“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”
~~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
So when I broke up with my first husband and we were in the process of making the transition from spouse to…whatever we were to become—I was happy to see that it looked like we were going to be one of those rare couples (or ex-couples) who were going to be able to be friends. I immediately felt myself loving him again—as a human being—because I didn’t have to worry anymore what he was up to or what he was doing. And he treated me better than he had in years. It was shockingly nice.
D asked me not to tell anyone that we were over. I think it was because he hoped to win me back. If he had wanted that, he should have done something about four to five years earlier—when I was done, I was done. It was long too late for reconciliation, at least one that would have made us a couple again.
Then to both our surprises, we both found someone new before the year ended (I broke up with “D” in July of 2000). The official—to the public—breakup was announced. And then, for some reason, D began to hate me.
One of the last things he said to me, while in the process of moving out, was this little…well…snide comment about how he wouldn’t have to look at my feet anymore. That they were ugly.
I was shocked. I don’t know why. I don’t know why I cared. But it hurt. It stung deeply. I couldn’t figure out why the thought my feet were ugly. His were far less attractive than mine. Weirdly narrow and extremely pale with very long toes and odd nails. Not ugly—but far from beautiful.
So why did his comment hurt? I am not sure. Partially I think it is because that for him to say such a thing, he had obviously been thinking it for a very long time and it had just sorta fallen out of his mouth and all I could think of was, How long has he hated my feet?.
I let it go…or thought I did. But then now and again, through these fifteen years, his words would rise up out of the dark, like a “ugly” black gloppy bubble in the Les Bre Tarpit. I would tell myself that my feet not ugly, not matter what he said, and that it was just a mean comment. And why the hell did I care what he thought of my feet. Why did I care what such a hurtful unscrupulous man thought of my feet?
But still…every now and then it would happen. Bloop!
Do I have ugly feet?
Then last night, during circle at Midwest Men’s Festival—it was one of the two times we all meet each day to discuss needs and business and more—I was looking casually around the room at my brothers. I was struck with that fact that most were in a near state of undress—the temperatures that last few days were in the nineties so it was necessary—and all were either barefoot or wearing shoes like sandals and flip flops. I saw none of these men were hiding their imperfections. Their narrow chests, their heavy bellies, their scars…or their less than perfect feet.
I found myself staring at all the feet. The young and middle-aged and old. The huge and the tiny, the wide and the narrow, the scarred and the scabbed (those pesky chiggers!) and the well pedicured and those nails that were “old.” The older we get as humans, sometimes those nails get thick and yellowed.
I noticed the men who had painted their toenails in joyful celebration of rejected what the world said a man should to his nails—or any other part of him or his body or his “look.”
And I felt something let go….
I don’t have ugly feet, I thought. I don’t. I do not.
Everyone of us has whatever they have and who is it that has the right to judge and qualify what is ugly and what is not? I was strangely near tears. I felt a tremendous love for my brothers—no matter what the heck their feet looked like.
And I knew I had what some other people didn’t have.
Self love, and a love for my brothers, no matter their age, shape or size.
Our feet were great equalizers. And it was wonderful!
And so now I go out to day, feet exposed, for anyone to see. Something else too.
My heart. Look everyone. Here it is. For you.
PS: I do not have ugly feet.