'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
THE SEASON OF TENDER TOOTSIES
It’s the summer season, that time of year when middle-aged guys start thinking a lot about their feet. I have no idea what middle-aged women think about, as it’s been pointed out to me recently that I don’t understand ANYTHING about the female gender of the species. So I will limit my observations to the male point of view.
Anyway, during the other three seasons of the year, middle-aged guys never have to think about their feet. We always wear the same thing each day: socks and shoes. If we have to snow-blow the driveway we’ll wear socks and boots, or if we’re hanging around the house on the weekend, we might get a little wild and wear socks and sneakers. But during those non-summer months we never have to worry about walking around with our feet exposed.
The summer is different. In the summer people routinely walk around with naked or semi-naked feet. This is fine if you are, say, 15 years old, which means your feet are most likely also 15 years old and have yet to become all gnarled and lumpy and unsightly and sore.
As a teenager I went barefoot all summer. I was just like the people on those National Geographic TV specials who run around the Amazon rain forest barefoot and have hard callouses on the bottoms of their feet. During the summer I would run around barefoot and carefree in our suburban neighborhood, on sidewalks, through parking lots, and at the town beach. Well, not the entire summer. In early August one year, I encountered something that guys in the Amazon rarely have to deal with: a rusty, jagged lid from an old tuna fish can. My thick callouses were no match for sharp metal, and after I got the obligatory tetanus shot, my mother made me wear socks and sneakers for the rest of the summer. How humiliating.
By the time guys are middle-aged, the soles of our feet have become as delicate and tender as our eyeballs—except our feet aren’t nearly as nearsighted—so going around barefoot is simply out of the question.
Recently however, I did something very foolish. One evening I noticed through the window that my car’s dome light was on, so I went out barefoot to turn it off. What a mistake. I took two steps onto the driveway and froze in my tracks, just like a soldier in a war movie who suddenly realizes he’s in the middle of a mine field. And like a moron, instead of retreating back to the house for shoes, I looked at that dimming dome light, only a few feet away, and desperately said, “I can make it, Sarge!” Then with each gingerly step, as the pebbles and twigs felt like shards of glass digging into my soles, I cried out, “Ouch! Ooh! Eek! Ouch! Ooh!” Afterward my tender tootsies ached for a week.
We middle-aged guys have very few choices during the summer. Wearing sandals is out of the question because it just draws attention to those gnarled, discolored toenails. And wearing sandals with socks is worse, as it causes people to say to you very slowly, “How-do-you-like-our-country?” This requires you to reply, “No, I’m not a German tourist, I just have ugly feet, OK?”
So there are only two options: (1) zoom right past middle-age with the Florida Retirement Village look: Bermuda shorts, black stretch socks and wing tip shoes; or (2) stay indoors all summer and gaze wistfully out the window at teenagers frolicking barefoot through the neighborhood while repeating to yourself, “Only three more months till Fall.”
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