Wednesday, February 01, 2012

When words are more than just words

The lights are dim and the music's thumping as she enters the building.  She works her way through the crowds tightly clutching the hand of her date.  Excitement builds as they wind their way to the dance floor.  She smiles knowing the DJ will play their favorite tune and they'll soon be dancing the night away.  Bonus! She's wearing her a new pair of strappy high heeled sandals and she knows they looks good.



They stop as the couple in front of them  pauses to sip drinks and survey the dance floor. While they're waiting she sees a woman point at her feet.  She sees the woman whisper something to her friend and thinks they must be admiring her new shoes.  Until they both burst out laughing and declare loudly "look at her ugly feet!" and walk away still giggling.

Suddenly she no longer feels like dancing. She feels embarrassed. As if everyone in that crowded bar was laughing at her feet.  She stays seated most of the night with her feet tucked beneath her chair, hidden from view.  She can hardly wait to get home.

And when she does the beautiful new sandals will be placed in their box.  Where they will remain, unworn, a reminder of the cruel laughter.


Yes,  I was the young woman who was on the receiving end of that laughter.  Until that moment I hadn't given my feet much thought.  They were just feet.  And they worked pretty darn good.  They walked miles. They danced ballet. They played sports.

But that comment was just words, right?

Yes, but those words were spoken at a time in my life when I was vulnerable.  Those words caused me to look at myself in a new light.

As I looked around I realized my feet did look different from other people's feet.  My second toe is longer than my big toe.  Yikes! I thought to myself. How could I have never noticed this before.  No wonder they said my feet were ugly.  

Turns out it's actually not that uncommon - it's called Morton's Toe or the Greek Foot.  There's an interesting post about The Greek Foot on Manolo's Shoe Blog if you're interested.

But I didn't know that at the time and I allowed those words to sink deep inside and wound me. I accepted them as truth.

Whenever possible I refused to wear sandals and open toed shoes for years.  And when I did I was always uncomfortable, waiting for someone to point and laugh.  

Need some proof?  Peel off the cover of that shoe box and you'll find a pair of sandals designed for dancing the night away.   But the soles are unmarked as they never touched a dance floor.


Those words, spoken in a crowded dance club years ago, still cause me to pause when I'm out shopping for shoes.  Just ask my daughter - who tells me all the time that I'm being silly because no one cares.  And in my head I know it's true, but my heart refuses to let those words and laughter fade completely away.

Words.

They're powerful.


I'm ashamed to admit this, but yes, there were times I spoke knowing the words I choose would hurt. Yet the words still left my mouth.  And I'm sure there were times I did it unknowingly.


As I continue to learn and grow I want to use my words to encourage others, not to tear them down.

And someday I'll wear a strappy high heeled sandals and not think twice about a comment tossed my way so long ago. 

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This post was written as an assignment for a fabulous online course I'm taking - Build a Blog You Truly Love aka BBTL.  It is part of a blog hop at Liv Lane's Choosing Beauty Blog. 
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31 comments:

  1. Oh Sharon,I can only imagine how awful that made you feel, words that cut so deeply that they hurt years later, and still influence your decisions. People can be so cruel.
    I have been reminded today by the amazing group of women in our class that words used to hurt are about the person using them, not the person they are directed at.
    You should listen to your daughter! Think about it; what young woman would allow her mother to appear in an unacceptable manner? It's just not going to happen!
    I am so glad that you got your post in; I would have hated to miss it!
    xo, Anita

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    1. Anita thank you. We do indeed have an amazing group of women in our class - I am sooo glad I signed up for the course! My daughter has been telling me for years that I'm being silly, but this post was the first time she had heard the story in its entirely. Now she says she understands, but I'm still being silly :-)

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  2. I'm so sorry about that painful experience. I've been there, not with my feet but with my hair, which was much harder to hide! When I hit puberty my slightly wavy hair went very curly. Some of the kids in high school called me "pubic hair head" (clever, right? *eyeroll*) and it's been really hard to love my curly locks ever since.

    For what it's worth, I also have the "Greek foot," and my husband has it to the extent that even his third toe is longer than his big toe. I happen to believe it is an indicator of quality in the person who bears such noble toes. :)

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    1. Oh Lori! What a horrible thing for them to say about your beautiful hair!

      Thanks for sharing about you and your husband having "Greek" feet too!

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  3. Oh sweetie! What mean girls. Two of my toes on each foot are partially webbed though tbh this isn't that obvious when wearing sandals. What I loved was when I discovered my father, brother and niece all have this, and its a little family thing.

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    1. Oh thanks! That's interesting that you all have the same thing with your feet. I discovered that Morton's toe is usually heredity - sure enough, I have my father's feet. And I also have one amazing dad!

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  4. Whatever it is you're learning in that online course you're taking, keep doing it! Your opening sentence made me fly on over here from Blog Reader, and your words held my attention all the way through - beautifully written piece!

    I suspect that we've all been in our own version of your story...and on both sides of the coin, to one degree or another. Years ago a wise person said these words to me, and they stuck: "You may not always be able to choose what happens to you, but you always have a choice about how you react to it." May we make thoughtful choices, and remember that yesterday's choices don't need to be the same today.....or tomorrow :)

    Oh, something another wise friend told me years ago, is that longer second toe is known as a "Royal Toe", and it is indeed a sign of regal heritage. I'm perfectly happy with my Royal Toes - bare those toes with pride, beautiful lady!

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  5. I know what you felt Sharon. Thanks for a great and so well written post.

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  6. This was truly an AWESOME post!

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  7. Great post, now pull on the HEELS!! Rise above it and don't allow ONE person to take away that first feeling you had when you pulled on those strappy heels. You have allowed her to take control, now its your turn to grab it back and run (in heels) Jealous people look for imperfections to make them selves feel better and NO-ONE is perfect I think putting this out there you have already said to yourself you are ready to take back control and live your life in HEELS. You have one chance at life, so live it the way that makes YOU happy. Next blog post....you will be rockin the HEELSxx

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  8. How petty and empty minded these women were - I hope they have grown up now(and perhaps have bunions now !) . I agree with KIndred Spirits - find an opportunity to wear your special heels with pride.

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  9. I know exactly where you're coming from - in high school a friend (!) told me a sang like an elephant. I am still very self conscious about singing if anyone is within earshot. My sisters, dad and myself have the same feet as yours. I quite like the idea that it's a family link - I'll have to tell them to call their feet either Greek or Royal.
    Lovely post. :)

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    1. Some friend! Oh I have a story about my singing ability also ... and I can relate to you about feeling very self conscious about singing.

      I also like that we have royal feet :-)

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  10. We all have had those moments haven't we ? Mine was grade 1, my teacher was selecting kids for a choir (for fun, mind you, not competition) and I didn't make it - how on earth do you tell a 5 year old she's not good enough for a choir that will never leave the classroom ? It definitely colored how I thought of her (and myself) after that.

    Wear the shoes, they're really pretty !

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    1. That is a very sad story - why on earth would a teacher of all people tell a 5 year old she couldn't be in choir! Yikes!

      Thanks for sharing that story with us.

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  11. People can be so cruel. (Especially girls of a certain age, for some reason.) I do hope that you can let this go and try on those shoes again - and perhaps go dancing.

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  12. Very inspirational post. Thanks for sharing a very painful memory. Words are so very powerful and they do stick with us. I know you will go forward using your words for good - you already do on the blog. g

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  13. debbie ellison10:52 AM

    Sharon,

    It is very hard when we receive hurtful comments, I think we are alot a like because we are
    sensitive and want people to like us. I think you are a wonderful person and very creative. I do miss seeing you! I'm learning as you are that we have to let hurtful words fall off of us. The enemy
    wants to see us hurt. I know it's so very hard. I love your blog your doing.

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  14. Sharon, thank you for opening an old and painful memory so we could learn from your experience. I know everyone has been the recipient of hurtful words, and I suspect everyone has spoken some themselves...but that does not lessen the hurt.

    I taught junior high for 30 years-some people never develop past that mindset.

    from another Morton's foot, Mary

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  15. Oh my. What a moving post....

    They *were* just words to those girls, but caused a lifetime of hurt to you. What a shame. Says so much about them, doesn't it. How do you move past that, to totally forget/erase that memory? I don't know. We all have them, I guess.

    I was totally bullied in school about my clothes, and am still very touchy about my clothes. The bully recently died, and everyone was saying what a kind person she was, so considerate, would help anyone, etc. etc. All I could think was: Not to me. She caused pain that will last the rest of my life.

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  16. Sharon, I can relate. I have the same type of toes. My high school friend made fun of my toes, she called them "finger toes". every where we went, she had to make sure she pointed them out to everyone so everyone can have a good laugh.
    It's harsh on what people can say, sometimes they don't realize how cruel they can be. It's a very touching post... and I'm glad that you shared it with us.

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  17. Wow, I guess everybody's gone through SOMETHING like this, but it reminds me of one of my own relatives who is deeply bothered that she has this same condition (if that's the proper word to use here). So I have my father's nose, but things could be so much worse than THAT, couldn't they?! Oh, I agree, words can leave a terrible scar; so I guess that "golden rule" is still, and always will be, the best way to go. Treat/"do unto" others as YOU would like to be treated/to have "done unto you"!... Great post! ~tina

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  18. Great post and words do cut deep sometimes. I know they slipped out on me and hurt when they fell on others ears. Always makes me sad when that happens as I know how words can hurt as they've fallen on my ears. Thank you for bravely sharing!

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  19. At the tender age of forty five (yeah forty five) everyday I am telling myself to let the law of kindness be on my lips. Straight out of Proverbs. Words can be so powerful, as you have just shared. Step over those words, choose to give grace to yourself and go dancing in a great pair of sandals.

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  20. Great post! I'm so glad you linked up. I love the perspective in which you told your story. I, too, have been on the receiving end of many mean comments. I was very overweight growing up. There were some very rough elementary/middle school years.

    I ran across this quote today, and it really resonated with me:

    "The first to apologize is the bravest, the first to forgive is the strongest, and the first to forget is the happiest."

    I think it rings true, but I always have to remind myself.

    May our words always inspire and not tear down.

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  21. Anonymous9:04 PM

    I love it. I didn't know you had a blog. And I bet your feet look simply beautiful in those pretty pretty dance shoes. Wear them for our next social. WOW!! You are a talented lady, and I am so happy to know you, you soon to be a Zumba Instructor too.
    BTW- my second toe is bigger than my first too - welcome to the Morton's club :) It was until quite recently, I think from some movie or something that I realized that the Morton's is not the norm. Anyway, we are too special to follow the norm in every way! :)

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  22. Anonymous9:04 PM

    I love it. I didn't know you had a blog. And I bet your feet look simply beautiful in those pretty pretty dance shoes. Wear them for our next social. WOW!! You are a talented lady, and I am so happy to know you, you soon to be a Zumba Instructor too.
    BTW- my second toe is bigger than my first too - welcome to the Morton's club :) It was until quite recently, I think from some movie or something that I realized that the Morton's is not the norm. Anyway, we are too special to follow the norm in every way! From:Naseema :)

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  23. I'm in the Morton's club too! I had girls say mean things to me at school, not about my toes but other parts of my anatomy! Their comments have stayed with me in adulthood, as have the feelings of hurt I experienced at the time. I understand how hard it is to let go of that hurt and be proud of all of who we are. Your blog post today really mvoed me. Em x

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  24. I have Morton's toe, too. I never gave it a thought actually. I live in sandals and open-toed shoes. But I do know how mean words can hurt and carry with you for a long time. I grew up poor and a bit on the chubby side, and other girls at school did say mean things to me. But once I got out of high school and went to college, it never happened again. I was never what I would call 'popular' but neither did I strive to be.
    However, now I love going back to my high school reunions, because I look fantastic compared to those once slim, once pretty, now fat and dumpy mean girls. When I go back home, I come away feeling like there truly is justice.

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  25. Anonymous1:06 AM

    It is also called a Celtic toe, because it is a sign of Celtic heritage. According to my genealogist father, the big toe is actually short (that's the mark of the Celt) rather than the second toe being long. I like my Celtic feet--what a great reminder of my heritage. I used to date an Italian man who had really long big toes. I wonder if there is a Sicilian toe (lol)?

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