The thing about my feet is that I love them. They are the most capable feet I have ever possessed, and they’re a part of me I thought I rather shamelessly admired.

My feet do not conform to any western beauty standards. I don’t apply nail polish to them and only sometimes do I shave off the four to five dark hairs that sprout from my big toes after a good night’s sleep. I tend toward an inherited pair of bunions, and my left little toenail doesn’t really grow in at all, appearing as a Plutonian crescent orbiting the outskirts of my lower cosmos.

It’s no surprise, then, that my splendid feet do not lend themselves well to being photographed. Once (and only once) did I post a photo of them gleefully beach planted on the socials, to which a friend unknowingly replied ‘those man feet’ plus derisive emoji. She had assumed the hefty hooves belonged to my then-husband.

When I was growing up in 1990’s America, we were exposed to all kinds of visual patterning that parents are diligently working to deprogram out of kids today. I read all those magazines and absorbed their glossy pictures, and I got the standard right away. I knew the term ‘heroin chic’ suggested something life-destroying, but somehow its perfect homonym—heroine—infiltrated the mix, and I came to regard this impossible thinness as something approaching superhero status.

You could never be thin enough, glamorous enough, nihilistic enough. You could never be enough enough by not being at all. But God did we ever try. We starved ourselves and still our bodies rebelled. We restricted and binged, playing with that edge, and most of us eventually (fortunately) emerged as our general shapes and sizes anyway, chonky feet and all.

We were taught to fear our own bodies under the false promise that this would lead to us loving them. It was intense, and now in my forties I’m grateful to have put his behind me.

For the most part.

This idea that I was maybe actually truly supposed to be thin right down to my feet has continued to niggle at me from time to time. It once dominated almost every decision I made from wardrobe choices to whether or not I felt worthy of speaking up in public. It sat with me at every meal and it infiltrated my dreams. For something so hell bent on deprivation, this idea had a surprising solidity.

It’s not like that anymore.

Because you can only give so many fucks about your pants size, and because I have felt the body hatred draining out of me over the years, seeping into Mother Earth, that magical composter of all waste, I have mostly believed I was over it.

Looking at this photo of said feet that I have included here for review, I’m realizing there’s a little self-denial still trapped in them. It might be the lens that does it—that layer between the seeing and what is seen. In this photo I am looking at my feet through something other than my own loving gaze. I am wondering what you will think of them.

That’s what was happening with all those Vogues and Harpers Bazaars. I took in the models through an externalized filter, which I then internalized and directed at their nearest approximation: me. I still believe those photos were designed to create this kind of response in their young audience, but I don’t have to respond that way anymore.

So, here is a photo of my feet. Taken by me, of me, and for me, and celebrating what my feet like to do most. Plunge in! Show us off! they say. Even if no one gets it. Share your delight in having a body so perfectly finished by we!

And give up the ghost already so we can really get to runnin’.