High Maintenance

It's not fair. My husband's feet are perfect: smooth, pink, no cracks in the heels, no rough spots along the edges. Just feet. Mine, on the other hand, are almost frightening. My heels are nothing but cracks, peeling and dry. There are calluses on both my big toes and on the ball of my left foot, just where I put the most pressure when I'm fencing. Even the bottoms of my feet are horrible to look at, a spider's web of cracks and dried skin.

Sometimes, as last night, I put lotion on my feet before I go to bed and cover my feet with socks. When I wake up, my feet are significantly improved: pinker and not so overtly cracked; the calluses softened a bit so that I can smooth them away. But the lotion makes my feet slippery for when I am doing my yoga, meaning I would seem to have to choose between having smooth feet on the one hand and a sure grip on my mat in Trikonasana and Adho Mukha Svanasana on the other. Nor is this a temporary condition that I might cure by putting lotion on my feet every night for, say, a month. As soon as I stop, within a day or so my feet are back to their old, pre-lotioned state, cracked, peeling, sore.

I'm sure there's a metaphor in here somewhere. Last night at fencing practice, I was working on something that my coach has told me I do consistently wrong, i.e. not keeping my arm extended as I make my attacks but rather pulling back even as I step in. I am somewhat aware of what he is describing, but what (I think) I think I am doing is beating my opponent's blade and then trying to pull away so that he or she cannot counter beat before I finish. My coach is right, however; it doesn't work, not the way I am doing it, in any case.

So there I was, trying to keep my arm out; trying not to pull away even when my opponent beat my blade; trying to keep my arm extended so as to be in position to counter his beat or parry his attack. And, indeed, it worked--to an extent. Although I did seem to be able to get certain parries that I remember having difficulty catching before, on the whole I was much too conscious of having to hold my arm out, never dropping my elbow, never "winding up" for a longer attack. I felt awkward and stupid, unable to move properly or think about anything other than holding my arm. And if I did try to do something else--move my blade a bit more or work on my footwork--my arm would be right back to its old habits, pulling back and losing whatever advantage I might, momentarily, have had.

I won't say that other fencers don't have this particular problem; I've seen them, some do. But not all of them, certainly none of the ones I was fencing last night. So, here's the question: did they have the problem before and just work on it or is their fencing like my husband's feet, unproblematic (at least with respect to keeping their arm out) from the get-go? I have never once seen my husband put lotion on his feet, so unless he is doing it in secret, I have to conclude that cracked heels simply aren't a problem for him. He has never had them and probably never will. I, on the other hand, have always had them, even when I was younger and unless I put lotion on them absolutely every night, they will be with me for the rest of my life.

I'm not sure what to think about all of this. It seems whiny and unobservant to suppose that other people just have an easier time learning to fence than I do, such that things that I have to work at for years, they are never even conscious of having to learn. On the other hand, there are my feet. If I want them to look like my husband's, I really will have to take care of them more than he does his. Only constant vigilance--not to mention a life-time supply of lotion--will keep them anywhere near as smooth and pink as his, and even then it is unlikely, given what I've seen of them these past 43 years, that they will ever be entirely free of cracks.

Perhaps there is some form of laser surgery that could deal with my feet. But I don't think that that is the lesson here. It will do me no good to be jealous of my husband's feet. I suspect he never thinks about them one way or the other (at least, not before reading this post!). I, however, have been given feet with cracks and nothing I do, other than putting lotion on them every night, will change that. So, I guess I put lotion on them and practice yoga in my socks. Either that or live with the cracks. The one thing I do know is how comforting it felt to rub the lotion into them last night. Which, if you think about it, is probably why I have cracks in my feet and he doesn't.


  1. You're right -- I never do think about my feet. To the extent that I think about feet at all, I think about yours (which are cute). Thinking about feet in general, my observation is that women are more worried by feet than men; cultural or genetics?

  2. it puts the lotion on!!
    sorry, sorry.


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