By Kelsey Duchesne
When I was fourteen and entering my first year of high school, I was doing what many of us do: recognizing awkward parts of my body and figuring out how best to approach them. It was 2006, a year of accepting that I would need to wear a back brace despite my protest, that my hair would grow back after some poor layering choices (note to self: I’m not Jennifer Aniston), and that my feet were, forevermore, a size 11. I had spent the previous year with painful blisters, waddling around in a pair of aspirational size 10’s, trying to ignore the unavoidable truth that I’d grown, again. This ignorance mainly stemmed from most of my favorite shoe brands only making up to size 10, and wanting to stay on whatever haunting trend was taking place (this was the era of ill-fitting polo shirts and low-waisted jeans. Yikes.) But alas, I approached 9th grade with a new mindset: lean into the 11’s.
Being a size 11 has taken me to some pretty interesting spaces-- mentally. When I’m looking for shoes online or in store, frustrated by the lack of options or creativity, I think of Paris Hilton, hotel heiress, reality star, and a fellow size 11. Also, Uma Thurman. ALSO. Kate Winslet! And, when I’m feeling especially low, I think of the true queen of the size 11 universe: Oprah. I’m pretty sure that when I inevitably join Oprah for an episode of her podcast Supersoul Conversations, the first thing we’ll discuss is being in the Size 11 Club™.
You might be reading this and wondering: is having size 11 feet that big of a deal? I understand your skepticism, dear reader, and I’ll say this: yes and no. I’m six feet tall, so my large, wide feet actually look quite proportional to my body. Birkenstocks, a wide sandal I’ve been wearing (with and without socks) for the last 10 years have recently become trendy, so I look stylish while giving my slabs a comfortable home. When my feet are fresh from a manicure with shimmery blue toenails, I can convince myself that they’re maybe even attractive. But on other days, it can be frustrating. Before going to the shoe store, I’ll call ahead to see if they carry size 11 at all, and if they do, what brands they carry (if you’re not careful, you may be walking into a very ugly shoe trap.) People also often assume that 11 is basically a 10, and that if you just try hard enough, you can squeeze your feet into a size smaller. To this, I’ll say: please never ask a size 11 to do this. That has quite literally never worked for me...aside from Dansko’s (I will take this time to shout out Dansko’s, the true heros! Thank you!)
But in reality, my big feet are sometimes just a fraction of a larger insecurity: feeling like a giant human. As someone who’s always been in the 99th percentile, my height and broadness have contributed to some complicated feelings about where my body fits in the world. While I love being tall, there have been times where I, like many women, felt that I take up too much space. Where I’ve felt like too much, period. And while that insecurity doesn’t totally revolve around my body, it does include it, and sometimes, this spiral can begin at my feet and work it’s way up.
But for the most part, my feet are just my feet. They take me where I wanna go, and they don’t often complain. I know I’m lucky, and that my identity isn’t solely wrapped up in my soles (I think I’m owed at least one foot pun, here). I try my best to be kind to them, because while bad bangs may go, me and these two monsters are forever. And until I start my own chic shoe startup for those of us who compare size 8’s to doll shoes, I’ll be mapping out my talking points with Oprah. (Maybe the takeaway here is that my feet have allowed me to dream as big as they are? Yeah, let’s go with that.)