail of the other line, I found myself being lifted by the taller girl and I was swirling in the air as we tried to join the tail of the other line! The game ended when we all collapsed and our line was broken, but I surely had a great time! These feet were also able to jog around the Marikina Sports Center in college while I did my best to exercise in order to lose weight. It was in college too when I climbed Mount Makiling and Mount Banahaw in school trips, but of course, not reaching their peaks. I was happily stumbling along and falling and sliding in the steep and rocky paths that we took. They were difficult for me, but I still remember them with fondness up to this time.
Along with my feet’s deformity, is a loss of sensation in some of its areas, the ventral and the lateral aspect, but the dorsal aspect seemed to be fine. There were countless times when I would step on something sharp (thumbtacks are a good example) on the floor when I walk or ran barefoot in the house and soon a trail of blood could be seen by my distraught relatives who knew that I had one of my accidents again. And all I felt while I was walking with a pin stuck in my foot was a vague, slight pain. Only the sight of blood and my mom’s distressed calls would alert me about the foreign body stuck to my foot. Some of my well-meaning friends used to joke that I could join the circus and walk on flames on the show. That is one talent I have not explored.
Most of my friends and acquaintances have been very supportive, but there were very rare occasions of being taunted by narrow-minded individuals who did not know any better. One elementary and high school classmate used to tease me, because I needed help in putting the orthopaedic shoes on. And one adult acquaintance remarked that I looked so awkward wearing a blouse and skirt and those horrific man-shoes. I remembered being hurt those times, but I just shrug them off now. Life for me brought so much love and blessings that some thorns along the way shouldn’t hurt that much.
My feet, after years of punishment, enduring college, medical school, moonlighting in several hospitals and residency training, now both bear the brunt of those years. In the past two years I have increasingly been dependent on a wheelchair. I wrote an article called “Recently Disabled” and my life partner told me I have always been that way and not only recently. But I told him, “Oh, really? I have not noticed.”
Suffice it to say, Cinderella is not my favourite fairy tale Disney Princess. I cannot imagine myself being fitted with a glass slipper by my Prince Charming.
I do have one secret goal in life. I try to be a good person in this world, so I would go to Heaven . . . because Heaven for me is a place where I will be rewarded with a good set of feet. And hopefully, infinite possibilities of shoes to choose from.