Feet

30 Aug

Growing up, my mother was assiduous, even leaning to the fanatic, about the state of my sister’s and my feet. We had, essentially, two pairs of shoes a year: one for everyday, the second for Sunday school and the very occasional party and holiday. The former were Ground Grippers, the latter, black patent usually, brand unremembered. I used to whine periodically for the chance to wear the black ones to school.

Every mid-late August there was a trip to Fresno where we visited a Ground Gripper store, small, narrow, midway along the shopping center on the east side. One put one’s foot into a metal contraption with various markings
belonging to the mold into which the results were poured, molten, then
cooled. A flange operated forward and back measuring the length of the foot. I think the flange also possessed something for the width.

From this operation, the salesman made his selection from the storeroom; I think he calculated the choice to include growth. The choice was invariably chestnut color,becoming the object of periodic polishings over the next year. I found them ugly, unappetizing, but wore them at least through the eighth grade. I just don’t remember when I branched out. But I do remember Mother telling me when I complained that ladies in Boston had them made in blue satin to wear to the opera.

In college, I wore a variety of shoes, flirting with high heels even before I got
my high school diploma; I also tried wedges out for size. Somehow, Mother’s
doctrine held fast. Capezio’s fashion became a norm for me, their small heel
quite consistent with ease of movement; later I saved money to buy Ferragamo
flats when the crepe soles were still part of the company’s repertoire.

My introduction to zoris, or what now are called flip-flops, started in India with ahmisa thong sandals, constructed from dead animal hide, rather than a living one slaughtered for meat and hide. The thong itself never was too strong, but in that heat Indians probably navigate more effectively. Their traditional pattern is something I admire, though exposure to backless slippers have converted me to what are called slides in catalogs.

About two or three years ago, Dan Henry, the Pilates instructor at the Buchanan Street YMCA in San Francisco, mentioned to me use of flip-flops provides no arch support; I remembered, looking at pictures of Ghandi with his walking staff and supported by followers, not only had he bowed legs, but noticeably pronated ankles.It seems, since the millennium, perhaps even before, the widespread use of flip-flops has leaped beyond the beach, swimming pool and shower to weekend, even daily wear, particularly for young women with shapely legs and nicely manicured toes, closely seconded by young men. This summer, the practice, from observation on MUNI buses, has crossed languages. Almost frequently, these coverings from asphalt and cement, finish off a pair of short, short tights, occasionally covering voluptuous hips.

I look at this sartorial habit with mixed emotions – astonished that my training, gloves, hats and Ground Grippers on San Francisco streets – was so narrowly practiced, particularly the GG part, that the dress code has “relaxed” to where fleshly sag and feet nearly bare are so publicly practiced. The other item to astonish me even more is watching well-dressed women, en route to work or an appointment, apply mascara or reapply lipstick as if MUNI substitutes for the bathroom mirror.

Somehow, this intimacy, like extended cell phone conversations with anger, relationships with failed commitments spoken at unmiked, auditorium delivery
volume, strikes me as unnecessary for collective ears. I wonder, like those
flip-flops, whether modern technology has blunted sensitivity to others, for all the frequent discussions and writings on relationships.

Admittedly, I am outdated, and should get used to it. But I also wanted to record the differences, to go on notice that I am grateful for my Mother’s insistence on those Ground Grippers. I am minus fallen arches and can walk some distance without fatigue, if I do huff and puff on the hills.

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