Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Pain is Beauty
My sad excuse for not blogging this week...
“In life as in dance: Grace glides on blistered feet” -Alice Abrams.
I live in New York City. Like many of the habitants of this city, I love fashion, and I adore shoes, especially boots. Since my brother bought me a pair of vintage cowboy boots for my twenty-first birthday I have been strutting the streets from my previous abode in Portland, Oregon, traversing European cities and even down the cobbled streets of Morocco. These boots and the others that I have collected were made for walkin’, and that I surely do, I rarely get into a taxi, but would much rather listen to the click of my heel as I walk the pavement.
Riding the subways in New York, one can see the grotesque advertisements for ‘minimally invasive’ bunion surgery, complete with pictures of feet deformed with lumps on the sides. I always looked upon this advertisement with pity and a slightly queasy stomach, thinking to myself, those poor souls.
About a month ago, to my surprise and for the first time ever, my feet started hurting at the end of the day. I have only been in New York City since July. However, since my arrival I imagine that I have walked an average of 15 blocks a day, which is about 105 blocks a week, for eight months – which, including nights when I went dancing – is about, but probably well exceeding, 1000 blocks in high heeled, pointed, and always stylish boots. As my pain increased by the day, and it started to swell, I looked up my symptoms on the internet – To my horror, it seems, at age twenty-four, I am getting my first bunion.
The following day I was wearing my old dansko clogs that I swore I would never wear again after my years as a server. I walked the streets of Soho, seeking a cute shoe that wouldn’t aggravate my metatarsophalangeal joint. If you weren’t aware, that is the joint between the foot and big toe. A bunion, clinically known as the hallux valgus (sounds awful, no!) is a structural deformity of the bones and this meta-&*@# joint – it causes the big toe to move inward – and it hurts. So I went into some cute shoe boutique on the corner of Mulberry and told the salesman my predicament. I could tell by his eyes that it wasn’t good and then he said, ‘you’ll have to wear wide toed, rounded shoes – and a minimal heel, if one at all.... Bunions only get worse, better to see a podiatrist before buying anything.” He shrugged kindly. I almost felt tears as I looked around the shop, at all the beautiful pointed, leather, heeled shoes – that could never be mine.
I called Jean-Paul, “I’m shoe shopping, and I’m depressed.”
‘Right’ he said, ‘Sure, you are’
‘No really...Listen, this is serious...I’m wearing my clogs. Jean-Paul, I have a bunion.’
‘Oh my God,’ he said sarcastically, ‘aren’t you a little young for that? I mean, don’t tell me your developing varicose veins”
I stopped dead in my tracks on the sidewalk...
‘I don’t know, maybe, WHAT are those?’ I asked, feeling slightly anxious and hating the sight of my feet.
‘They’re veins on the backs of your legs, the kind you get from crossing them too often.’ He chuckled, and I told him he was full of it, and that I had to find some shoes and hung up.
I walked into one of my favorite shops, ‘In God we trust.’ There was a gorgeous pair of hand sewn moccasin boots on display. I picked them up, and spoke to the young lady – ‘do you have more of these? I’m seeking a cute, comfortable, wide, flat boot.’ Then I looked directly at her and said dramatically, ‘I’m getting a bunion.” She nodded her head, and told me that she had one too. I looked down at her feet. She had on the cutest bunion friendly boots I’ve ever seen. Of course, they were vintage Steve Maddens from the eighties. Then she proceeded to tell me that every single woman that worked with her at the shop, and the one in Williamsburg also had bunions.
I couldn’t believe it. It is the unspoken New York pandemic among young, walking women. As I continued around the city and spoke to more people, I discovered that I was not alone. I read on wikipedia that bunions are caused by ‘conditions intrinsic to the structure of the foot, such as flat feet, abnormal bone structure...factors considered genetic,’ but I didn’t have any of these, I have arches like rainbows! I read on, seeing that there is a debate between experts about whether the deformity can be caused solely by ill-fitting footwear.
Someone needs to edit the wikipedia definition, expressing CAUTION to young New York City Women and men who wear women’s shoes! The bunion pandemic effects dancers, professionals [even in designer heels], hipsters, students, models and any other homo sapiens who wears shoes that demand your foot to squeeze the toes together in a stressed formation; this includes and is not limited to; pointed shoes, high heels, cowboy boots and likely any other shoe that can one would consider ‘cute’ or ‘fashionable.’ Wear at your own risk, or change your shoes often, giving your foot a variety of movement in a day.
Another thing that I used to see on the subway and admittedly would raise my nose to is the American phenomenon of wearing sneakers with a professional, cute, outfit. I thought it a travesty that women would create such disharmony in their fashion statement. I even thought it rather rude. You would never see women in Europe carrying their Chanel pumps in a shopping bag, wearing sexy nylons and...Sauconey sneakers. But maybe that is the answer; maybe I will one day be one of those women. It reminds me of the phrase my friends use to use when they would wear self-tanner and get burned, in order to get tan, ‘Pain is beauty, Rebecca,’ they used to say. So, are we the generation that creates our own disorders? From bunions to skin cancer, we’re willing to risk our health and mobility for a stylish strut, and tan skin. And even I have fallen victim to the pandemic that sweeps the city’s women, old and young – just for a good walk.