The price of pretty feet

Renee James Contributor
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A few years ago, I wrote a column addressing what I thought was the nadir of women’s self-esteem in the early twenty-first century.   The practice in question was “hand-plumping,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like: A procedure that injects fat into hands.  It delivers a more youthful-looking appearance, hiding veins and other telltale signs of hands that have grasped, carried, held, worked and, well, lived.

I should have known better.  The depth of women’s self-doubt and competitiveness knows no bounds.  Turns out, our hands aren’t the only appendages we despise.  We hate our feet, too, and need to improve them cosmetically.  Before you get the wrong idea, I’m not talking pedicure, with the perfect shade of polish, just in time to slip your feet into sandals.

No, I’m talking surgery.  Things like “toe tucks” and “foot facelifts.”  I don’t have the energy to explain them in enormous detail but according to the article I read, a toe tuck has to something to do with shortening and “slimming” your baby toe in order to wear heels more comfortably.  A “foot facelift” somehow makes your whole foot narrower.  Another surgical procedure can shorten the length of your toes, most often toe number two, right next to the big toe, so your feet will look more ‘attractive’ in sandals.

The problem, as if the fact that these procedures exist isn’t enough of a problem, is that this is completely absurd.  People who make a living caring for the health of our feet think it’s a horrible idea.  The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) states, “Cosmetic foot surgery should not be considered in any circumstances and the Society does not condone its practice.”

Score one for sanity.

I was still shaking my head over the sad state of women’s foot-hatred when I came across an article that felt somehow related to it.  By morphing the photographs of eight women with “unusually large” feet to create a composite facial image and then doing the same using eight photos of women with “smaller” feet, New Scientist has revealed that – surprise! – men are attracted to women with small feet.

I know, right?  Will this never end?   The answer is no; no it won’t.  Men who studied the composite photos preferred the image that resulted from combining the faces of the women with smaller feet.  It wasn’t even close.  They chose the smaller-feet composite three-and-a–half times more often than the other face, and were ten times as likely to label it more feminine.

The study also revealed that men prefer women with longer thighbones and narrower hips.  The theory is that taller, more slender women had very healthy childhoods.  ‘Healthy’ just feels more attractive, as many men prefer this look to shorter, heavier women.  Poor childhood nutrition could have contributed to early puberty, and a slowdown in growth.

[Fun fact:  when conducting the same experiment with women – creating composites of men for women to judge – the results weren’t quite as clear.   Women seemed to like men with large wrists, whom they claimed would be better sex partners than life partners.  Men with smaller wrists were deemed better long-term partners.  God knows.]

This is exactly the kind of study, AOFAS warnings notwithstanding, that will have pathetic women running – while they still can – to their podiatrists.  They’ll demand a consult on how to make their feet smaller or get their toes reshaped so they can be even more attractive.  Who cares about the 26 major bones and 30 joints in each foot, not to mention the tendons and nerves?  This is science, dammit!   The last thing she needs is competition from a woman wearing size five Manalo’s on her adorably tiny feet.

I’m trying to keep this straight.  Breasts: larger. Hands: plumper.  Butt, tummy, nose and now, feet: smaller and/or slimmer.  Nails: manicured and polished.  Hair: shiny.  Skin: smooth.  Teeth: super-white.  Got it.

Coming soon: the elbow and knee “tuck.”  And that should do it.

© 2010 Renee A. James   Renee James writes social commentary and keeps track of the things that mystify her on her blog:  It’s not me, it’s you, found at reneeaj.blogspot.com. Her email address is raaj3@msn.com.