Dear People Who Comment on My Bare Feet:
I've been running into more and more of you lately. At first, I thought this was going to just be a thing I'd keep shrugging off with a polite smile, but a few lines have been crossed, and I'd like to clear the air.
Personally, I prefer to keep it light. I'd like to just let you feel free to work your own shit out in whatever ways you need. But you're working it out on me. In front of my kid. It's not working.
First of all, I can sniff out what my therapist calls a "kiss-slap" like the best of them. I can hear how your tone doesn't match your words. Like when you say, "Wow, you're barefoot on this trail? I could never do that!" I know the times when you're really celebrating this little feat of mine and the times when you're letting me in on a little something I'm doing wrong. I get it. I can tell. I know you know, too.
I'm not actually worried about this passive-aggressive tact. I'll take cues from my six year old and just respond as though we're on the same page: "I know! It's amazing! I have such strong feet!" That way, we're both sure we're heard.
But lately, I've been encountering a new kind of line-crossing and it's time we nip this in the bud. This is what I've heard from a few of you:
"You need to put shoes on."
Do I? Do I need to put shoes on? Because you said so?
Let me paint a really detailed picture for you:
I'm a grown-ass woman.
Now, really, that's all I should need to say. But I know we're living in a culture in which lots of people feel that it's cool to tell a woman what to do with her body, so hearing that I'm an adult female might not actually MEAN anything to you. In case that's you, I'll go ahead an enumerate a few things that might help.
1. I'm the one who gets to be in charge of my body. Because I am the person with this body.
2. I am competent at taking care of this body (Exhibit A: my bare feet).
3. I am an adult and what I am doing is harming no one and nothing, so we're going to have to draw on a bit of the ol' live-and-let-live sensibility.
4. I notice you don't tell my husband to put shoes on. You might want to notice that, too.
5. I am unwilling to have my kid thinking power over women is normal, beneficial or tolerable. I will have to call out behavior that gives that impression and name it for what it is, even if it so happens that you're the face that goes with that name.
6. I probably know more about foot health than you do. (This point is actually irrelevant because of ALL THE OTHER POINTS.)
I imagine there's some anxiety that is brought up in you when you see me and my family out and about in our bare feet. Maybe you've been told that you're going to get sick if you have bare feet. Maybe you had a really painful injury when you were once barefoot. Maybe you had a doctor tell you that you need to wear supportive shoes for good alignment. Maybe you have a very narrow idea of what it means to be feminine and strong feet that go unshod in dirt isn't a part of the picture.
I love sharing about why I choose to be barefooted as often as possible. And why I choose not to be plenty of other times. I've spent a lot of time thinking about and researching foot health, parasites, rattlesnake bites, callouses, whole body alignment and natural movement. I've had my share of splinters and goatheads and scrapes from rocks, and I've also walked just fine across shards of glass and logs and mossy river rocks. My whole being is better for the time I am able to spend on our beautiful earth without shoes. I suppose I could tell you that YOU need to take your shoes off. But I won't, because your body is your body and I trust you to take care of your body. Plus, you didn't ask me for my advice.
If you see me out and about and I'm barefoot, I'd like you to know: It's okay. I'm okay.
And when you feel the impulse to tell me to put shoes on, I'd like you to know that I don't actually want to hear it. Please hold your tongue. We'll all be the better for it.
P.S. We all need to go it together. That's where the magic happens, especially when we're swimming upstream. If you want to swim upstream with a small group of women for the next nine months (only a few spots left), head here!