Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Beryl Frishtick, class of 2009, wrote "A Discourse on the Topic of Women's Enormous Foot Sizes and Society's Reluctance to Bring Said Sizes into Mainstream Shoe-Marketing" for Ms. Alsup's Senior Writing Seminar. From time to time we'll publish essays, fiction and other writing by students. All students are invited to submit their work to a teacher to be forwarded to Life and Times. Click "read more" to see the complete essay.

When I was three years old my family lived in Boston and I attended a daycare center that often took its charges on field trips around the city. More importantly, I had the loveliest pair of black Mary Janes a girl could ever wish for. They were petite, and shiny, and had graceful straps that traversed my delicate feet in just the right places. I remember one spring day in particular; I was sitting with the other children on the bank of the Charles River, watching sailboats make their way back and forth across the sparkling water. This moment plays itself over and over again in my mind not because of the gloriously sunny day, or the excitement of leaving the day-care center, or the immense amount of bird poop that had accumulated on a nearby railing. No, I remember this moment simply because of those too-good-to-be-true Mary Janes. That was a happier time, when shopping for shoes never crushed my spirits, and my feet could fit into beautiful creations that now would not even cover my big toe.

These days, my feet are colossal. They dwarf the everyday objects that surround me: a stapler, a flower vase, a Puffs Plus tissue box, a glass bottle of lemonade, even the Penguin Classics edition of War and Peace. They are not just big - they are gargantuan. I am the proprietor of the type of feet that, averaged together with two tiny shrunken feet belonging to an aristocratic 19th century Chinese woman, would probably make a pair of normal-sized feet. I think about this every night before I fall asleep.
My friends complain about wearing size eight, eight and a half, or nine shoes. Half sizes don't even EXIST where I come from: The Land of the Twelves.I haven't always belonged to this bittersweet (no, just bitter) kingdom. My progression through the Lands of Sevens, Eights, Nines, and Tens occurred too quickly for me to notice or remember anything. It was only when I fit into elevens that I started to feel peculiar about my abnormally large feet. This began when I tried to buy new shoes so I could wear them to all my friends' Bat and Bar Mitzvahs in seventh grade. I didn't understand why all my girl friends were wearing beautiful, cute, fancy strappy sandals and I was relegated to dancing the Horah in depressing brown or black pumps.

It was only later, in 8th grade and my first year of high school, that the state of my feet truly started to distress me. Before that, I hadn't cared what I wore everyday; my usual outfit was accessorized by practical, unfailing sneakers. Suddenly I was invested in how I looked, but unable to do anything about a vital aspect of it: my shoes.

What wearing size twelves means is that it is virtually impossible to walk into a shoe store, browse around, try on a pair of shoes, and fit into them. Fancy shoe stores are absolutely out of the question -- most of them cut off their product lines at size ten. When I was about eight or nine I accompanied my mother into a relatively upscale shoe store in Richmond, Virginia and had a peculiar and discouraging experience. We were perusing the size nines for my mother when I saw a middle-age woman peer into the special tiny room the store used to show their larger sizes. She held up a pair of shoes that were probably size elevens or twelves, turned to her friends, and said, "That's so sad!" This woman obviously did not belong in the back of the store; her feet were covered with fashionable and diminutive high heels. But she had felt it absolutely necessary to go out of her way and choose a pair of big shoes to pick on, and to do that under the guise of expressing her pity for the women who would be forced to wear those shoes. I was young, but I remember feeling confused, angry, and insulted. If I ever see that woman again, I will fill my purple Converse All-Stars with rocks and throw them at her. Due to my "sad" large feet, I should be able to stuff in a couple of good-sized boulders.

Fancy shoe stores aside, Payless Shoestore is the only establishment where I ever have any sort of luck with this frustrating aspect of my life, but since it contains the words "pay" and "less" in its name, you know the quality can"t be that spectacular. In truth, my respect for Payless has diminished increasingly in the past month due to a horrifying and thought-provoking experience I underwent at the company"s franchise in the Mall of New Hampshire. This incident speaks volumes about the hell through which our society puts women with big feet.

On average, this shoe store's cheap but reliable stock can be counted on for including about twenty to thirty pairs of shoes in my size. (Granted, most of them are so ugly or outlandish that no one would buy them. Speaking of which, I'd like to point out that the higher the size climbs, the lower the Pretty Index drops. Grandma Moses with size twelve feet may want to buy black and white knock-off looking Velcro sneakers, but I certainly do not!) I walked into this Payless with lofty hopes and my head held high, but, lo and behold, there was only ONE COLUMN of size twelves. That means about six shoe pairs that would fit my feet, never mind how they looked. It broke my heart, right there under the fluorescent lights and huge signs advertising cute shoe and handbag matches. I immediately retrieved my cell phone and used it to make a thirty-five second video documenting the atrocities to which I am subjected in this cruel world.