birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

My Slim Flippers

An employee at a comfort shoe store recently told me while pointing at two display walls: “Well, hardly any of these would work for you.” The other two employees nodded. I then sincerely thanked them all for confirming my opinions and understanding my tricky feet.

My first foot disappointment was met in ballet class. After several years I had worked up to pointe class but had to quit because the tender toes on the end of my slim flippers just would not be balled up with lambswool and then stood, stomped, and spun upon. I would watch the other girls jam their sturdy, muscular feet, sometimes bloodied and blistered, into those firm pink slippers, and I knew my toes had a divergent destiny.

As a young adult, I envisioned a look for myself that could be called “Amsterdam in the springtime.” I wore a neon-red trench coat, cropped royal blue pants, and went sockless in smart, black clogs with a chic heel. The slope of the wedge had my long, skinny feet skiing to a hard stop at the front end of those dang clogs, crumpling my defenseless toes all spring and into summertime. I had to give up the clogs because of serious foot and leg pain.

I figured out better shoes to wear, mostly sneakers and oxfords with good arch support. But after years of frustration with my strict shoe universe, I allowed an inspiring Nordstrom saleswoman to sell me gorgeous, expensive, made-in-Spain, too-high sandals. I went and danced in those pretty stilts at a wedding reception, and the balls of my feet were intensely troubled for two days. I should have returned them, but I still have them.

Running would be the next thing to max out my feet. When training for a half-marathon, I tore something deep inside my arch. It was an unpopular injury that only my doctor and physical therapist could ever name or explain. The sports medicine doctor said, “some people aren’t built for running.” I didn't let my feet hear that. Rest, stretching, exercise, and several therapeutic massages had me back on the road months later.

These dang feet of mine are hard for fitting, fashion, and fitness. But they work with the right care. I do not intend to stop using them. And fortunately I have had enough money to throw at my problems. It's been expensive. At this rate there will be many, many more challenges foot-wise, but I’m lucky to be living in the golden age of solutions for tedious, difficult feet. Oh, what a time to be alive!


Lack of Integrity