In which The Elegant Bastard urges others of his big footed tribe to join him in leaving their sorrows in the closet and to come out Stomping.
Most of us now live in politically correct communities.
Here we have no obesity, no lazy folk, no bald guys, no bad boys, no dumbies, no pet owners and no Christmas. Instead we have persons of size, the alternatively motivated, the comb free, the morally challenged, the differently “wisdomed”, animal guardians who walk around with little plastic bags in their hands and, my favorite, Winter Holidays (if you happen to live in the appropriate hemisphere).
The tall no longer need to hear the wit-deprived ask about the weather “up there”. The short are no longer asked what they and their six brothers really wanted to do with or to Snow White. The bald no longer have to “polish it up for us”. No large breasted woman is told how fortunate she is to have a built-in tray on which to rest small objects. No one’s disabled, no one’s nasty and no one ever ever fails. If Evils of any sort do exist, we have all agreed not to speak of them by name.
Are there those who remain unenlightened, who wander about in their own dark, refusing to believe that “compete”, “win”, “earn” and “best” have been replaced by “differently”, “alternatively” and “otherly”? There well may be but if they are wise, they do so quietly. The Gods of Happy Clappy and Hippy Dippy are jealous gods and they carry big not-so-inclusive sticks!
Yet as this spirit of Undifference sweeps across the land, loading us all into one giant Procrustean bed where we will all learn to play well with others, one group is left behind. And upon encountering members of this last lost tribe, the legions of the Variously Abled raise their chins, look down their noses and curl their upper lips. For here in the beige halls of Brave New World, there are none to cry pity for Gargantupeds.
I am one of these and have been so since birth.
I am not sure when I first realized I was different. Perhaps it was when I turned five and saw my mother turned away from the Childrens’ Shoe department at Montreal’s Eaton’s. She was told to take me over “there” where they might have “something” suitable. Or it could have been the time I kicked back at a bully (with spectacular results!) and my father was subsequently told by my principal to “have those bloody great feet of his licensed!” I can remember entering a Toronto friend’s home one fine summer’s day, only to have his smiling brother ask me to leave the skis outside. Even my own uncle, a sea plane enthusiast, once opined that while I might not ever be able to walk on water, I could likely one day land on it. Certainly by the time I reached adolescence, I was fully aware of my own Gargantupedia. I had crossed far beyond the bounds of normal and stumbled around my world on feet sized 13 and a half (47 in Europe.) Even my best friend, after a day spent fruitlessly searching for new sneakers, suggested I give up and just wear the boxes his came in.
As parents do in cases like this, mine assured me that the steady stream of comments was motivated by the jealousy of others. I smiled silently in response to this – Gargantupedians always smile silently – but I did not believe them. Had I been overly sized with respect to some other bodily appendage, I might have bought that fiction. But in the hierarchy of highly valued human parts, feet come very near the bottom. We struggle for big muscles, are made maudlin by big eyes, gaze surreptitiously at big breasts, flaunt big bulges, encourage big hearts and call upon others to give us that big smile. Not only in the male world does size matter. Big rules everywhere, except in the kingdom of the feet!
This prejudice is evident even in our language. We are never asked to lend a helping foot. We congratulate no one for hitting the nail on the foot. Armies are not armed to the feet, friends never cross heir feet to wish us luck, and no one ever learned a poem by foot. Our society stands condemned by its own common utterances.
A few friends tell me there are logical reasons for this unfair treatment of feet and by extension, the differently footed. Things would change, they tell me, if we reached for the heavens with our feet and ran like hell on our hands. Yet even in activities where feet are essential, they are ignored. A large group of young women I observed paying rapt attention to Christiano Ronaldo in the World Cup assured me that they were not watching his feet. I can pick up a dime with my toes and yet, Dear Reader, you would be shocked to discover how few people ever want to see me do so!
One colleague tells me it’s all about fear. I reject this. What fearful things can feet do? I cannot pick a pocket with my feet. I cannot shoot a gun. I could, I suppose, start stomping things indiscriminately but this would inspire more hilarity than horror. Of all the great monsters in our world, the only one we laugh at is – you guessed it – Big Foot.
Another suggests the culprit is the classical hero, Oedipus the King, for as we all know, the name “Oedipus” means “swollen foot”. Would anyone, my friend points out, want to get really close to a guy who might at any moment indulge in unrestrained father-bashing or mother-marrying?
Most, however, simply ignore my efforts to highlight the plight of Gargantupeds. I am patted on the shoulder, offered a stiff drink and told it’s all in my head. I wonder for a while if they are right, if in fact there is no conspiracy, no deliberate attempt to break our spirits and shove us into society’s closet, an almost empty place now that virtually everyone else has come out.
Then I went to Paris and discovered the horrible reality first hand.
It had been a good day. I had strolled though Notre Dame, lingered in the Louvre and decided that the Eiffel Tower did indeed tower. I’d had innumerable cups of coffee, all of them too small. Now it was time for the real pilgrimage, my own journey to my own Lourdes. With shopping bags in one hand and wallet in the other, I made my reverent way to the world’s ultimate department store, Les Galeries Lafayette.
The crowds were enormous. Fewer people go to Mecca. I could understand this better than most, for I knew that here in this temple to commerce I would find the world’s largest shoe department. Here I would finally find my fit. My True Faith would be welcomed, heart and body and soul and sole. All my saints could be found within: Sargent, Ferragamo, Bally, Westwood, Nichols, Choo and more. Great hoards of other worshippers streamed around me. Euros flowed like wine and prayers were murmured. Finally an Armani-clad and Prada-shod priest approached and asked if he could help me. I took a calming breath and spoke.
“Could I see something in a loafer, size 47?”
He stared at me. I saw his lip twitch. He called another over. They looked at each other, at me, at my feet and at the sky. They shook their heads. It was not possible. A 45 perhaps if one had been sent to them in error but this, no. This was too much.
They did not scoff. They did not sneer. They even seemed to offer the kind of Gallic pity normally extended to those allergic to wine or foie gras. But the ultimate outcome was clear. There was no room for Pharisees in their church. I had been mocked in Montreal and teased in Toronto but here in Paris I was doomed to go barefoot.
I am home now but one cannot undo an epiphany. I must respond. Will I do so with bitter tears? Perhaps, and I may add to that loud wails. However, I will go further. I will also do what so many have done before me when they uncovered evidence that society had deliberately and with malice targeted and maligned their Otherness.
I will accept the fact that I have done nothing wrong, that I do not deserve this treatment, that I need not feel shame. I will remember that a strangely dressed lady came to me in a dream to tell me I was born this way.
I will have justice. I will demand my rights. I will step forward knowing in my heart what the down-trodden have always known.
Somewhere out there, there is someone I can sue!