Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fall Barefooting

It's been too long since I wrote a blog entry. Something about putting to bed a 5-year long has a tendency to juggle your priorities a bit. But here I am.

So, I wanted to get on here to talk a bit about the "fall" season for barefooting. It's definitely one of the most interesting times of the year for a barefooter. While the rest of the people around me are donning heavy coats, insulated socks and waterproof knee-high boots, I'm splashing in rain puddles, collecting pine needles on my soles and leaving wet barefoot prints everywhere I go.

Although I tremendously enjoy all those wonderful things about barefooting through the falling leaves and the first cool rains in September and October, no other time of year is as isolating to a barefooter. The primary reason for this is that it shines a spotlight on how much of an "outsider" we are, when we don't follow along with the rest of society by "sensibly" encasing our feet in extra layers of protection as the temperatures drop and the drops start falling from the clouds.

Every year, from October to December, is without a doubt when I get 90% of the comments about my feet. "Aren't your feet cold?" being the hands-down favorite around here. To which the answer is: Yes. But my hands and head get colder. I never feel cold enough to wear anything over my face, and I wear gloves way more than I wear shoes. Also, your feet actually do adapt to the temperatures and so long as you keep your core warm, you can handle most common temperature changes. We're actually quite resilient in this area, from the heat of summer asphalt to the cold of snow and ice...we can cover a pretty broad spectrum. But most people make a lot of assumptions about the inferiority of their own bodies to adapt.

In the past week, I've had three complete strangers make comments about my lack of footwear, when in the past six months I heard not a thing. It takes a certain kind of strength to be different from everyone else. And although I tend to think that I'm not really that bothered by what other people think, I'd be lying if I claimed that it didn't still have an impact. Even when the comments are mostly neutral and/or benign, as is most often the case with Seattle natives, you can still feel singled out. And no, I'm not asking for this kind of attention because I am barefoot. In all honesty, I'd much prefer that people didn't even notice. I'm barefoot because it's just a part of who I am. Although strictly speaking, it is a choice I make, to me there is no other choice. In my view, it's as unchangeable as the color of my skin or the shape of my eyes.

But human beings are, by our very natures, a social species. So straying from the norm, and deliberately setting yourself up for possible ridicule and misunderstandings is not something that should be overlooked, even by those of us who have always danced to the beat of our own drum. I'm thankful that I've been fortunate enough to have been surrounded in my life with thoughtful and supportive friends and family. I've read numerous stories from other barefooters about how shunned they've felt by those that claimed to love them, but then tried to shame them into conform by putting shoes on because it's "proper".

The bottom line is that this is both my favorite time of year, and my most dreaded time of year, to be barefoot. My feet are happy and mind and my heart are on edge waiting for the inevitable drive-by comment from the next "concerned citizen".

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