Imagine. You are at a shoe store. You see the most beautiful pair of shoes. They are open-toed, spectacular and also well-made. Despite the price, you even have the money to buy them. However, you don’t bother trying them on, there is no point. And so, on to the next pair. These are nice and sturdy, and because they are ankle boots in the smallest size available, you know it might be worth a shot. The sales clerk notices you, offering to help. You smile, but refuse. Again, there is no point. She can’t give you what you need. You casually look around to see whether anyone is watching, then grab some extra white paper from the box, stuffing the top of the shoe. Never sure of how much to place inside, you do your best. As you slide your small foot into the first shoe, you note there is too much “stuffing.” You wait until no one is around to notice, and then swiftly remove 1/3 of the paper. Success! You move on to the next shoe, stuffing in hand, as long as no one is looking, and repeat your routine. With both pair on your feet, you stand-up to walk. They seem to hold your feet in, enough. The sales clerk returns. “Hi, how do they fit?” You smile again and lie. “Great, thanks. I’ll take them.” Imagine. Every time you purchase shoes, they never fit. Ever.
This past week John and I went with Ethan, Charlie and Savanna and some close family friends to the Cayman Islands for a vacation. The decision to go was quite decadent, at least for us. I can remember past breaks where the kids longed to “getaway.” Some of my past responses have included suggestions such as, “Okay, let’s go stay at a hotel in Princeton, NJ!” However, this particular break we decided to really go away.
With its crystal clear turquoise water, balmy weather and endless activities for all of us, Cayman did not disappoint. However, on this trip I disappointed myself. I have described how far I’ve come, urging all to flaunt, rather than hide or be embarrassed of their own difference, or simply what makes someone unique. However, the minute I entered the beach at Cayman, I felt self-conscious about baring my feet. On the first day I even kept my “pool” shoes on. Although as time progressed I began to I relax a bit, I remained reluctant to walk freely at the pool or beach in front of anyone without my shoes.
Let’s face it. To walk in my shoes, every step is one of discomfort. There is little I can do to change that fact, and even if I tried to make it better, there is no ideal solution; I would fail. However, when it comes to publically displaying my bare feet, I have control. I know it is up to me to overcome my emotional discomfort. There is no perfect formula to finding the strength, the courage, to flaunt something you otherwise feel ashamed about.
At one moment I took a break from reading at the pool, and reflected on a conversation that I had recently had with a stranger named Ashley on a train. She was blonde and attractive with no observable difference. Her husband sat next to her and remarked that he thought I looked like Talia Shire, the actress who played Rocky Balboa’s wife. I chuckled. We ended up chatting and at some point I mentioned my Don’t Hide It, Flaunt it blog. Ashley then confessed to me that she had scars on her body and that she had been extremely embarrassed to wear a swimming suit in public. “You sound like you are speaking in past tense,” I responded to her. So she explained. “I was in Las Vegas with my husband having a drink at our hotel pool and was wearing a robe over my suit, fully covered. The next thing I knew, I turned around and saw a young woman with one leg making her way around the hotel in a bikini. She was confidant and energetic.” Ashley paused. “Watching her, I felt foolish about being ashamed about my scars. She gave me the confidence to remove my robe, scars and all!”
With that memory jarred, I went on a long morning walk on the beach, with my feet totally bare. I was fascinated with how small my footprint looked in the sand compared with others. Sure, some people may have stared at me, but in that moment I was not deterred. I found the strength to not hide my difference. It wasn’t based on my own self-inspired confidence, but rather at the thought that my act might encourage others to “flaunt.” Maybe it’s not the perfect reason, but perhaps it is good enough.
On the flight home I watched a 2011 movie called, “New Year’s Day.” Although mostly forgettable, (at least to me), the film had one line that instantly made me reflect. Josh Duhamel, playing the character “Sam,” posed the following question: “What would you do today if you knew you would not fail? Now go out and do it.” Given the fact that fitting into a dazzling designer shoe is only a pipe dream, flaunting my difference is actually something I can control, even achieve success in. I will continue to try to go out and do it, whenever and wherever possible, with the hope that there are others like Ashley out there who might benefit.