Memories That Mold Us
"Bare Feet Make Boys Horny!"
Those five words, uttered by Sister Mary Francis Bernadette, showered down upon us with all the gloom and doom of an irrevocable death sentence. We had sinned. We were four terrified nine year old girls in Kelly-green plaid skirts and starched white, one-hundred percent cotton blouses.
It happened on a Thursday morning. That was the day we had coed gym class at the Catholic school I attended through eighth grade. Gym class was held in a clearing in the cemetery behind the school, weather permitting. This particular spring morning permitted. It was, in fact, the unseasonably warm weather that had lured us four to remove our polished black and white saddle shoes and spanking white anklet socks. No sooner had we bared our feet than we were dismissed from class and herded off to report to the principal, S.M.F. Bernadette.
Our feet didn't quite reach the worn wooden floorboards as we sat, still as statues, on the hard oak chairs lining the front wall of the office at
's Elementary School. Imagine, if you will, standing in front of us one, hands-on-hips, Sister-With-No-Mercy, wearing the full suit of head-to-toe, black robed, intimidate on sight custom issue, a rosary heavy enough to be a registered weapon slung around her waist, and a thick mahogany framed image of Jesus Christ in a crown of thorns hanging on the wall behind her. This was the scene in which I learned the important life lesson that became eternally branded upon my impressionable nine year old brain: Bare Feet Make Boys Horny! St. Paul
"What's Horny?" I asked my best friend, Sally DeLaurentis, who had no more information on the subject than I, as we walked home from school later that afternoon. I wasn't yet certain about the severity of our sin, but knew full well if we didn't go to confession soon we risked our young souls to Hell. In the very least we'd end up in Purgatory, otherwise known as Limbo, that nebulous holding ground no one seemed to know much about except that it was filled with restless souls, cursed to wander endlessly between Heaven and Hell, until their sins came up for review. If I was to believe everything I'd heard, it could take centuries because the case load was at least as deep, if not deeper than, a black hole.
As I saw it, the waiting could be enough to make one contemplate murder and/or suicide, both of which, if one knew the mortal sins, were. I feared merely contemplating either might result in a spot in the ultimate furnace with no lay-over in Limbo and knew, as I pondered our apparent sin, I had no desire to meet the horned guy!
It was at that moment, in a burst of clarity, that I saw the light and figured out what Sister Mary Francis Bernadette of The Perpetual Frown had been trying to tell us. Although I still didn't understand how going barefoot in gym class could damn an entire class of fourth grade boys to the eternal fire, it was enlightenment enough to know we almost had. The how was irrelevant, another of those great mysteries one was supposed to accept with blind faith; which I did because, otherwise, I would have been risking my soul to Purgatory---and we all know about that!
I never removed my shoes in the presence of a boy again until after I turned sixteen and understood a little more about horny boys. Up until that point I only went barefoot at the beach. Even then, I had a tendency to burrow those mysteriously powerful weapons of doom into the sand lest I unwittingly curse some unsuspecting innocent guy for eternity. Who among us would want that on their conscience?
The other day I bought a new shade of nail polish at the local drug store. I thought the name sounded fun, Ooo La La Fuchsia. While my husband was at work I gave myself a pedicure and then applied the vivid, purple-pink gloss to my toenails. I thought it looked great against my newly acquired tan, complements of several days working outside in my yard in flip-flops.
After dinner, I took off my shoes, slipped on the silver toe ring my sister had given me during her last visit, and joined my husband on the couch. He was reading the latest issue of the Journal of Accountancy, so you know what I was up against!
I leaned back against the armrest on my side of the couch, stretched my freshly depilatoried legs across the cushions and ruffled the pages of his magazine with my electric-purple polished big toe.
"Stop," he said, batting my foot away.
Wait a minute! Something was wrong here. Maybe he hadn't noticed my feet were sans socks and shoes. I lifted the pages again with a flutter of my hot little digits. That got a reaction!
He laid the magazine in his lap, turned to me with one of those "honey I love you but you're starting to get on my nerves," looks, and arched a brow. I just smiled. I knew something he didn't.
"Okay, what?" he asked, obviously trying to humor me.
I dangled the aphrodisiac in front of him and adopted my best come hither look. I'd practiced it every time I passed the bathroom mirror that afternoon and felt reasonably confident it bore a closer resemblance to seduction than a need to include more roughage into my diet.
"I polished my toenails today." I gave them a twirl. "Like the color?" The man didn't stand a chance.
He frowned. Remember what I was competing with here! He glanced at my foot. I gave it another twirl for effect. He grinned. The magic was working.
"You call that a foot?" His chuckle was mildly teasing as he took hold of my ankle, turning it so he could look at it from various angles. "I don't know how you manage to stand upright on these little things."
I grinned inwardly. He was sealing his own fate. "That's right, sweetheart, I call that a foot. A bare foot!" I stressed the word bare, just so he understood exactly what he held in the palm of his hand.
He started laughing. He didn't get it. He could make fun of my high arches and crooked toes all he wanted, but the indisputable truth remained, branded into my brain, never to be forgotten---bare feet make boys horny!
"So I see." An unmistakable gleam came into his eyes as he rubbed my too high arch then leaned forward and nipped my ankle.
The Little devil!
Thank you, Sister Mary Francis Bernadette, for all the valuable teachings you imparted upon us. It may be true that, in the words of Billy Joel, one of my favorite singers…those Catholic girls start much too late…but take it from me, we never, ever, forget our lessons!
Copyright 2011 Patricia Paris
***All rights reserved. This is based on a true story. The names and places have been changed to respect privacy. No part of this story may be used or otherwise reproduced in any manner without the expressed permission of the author, except in cases of brief quotations in reviews.