I have big feet. I wear size thirteen shoes. My feet are not giant like the feet of some professional basketball players or men who are six or eight inches taller than I am, but still, my feet are noticeably big.

One time, when my girlfriend and I were visiting at a house party in winter, a time when everyone in Canada respects the need to shed their shoes and boots in the entryway to a home, I looked around and saw that there was very little room left for us to put our shoes. But I have a creative mind. I created a partial solution to the problem by simply slipping my girlfriend’s shoes inside my shoes to minimize (excuse the pun) our storage footprint.

The efficiency of my plan worked but it temporarily befuddled my girlfriend when she went to find her shoes and did not think to look inside my shoes to find them. “Someone has taken my shoes,” she exclaimed. Whereupon, I lifted my own shoes and slipped hers out into the open, almost like a magician who produces song birds from his handkerchief. There was laughter all around. Then my girlfriend got to tell one of her favourite jokes.

To understand her joke, one must first understand that there is a widespread myth about men who have big feet. The myth has no basis in truth. I first came upon it when, as a high school teacher, I noticed several small Korean boys wearing strangely over-sized shoes. Indeed, they were staggeringly over-sized shoes. I asked what that phenomenon was about and in a private, confidential aside one boy did his best to explain it to me. Apparently, it is thought that if a man(boy) has big feet, that the size of his proudly male other apparatus was also large! As curious a thing as this may seem to women, men place a very high importance on this, and they believe that girls and women do too! So that’s two myths debunked.

Anyhow, when it is noticed that I do indeed have big feet, my girlfriend says in a very leading way, “And you know what it means when a man has big feet…(?)” Then before anyone has the chance to embarrass themselves by citing the expected “big privates” myth, she says the innocent, but obvious, “Big shoes!” Obvious, but unexpected. It’s a good joke.

I’ve joked about my big shoes too. It hasn’t happened often, but a couple of times in my life someone else has had to get my shoes for me. Once I was helping move something that was awkward to lift from inside a friend’s house to outside and into her car. I and another fellow had carried it in our stockinged feet across fine carpeting to the door, but then needed our slip-on shoes from an adjacent room to proceed outside.

“Which shoes are yours?” came the shouted inquiry.

“Just think to yourself, ‘I’m looking for clown shoes’,” I replied, knowing that size alone would distinguish my shoes from the others. It worked. The person looking for the shoes found them immediately. Well, you know what they say about men with big feet.

But I’m happy with my big feet. They are not so large as to attract much comment. I do have to shop quite a bit to find good, size thirteen shoes, but even that is not too onerous a task. Frankly, finding socks that exceed size twelve is more of a problem than finding large shoes, but I manage. People, with all good intentions, have bought me socks sized 9-12. By stretching them over my feet, I can wear them, but I do prefer finding socks sized 10-13. Sometimes that’s not easy.

My feet are great, stable platforms. They’ve been with me all my life. They served me well as I excelled in university-level gymnastics and weightlifting. They have carried me to places my economically poor upbringing would have regarded as exotic, like England, France, Spain, Italy and around an airport in Germany. They have provided me with fine service while skiing mountains in New England, New York, British Columbia and what passes for mountains in Ontario.

Over the years, I have managed to find a way of controlling recurring foot cramps by wearing warm socks to bed on cool nights. I’ve managed to move myself from having don’t-you-dare-touch-them, outrageously ticklish feet, to the point of being able to enjoy having someone handle my feet. I’ve even paid money to have foot massage done for me a few times.

Except having had a brief experience of painful, plantar fasciatus, my feet have been happy feet. I’ve walked them, run them, danced them, yoga’d them, washed them, moisturized them, and cared for them. And they have served me well in all the aforementioned endeavours too.

Perhaps sometime this winter, as a tribute to my feet, when the snow conditions are just right, I’ll get my artist girlfriend out of the comfortable malaise of her home and get her to help me make a copy of the now, almost famous snow sculpture, “Two Feet of Snow in NYC.”

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