Dinner discussion has been slow this past week with the kids all over the place participating in their various sports activities and us unable to find a common time to sit down and eat together because of this, so I went on the hunt for another new word.
It’s pronounced sci·ap·o·dous (sī¦apədəs) and, as an adjective, it modifies the pedal pushers attached to the bottom of your legs. Your first point of contact with a new day when you stumble out of bed in the morning—unless you’re one of those people who gets tangled up in the sheets while trying to rush to the bathroom and you tumble out of bed—and one of the more offensive and ugly body parts—unless you’re one of those people who like feet. No judgment here.
According to one website, the origins are Greek, and the word, sciapod, referred to a mythical, one-legged dwarf with a single leg attached to a huge giant foot.
I could go in so many directions with this one, but I think I’ll talk about my daughter. Erica has sciapodous feet for a thirteen year old, and it bothers her.
“My feet are so big,” she says, looking six feet down at feet that, to her, must look as big as those of that mythical monopod monstrosity.
“Yes, they are,” I tell her. “But you need big footers to provide a stable foundation for a tall building.”
It doesn’t help, and anyway, I’m not a teenage girl. How would I know what it feels like wearing her shoes? I have to admit, I don’t.
I reached a new level of empathy for her when I took her out on a “date” to buy new shoes. We walk over to the shoe section in the large sports store. I have her sit while I grab one of those foot-measuring thingys from further down the aisle and stick her foot in it. Between a 10 and a 10½ it says, no… wait. That’s the men’s size. I read the scale on the other side. She needs a size 12 — 12½. If I remember correctly, I’d just bought her 9½’s last year. I was 3 inches taller than her then too.
We browse through the selections of shoes within our price range until she finds a style she likes, and then we paw through the stacked boxes. No size 12’s. We move on to the next acceptable style on display and look through those boxes. No size 12’s here either.
“It’s OK Dad,” Erica says. “You don’t have to get me shoes.”
At this point I am ready to buy her a 100 dollar pair if it will dilute the defeat in her voice just a little bit and help prevent the weight of a normal world from pushing her dead eyes six feet under. I say screw it, and I begin to look through every box of every style of every price in the women’s section in the hope of doing just that, but it was the same story throughout. No size 12’s. No size bigger than a 10½. No shoes for the sciapodous.
“Let’s go look in the men’s section. We’ll find shoes that fit there.”
“It’ll be okay. We’ll find some that don’t look like boy’s shoes.”
Her posture is wilted now and she slouches along behind me on our quest to bend the gender of a man’s size 10½ running shoe. With her head low and her eyes straight, perhaps scanning this forbidden area with furtive frenzy for a friend who might see her on the wrong side of the store, she distantly points to a pair of shoes on display. I pull out a box marked 10 and one marked 10½, and I hand her the 10’s.
“Here, try these on first.”
She walks away from me, back toward the women’s section. I pause, then follow behind with the boxes, confused about why she’s leaving. When she reaches the great empty space between the two very different planets of Mars and Venus, she turns, looks at me, and rolls her eyes and jerks her head in the opposite direction.
“What? What’s the matter?”
“Daaad.” Her eyes are wide, begging me to understand.
I look at her and get it. It was okay to wear a man’s shoe, but it was not okay for anyone else to know it. I imagine it would be the same for me as browsing for a gender-neutral coat to wear in the girls department with my Mom because nothing in the boy’s department fit me, and then trying it on right there. In the middle of all those…girls. I would be shamed. I would be horrified. I would rather die. I had her shoes on both feet now, and laced up, they were mighty uncomfortable.
I follow her.
Safe back on her home planet, her smile returns and her wilted look disappears as she tries on the 10½’s and walks about in them a bit. She stops in front of me and bounces on her toes.
She takes them off and carefully wraps them back up and boxes them, handing the box to me as we make our way to the register. I take it, and this time, I don’t ask why.