It’s kind of interesting that so many nudists would not also be barefooters. Even on nude beaches and nudist camps, most nudists wear shoes, or some kind of footwear. I did so too every time I went to a nudist beach and camp. I remember once thinking about footwear in the camp and concluded that it is absolutely necessary because going barefoot was simply not possible on those surfaces (hot asphalt, concrete, rocky ground, etc.).
During my childhood I was simply amazed when one of my friends walked barefoot on gravel. No matter how much I tried, it simply hurt my feet too badly and I could not do it. On another occasion, I decided I would go outside to play barefoot. Not 50 meters away from my house, I stepped on a bee and limped back home.
One of the first things that happened when I finally started going barefoot was that I had injured myself severely. The bottoms of my soles were almost completely gone after I walked 9 kilometers barefoot on a cold night. Unbeknownst to me, the roads that night were salted to prevent freezing (the temperature was just below zero). My soles got partially numb as I walked and I failed to pay enough attention and when I got home I looked and almost feinted. Before the sensation returned to my feet I cleaned out the wounds and wrapped them in clean cloth. The next day I went to the doctor’s, got a tetanus shot and was told they had never seen such a thing.
But that didn’t stop me.
Neither did a repeat of my childhood experience stop me again from continuing to walk barefoot. Before my feet healed fully, I stepped on a bee. Again. And it hurt even worse this time because over the years I’ve developed a mild allergy to bee stings. My foot hurt for weeks and I couldn’t wear a shoe even if I wanted.
So, what changed? Why did I go on adopting a barefoot lifestyle despite these horrors, when much less stopped me during childhood?
One thing that certainly contributed was that I decided to write about my injury honestly. During my childhood I have honed my skills for lying so well that the first thing that popped into my head in a sticky situation was a lie. It still does quite often and I catch myself saying outright lies and then I have to go back and apologize and tell the truth. I suppose it was a defense mechanism I developed, against my childhood environment, which saved me from hours of screaming lectures from my mom and beatings from her and other family members.
I have been observing myself and the lies I spoke for quite some time before my injury and have gone a ways towards undoing this habit. I’d catch myself beginning to utter a lie, then pause to remember what the truth was and say that instead. Sometimes my mouth was faster than my head and I’d speak a lie and was too ashamed to admit that I was lying and so I left it at that. This didn’t actually benefit my social life; on the contrary, I completely destroyed it.
And so I decided to write honestly about my injury. And this led to other things. I found out about barefooters.org and joined their mailing list. I joined Born to Be Barefoot (now Born to Live Barefoot) Facebook group of which I am still a member, as well as some others which I left because they looked like they were foot fetish groups instead of barefoot lifestyle groups. I found out about the health benefits of going barefoot (though I came to think of those as normal conditions of health, realizing that shoes are actually a health hazard – which makes going barefoot look as if it was beneficial for your health). I developed some of my own hypotheses about shoes – wearing shoes, to me, is a form of sensory deprivation which is a form of torture that makes the subject more compliant, though markedly less attentive and less poignant.
All this, along with a very supportive community and great people that I have met – though, sadly, only on-line for now – was the reason I kept going barefoot. I would have put my shoes back on for likely the rest of my life after my injury had there not been for them.
But why did I start to go barefoot? Why did I suddenly like going barefoot? Particularly when it was mere months earlier that I first saw some barefoot runners on-line and thought how insane they must be to torture themselves in this manner. (By the way, I realized later that barefoot running is no torture and in fact had I not taken it up, I would never have been able to run my first 10K due to injuries I had previously had, when I tried the same feat with shoes on – even Vibram Fivefingers.)
I thought at first it was because I watched Tim Minchin perform barefoot on stage. I was curious about his reasons and he simply said “Because I like it.” There was also something in line with “Because I don’t want my audience to take me too seriously” which kind of went over my head back then and so I didn’t take this reason seriously. But to be perfectly honest, I can’t remember if I had first seen him barefoot, or if I first realized I enjoyed being barefoot. These two “events” happened around the same time, one closely following another and I’m not certain which came first exactly. It could have been either one or the other.
So, what was it?
Yes, I liked it, but why did I suddenly like it so much that a very dramatic injury and a bee sting – a repeat of what had happened during my childhood that stopped me from going barefoot regularly – failed to stop me again?
The reason stems from what I had written previously about lying. There was a good reason I lied a lot when I was a child. Not only was I punished frequently, but I was also rarely believed even as I was telling the truth. I learned that if I lied convincingly, I could avoid being punished. And so I lied. I became very good at it. I became so good at lying that I could actually tell a lie that didn’t conflict with all the other lies I had told previously. But having lied so much, I created a facade around me. To the world I became someone I was not. I was quite aware of what my smoke screen was and what was behind it. These were two separate personas embodied within me – one was to be presented to the world; it was compliant and good and did what was expected, with its purpose being to protect the physical embodiment of both personas from physical punishment and my real persona from verbal abuse. If I was screamed at, I could easily disengage emotionally, because this was the facade being attacked, not the real me.
The other persona was not compliant and didn’t want to do what was expected. This other persona was who I really was.
And then I went to college as I was expected and the real me started emerging. And it wasn’t pretty. The real me had no experience being the real me. I had been hiding behind the facade for so long that I couldn’t function socially. Sure, some aspects of me were OK, but others were not. The interests I had as a child, such as reading, writing, photography, long-distance cycling, hiking … were undeveloped and I had no peer groups with whom I could hone them. My quirks, such as nudism, atheism, bisexuality, Objectivism … made me anti-social and I couldn’t find a way to come out effectively and without alienating myself from everyone.
I ended up seeking one night stands on-line, playing computer games for days on end, getting fat and some of my episodes of loneliness and of realizing I have no prospects of a stable, serious relationship became so ugly I’m too ashamed to admit. I often thought that I would never have sex again, unless I found another one night stand on-line.
Given time, though, I learned to make myself more sociable. But the clock was ticking and I was 25 and still without a stable relationship. In fact, my longest relationship until then was with a boy I’d already written about in previous posts, if one could call that a relationship. I realized I wanted to start a family. I wanted three children and I wanted to provide them with the love that I never received as a child.
After having tested myself for STDs which came out negative (for which I was extremely grateful and later often thought – and still do – that this singular thing was such a huge lucky break that it had exhausted all luck, past, present and future, out of my life, if that is possible) I focused on finding a partner. A woman. I was done with guys, I wanted kids of my own.
I decided that I would be honest about everything to this potential woman – about atheism, about bisexuality, about nudism, about everything. There was no way that I would go back to building new facades, so I had to do everything right.
When I was 28 years old, I met my future wife. Things were looking up and it seemed I would soon be having my happily ever after. We got married, then had our first child, then the second…
It would be a lie to say that that’s when the problems started. I long believed I knew exactly when I first realized there would be some serious problems with our relationship, but the absolute truth is this: I had indications from the very first time we met. Indications I chose to be blind to, because I felt desperate and running out of time (simple math said that if I waited any longer I’d be having hormone-infused teenagers when I’m 50 and that’s not the prospect I was looking forward to).
On our very first date, I knew I was meeting a teacher. She actually contacted me through Facebook, having learned who I was through a mutual friend, after having seen me twice previously (no doubt as I was sending out good vibes by looking at women in general into their eyes and smiling, which was a tactic I picked up on a seduction site – a tactic I found worked for my still quite socially anxious self). So I thought what better way to present myself to a teacher – even if she were a math teacher – than by bringing with me a book to read while I was waiting for her (I like being way too early for any meeting, or date in this case, whenever possible, because it helps me get accustomed to the surroundings and my anxious self has less to deal with once the actual event starts). Surely a teacher would appreciate someone pursuing such noble things as knowledge, even if it was in a form of a fantasy novel.
She didn’t. In fact, she told me she was mortified by the size of the book. This stumped me, but I ignored it. I did wonder for a split second what kind of teacher was this? Surely she had read some required reading that was much more demanding and lengthier than my copy of one of the George R. R. Martin’s The Song of Ice and Fire installments. I didn’t even get her number after the date was over. I did ask for it, tactfully, as advised by the same seduction site I mentioned previously, but she said she’d contact me on Facebook. I thought that was over, but she did actually contact me and gave me her number. Which was in itself curious given the impression I seem to have left.
Another instance where I ought to have questioned if this was going the right way was when I wanted to come out to her as bisexual. I started talking and she interrupted before I actually said anything of import, saying “I’m not interested.” I was actually relieved! “Phew!” I thought, “This was way easier than I thought it would be.”
Third red flag: I suggested we go to the cinema and she actually screamed at me. Like an actual scream, as if I was torturing her and she was in agony. Then she put her fingertips on her lips and smiled innocently, as if she had accidentally raised her voice just a tad too high, unintentionally. And I accepted that gesture as an apology, even as our future together unfolded in my mind’s eye as if it were handed to me to peruse before the relationship got really serious. I ignored that future, never realizing it would happen exactly as I saw it, at least so far.
Fourth red flag mere hours before I proposed. We were in Vienna and were looking for a restaurant where they served Sacher cake prepared according to the original recipe. We had no access to the Internet as we were abroad, so I guided us by memory of the map I looked at beforehand. Naturally, we miss a turn, then another. She freaks out because we are going in circles. She freaks out big time. She even pretends to walk away, but then changes her mind when she realizes I do not follow. Eventually we find the restaurant, but the evening is spoiled. I have second thoughts. I was to propose in the restaurant. I do not do it. We eat the cake in relative silence, take a few photos, pretending nothing’s wrong. I’m not much interested in talking, or smiling for that matter. But then the evening drags on. We walk around and I’m thinking of proposing anyway. But she is sulking and is clearly annoyed. I think to myself, I’ll take her home, tell her to get her stuff out of the closet and go back to her parents (she’d already moved in with me).
We arrive back to our country, she gets out her phone and here comes the fifth red flag. The bloody red one. She talks to her mother on the phone, not actually saying the word, but making it very clear that she is talking to her about me not proposing. Her tone of voice is fake disappointment with a hint of annoyance, her facial expression matching that hint. The pathetic me that is too cowardly to just send her off starts making excuses. As we are approaching home, the fear of confrontation rises in me. It makes me want to vomit, but…
We get home and I sit under the Christmas tree. I propose to her there because I’m too cowardly for the alternative, because I feel guilty now for not proposing to her in Vienna. I lie about proposal under a Christmas tree being the plan all along. It’s easy to do so and it’s obvious that she doesn’t believe me. She answers yes anyway. Sixth red flag … and a new facade is up.
Fast forward to the time I start going barefoot. My wife is pregnant with our first child. That first manipulation on the evening when I proposed – that was just the beginning. I realized I had married the woman who is so much like my mother it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference. She is verbally abusive, she is manipulative, and she is the future mother of my child and I am stupidly married to her, because I’m a spineless coward and now I’m going to be a father of a child who will have a spineless coward for a father. Serves my stupid self just right. It’s not like I had no forewarning.
I start going barefoot, not merely because I like it. I do it out of defiance for the obvious manipulations, out of defiance because my true self is once again behind the wall of lies, lies that I told because I put myself in a position where I once again need to protect myself from verbal attacks; attacks directed at me fulfilling my own needs – sometimes of solitude, sometimes of just getting kicks out of being silly, sometimes of taking a crap that is this much longer than she would like, or has to happen at a time that is inconvenient for her. But also it is in defiance of such a life; a life as a pathetic nobody, a life that I have consciously chosen by choosing to cater to the cowardly, socially anxious, non-confrontational me. I take off my shoes in defiance to that pathetic coward who brought me into this mess of a life and I’m killing him one tiny bit at a time and I’m enjoying every second of it.
And then we have a second child because that pathetic coward is so bloody resilient it’s unbelievable! She proposed we had the second child and – partly wishing to get on with it and partly trying to stay out of another confrontation when our firstborn is still so young – I agree. When our first was a year and a half old, our second son was born.
My wife never really accepted my newfound barefoot lifestyle. At one point she promised to not raise questions about it again, but she broke her promise. She is not supportive, but now that I’m completely screwed anyway, I’m unyielding.
This situation, of being manipulated and of trying to break free of the manipulations while there are children involved – children to whom I wish no harm would ever come – is beyond my capacity to handle, and it is one of the reasons why I have decided that I would see a therapist. I’m well aware that being barefoot is bringing additional tension to our marriage, but I’m also aware that unless I find a way to resist her, to push against abuse, that I would go insane. How this ends is beyond me, but it is terribly clear to me that it is our children that will suffer the most in nearly every scenario, except the one that seems most unlikely – that we both love our children and that we both are willing to do whatever it takes for them, and that we each accept the other as we are.
That moment when I saw the future, this is what I saw: we would get married; it would be an awful marriage, but we would have children, which was what I wanted; I would do everything I could conceive of in order to save our marriage, but ultimately I’d fail and we’d divorce when the children would be two or older. And I found back then that that worked for me. People get divorced; their kids get used to it. My own grandmother on my mother’s side was de facto divorced from my grandfather who lived with his lover and her son in a house next door; my aunt (my mother’s sister) got divorced twice, after having a daughter with her first husband and again after having a daughter and a son with her second; my uncle (my mother’s brother) was divorced after having a son and now has two daughters with another woman (he, once the model of masculinity and strength as he always worked out and was and still is quite muscular, often came crying to my mother while he was still married to his first wife; I never learned what went on with them). During much of this tumult we all lived under the same roof. But most importantly, I once asked my father – after witnessing the verbal abuse he’d received from my mother – why he wouldn’t divorce her. The prospect of their divorce terrified me, but I thought it was a way better option than continuing their lives together. In some strange way, though, they each found how to live in this dysfunctional relationship, each sucking the energy out of another, like two vampires locked with their teeth at each other’s throat (except my dad sucks energy from my mom in a much less obvious way). And now I’m not that glad that it has to go this way. If we stay married, my kids have a pushover as a dad; if we divorce, my kids get the hell of a life that goes with that.
I have asked the question from the title to myself several times over the past several months, always with the genuine desire to know the answer. Then in a single moment – I do not remember what it was – it just popped into my head. As if my subconscious needed time to process all the relevant information before it was all presented to me in a single flashback. And at first I was excited that I finally had the answer. And then as I articulated it in this post I became terrified. It’s a horrible thing to know all this, even as I now realize that I have known it all along, except it has never been presented to my conscious self in this manner. After all, we all know all our sins and if there is a God that keeps track of all the sins of each and every one of us, then the ledger of our own sins is in our very own minds.
And often times, when we fail to pay attention to what we are doing, or ignore it willfully, the ledger fills up and then it’s time to pay the price.