Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Mystery author Lisa Scottoline has recently come out with a book of funny columns she’s written over the years that have absolutely nothing to do with mysteries. Instead, she talks about her life (The book’s name is Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog.) Her fourth essay is what I want to talk about today.

In it she makes some especially pertinent remarks about women’s aging feet, toes and toenails. She talks about calluses, hardening of the toenails, and finally she says, “What’s up with our little toe? Do you even have a little toe anymore? What happens to the little toe when we get older?...The saddest thing about the little toe is the littlest toenail. Can you even see yours, ladies?”

From start to finish she has written the story of my aging feet. I have always had trouble with my feet – not so much that they hurt but that they are awfully ugly. A few years ago during one of the hot summer months I was standing in front of the glass doors at a library waiting, along with ten or twelve other people, for it to open. Reflected in the doors I noticed a woman’s feet who should NEVER have worn sandals with toes like hers. A bunion on each foot had pushed each of her big toes in opposite directions (one going east and one west, of course) and her little toes were all mushed up against the other four and disappeared under them. I hate myself when I’m critical of other women who don’t dress in a way I consider appropriate for their age. But I suddenly realized that those very ugly reflected feet were mine! I was mortified! I don’t wear sandals any more.

A doctor once said my feet were in the condition they were because my mother bought my shoes too small when I was a kid. I was miffed. My mother was exceptionally careful with my feet. I wore sturdy brown shoes far longer than any other kid on the block. My baby book is peppered with me in sturdy shoes.

From an early age, my mother always took me to the Buster Brown shoe store in downtown Long Beach where a fluoroscope was used to help make sure I got fitted with the right sized shoe. I would put my feet in the hole at the bottom, and all of us – sales man, mother and me – could peer down our own personal viewer to see how my foot fit into that shoe. There was absolutely no way I could have gotten a shoe that didn’t fit. When the toe of my shoe didn’t pass my father’s “thumb” test (he wanted a thumb’s width of room between the end of my big toe and the shoe), I was taken down to Buster Brown’s again. I loved looking in the machine. Later those machines were eliminated as being too unsafe for use. (Interest info on fluoroscopies here.)

In junior high school a gym teacher, robust and dedicated to good posture, thought I had weak ankles, so she gave me a large rubber-band-like piece of wide rubber and made me put it around my ankles. Then I had to make my ankles stretch against that rubber band by only using my foot and leg muscles. Every other girl in the gym class got to go play baseball. I spent a semester playing with a rubber band.

After I married and moved to Westminster, I found a neighbor my age who had just had bunion surgery. At the time Sarah spoke of her new “$500 bunionless toes.” She looked at my bunions and said they weren’t $500 bunions, yet, and to wait a while.” That was in 1960.

I finally was ready to go for the bunionectomy in 2006 and already had the date scheduled when suddenly Jerry developed a need for immediate surgery – and that was the end of that! At this point I still have big toes going in opposite directions and little toes with no toenails that are hiding under the other toes – exactly the feet that Lisa Scottoline has! I’m sure she’ll be gratified to know that there is one other person who understands exactly what she is talking about.

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