For as long as I can remember, my mum has told me I have ugly feet. She made it my defining feature and when it was her responsibility to dress me, she made sure to only ever buy me closed shoes. Even in summer, I wasn’t allowed to wear thongs or sandals, let alone go barefoot in the ocean. I think I was the only kid at the beach who was wearing water shoes, and it embarrassed me enough that I still remember it to this day.
At some point during my teenage years, I developed a nail fungus condition. Cheltenham is a really beachy southeast suburb and I decided to disobey my mum one night and swim in the ocean without shoes on. Something went wrong and I picked up some sort of fungus on my toenails. I couldn’t tell my mum because I had a feeling she’d either cut my feet off, kick me out or ridicule me forever, so I had to visit a podiatrist in secret by myself.
I felt ashamed of my feet at that point more than ever, and it devastated me that my already ugly feet had just become even more repulsive.
Being a teenager at the time, I didn’t have my license and had to get a two-hour bus to visit a bulk billing podiatrist. I also couldn’t afford to pay for it with the money I made at my after school job, so it was just an all-around very stressful experience. Fortunately for me, the podiatrist was really nice and helped me realise that I had one of the most common foot conditions. In the Cheltenham area, I don’t think anyone else would have been that nice, and I remember feeling grateful that I had made the effort to go and see the podiatrist even though she was so far away.
I spent the next couple of months fixing my fungal infection in secret. It was tough without support.