Blisters on My Feet

October 20, 2022

Graphic by Emma George

Blistered and covered in welts, I ruin my feet wearing fashionable shoes because I would rather look pretty than stay comfortable.

The first blisters formed when I began wearing Converse shoes. Around that time, I started to really pay attention to my appearance. I wasn’t good at makeup or building outfits, but I was making an effort.

Freshman year of high school consisted of tops from Ross and Converse shoes that pinched my toes. Everything around me was intimidating. I wanted to be noticed, to be liked by people. And so I would talk with just about anyone who approached me.

He was a guy from class. We had been talking and eventually got to the subject of appearances. He paused, formed the words, and then quickly retracted them.

“What?” I inquired, smiling at him.

He blushed, embarrassed at what he was going to say. “It’s nothing, don’t worry about it.”

“No, tell me. I want to know. I have to know now,” I said, insistent and still smiling. He looked at me again and I knew he was going to give in.

“Okay, fine. But, like, I don’t mean this in an offensive way… but, like…” he paused, trying to figure out how to word it correctly, “You don’t look bad for a fat person, you know?”

“Oh,” I said, and my smile faltered. “Yeah… I get what you’re saying. Thank you.”

A few weeks ago, I wore my new shoes to campus. They’re Mary Jane platform heels: glossy in the sunlight and perfect with crew socks. Everyone needed to see these shoes in combination with the outfits I deemed worthy of their company.

I wore them on a Monday and walked 20 minutes from my apartment to campus, smiling through the pain. However, as the day progressed, the pain beneath my toes only grew larger. The familiar clack, clack, clack of my steps against the floor began to mock me for my efforts. It shouted for everyone to come stare and gawk at the fool who decided to wear heels to class. I failed at looking cute; I was just looking stupid. And my feet hurt.

I returned humbly to my apartment and crumbled to the floor. Demon shoes; they had completely killed my feet. I removed them gingerly and peeled off my socks to examine the damage. For shoes so pretty, so wonderful, and so attractive, they were covering something excruciatingly ugly. I stared at the largest blisters I’ve ever received in my life, astounded that I let this happen to me.

Graphic by Emma George

I’ve always had an obsession with shoes. It’s the one thing I’ll always buy more of. My obsession therefore fuels the ever-lasting presence of blisters on my feet because I would rather look pretty than stay comfortable.

The betrayal of my Mary Jane platforms reminds me that this habit of mine is unhealthy and goes beyond just shoes. I refuse to wear shorts in the summer — I’d rather suffer in the heat than have my thighs exposed. Tank-tops are always accompanied with a cover-up to account for my arms. And my tummy is never to be seen, not even a slip of it.

I’m working on the way that I see myself and the way I let others see me. Everyone knows that I am an overweight, “pleasingly plump,” Indian-American woman. Yet, I’ve never been able to really let myself go, at least not in public. If my mother saw me leave the house with no makeup, adorned in sweatpants and a tank top, she would yell at me to look more presentable.

There’s a stigma about fat women needing to be hypersexualized for society to accept them. I only recently discovered that this was an actual thing other plus-sized women experienced. It can be boiled down to the same rule my mother had for me — fat women must look presentable. Although it was never spoken, both my mother and I understood why we were not allowed to go out in sweatpants and a tank top. It’s just not the same as when a smaller woman does it, because when they do, they are just having a casual, lazy day. However, when a bigger woman does it, they are unfeminine, lazy, and disgusting, all because they are fat and not presentable.

So how does a plus-sized woman not look “bad?” In other words, how does she convince people that there is more to her than her weight? For us, we must constantly exaggerate our natural beauty. We have to be adorned in jewelry and wear things that compliment the few desired aspects of our unaccepted bodies — clothes that pop out our curves and hug our ass. We put on makeup that emphasizes our eyes, our lips, and our noses. We do this to apologize to others for our weight and to be acknowledged as modern, plus-sized women. This is our first step in the door, our introduction to the world, to remind them that we are not just fat girls.

I’ve come to recognize this phenomenon only recently, but I’ve understood it my whole life. It’s fueled my thoughts about others, how they perceive me, and what I look like to them. It’s the reason behind my self-inflicted blisters and my messed-up feet. When you perpetually think like this, it starts to bleed into everything else you do. For me, it’s striving for perfectionism. I need people to recognize that I’m good at the things I do. I pursue perfection because I want to, but it’s also because I’m running away from the notion that all I can be is that one fat girl.

Junior year, my blisters dwindled. I wore Vans and was too exhausted to maintain my presentation everyday. I didn’t care to impress anyone.

My best friend and I were walking together to lunch. She was telling me about a conversation she had with a guy from her class. Apparently, he recognized me when she mentioned my name.

“Oh, Esha?” she was speaking for him, “That… short girl.” That last part was her words. My best friend stopped talking, looking awkward and a little upset.

I paused. “Did he say something about me?” I asked her.

She shuffled a bit before speaking, “Well, he just described you not in the best way. He said, ‘Oh, Esha? Is that the fat Indian girl you hang out with?’”

She looked at me with sympathy, ready to comfort me and dissuade me from thinking anything negative. “Well, he’s not wrong,” I replied, “But yeah… that’s kind of awkward.”

It’s been a couple of weeks and my feet are still healing from the worst blisters of my life. Under each foot is an oval of new pink skin. Eventually, they will blend into the rest of my skin and I won’t be reminded of my foolishness. Near my new blisters is a permanent one that is the result of my Doc Martens — the shoes I wear in college. This blister is always healing, for just when I think it will go away, my Docs rub against that one spot and it returns. I don’t mind this one too much, though. It seldom hurts me and it’s not very noticeable. It reminds me how much I love wearing my Docs, how blissfully simple it is to slip them on.

The stigma exists, but it’s not meant to invalidate plus-size women for wanting to look good. A lot of women, plus-size or not, want to dress up for themselves and take on the world looking their best. Instead, the stigma is saying that plus-size women must look good out of necessity, along with their own desire to dress up.

Necessity or desire? Pleasing others or pleasing myself? Even now, I am unsure which one I practice. Looking back, I know it was necessity that I picked. I wanted to be seen for my intelligence, my humor, and also for people to look at me and notice that I was pretty in my own way. I wore Converse and Vans and asked the wrong people to look past the rolls on my stomach.

Now I wear my Docs in college, grow the blisters on my feet, and work on being okay with myself. I still continue to act out of necessity for others' pleasure, and I still have the urge to repent for my weight in some kind of way. Sometimes I mourn the past, for if I was skinnier, maybe I would have experienced more life. I still carry these thoughts, but I’m also appreciating myself now. I mess around with my tops and wear colored eyeliner often. I look good for myself, even though there are times when I want to rip my body apart. I’m trying my best to accept that I won’t live up to my own unrealistic standards.

Announcing to others that I am indeed a fat girl is still difficult. The word buzzes in my mouth and when spoken, echoes in the room as if I just cursed. I feel awkward and ashamed, and the other person near me glances away. But funnily enough, once it’s out there, it settles and sinks to the ground. I get more comfortable and so do they. We talk about our experiences, fat and thin, tall and short. We sympathize with what it’s like to be a woman. And then it’s easy. The barrier is broken and we’ve moved past our appearances.

Converse Esha and Vans Esha tried so hard for everyone to like them instead of liking themselves. They hated themselves because they looked the way they did.

Forgive me, my past self; I didn’t love you the way I should have. I see you now. Though I wobble around in my Mary Janes and continuously blister myself with Docs, I do see you. And I think you’re beautiful the way you are. ■

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