Today, I invite you to take a trip with me down memory lane.
Let me set the scene. It is 1978. Big things are happening in the world. Louise Browne, the world’s first test tube baby has been born. Jim Jones followers commit mass suicide in Jonestown. In the Vatican there is a new Pope- the first non Italian pope in more than four hundred years.
Zooming in to St Mary’s Primary School, Cornwall- little Marie is standing in the dinner queue along with two hundred or so other kids. Note- we are calling this dinner, not lunch, even though it is 12 noon.
The dinner bell sounds and seating is randomly allocated by the teacher on duty. The system runs like a well oiled cog. The teacher, no doubt, cannot wait to get into the staff room for coffee and a fag. Marie sits next to her best friend Sally. Sitting opposite her is a little boy called Mark Carter. Mark is talking loudly and excitedly to the boy next to him about Star Wars- a movie which hit the cinema screens last year.
As they wait for dinner to be served, Mark slips off his shoes. Marie slips off her shoes too and waits. Marks foot seeks out her foot and their feet intertwine. Mark’s feet are warm and slightly damp. Whenever Marie sits opposite Mark, their feet intertwine. Sometimes they swing their intertwined feet backwards and forwards energetically. Other times, their feet remain motionless. They will stay like this all the way through dinner. She likes it.
Today’s dinner is stew. Marie hates stew. She mushes it around a bit on her plate and leaves most of it behind. Dinner helpers come and take the plates away. The volume in the dinner hall increases as the children prepare to go out to play. Marie and Mark slip their shoes back on. They do not make eye contact. They do not talk to each other. They run off and are engulfed in their separate girl/boy universes until next time they happen to sit opposite each other at dinner.
Big Marie has often wondered what in the world was going on with Mark and his feet. There are a couple of possible explanations.
- Mark Carter really liked Marie and sought out her feet above all the other feet in the school??
- Mark was a nascent foot fetishist and did this with everybody??
But hold on, but let’s apply some GROWN UP perspective here.
Big Marie, mother of three, now sees that Mark Carter was the sort of child, beloved of grannies and aunties all over the world. What Granny/ Auntie wouldn’t adore an angelic little lad with blond hair and puppy dog brown eyes? Furthermore Mark was NOT an angst ridden swot (like someone not too far across the table) He was a laid back, chilled sort of child. I imagine he went home in the evenings, threw himself on the sofa, cuddled his mother/ dog/ cat/ auntie as he watched copious amounts of boy TV and eat sweets.
Not being a fan of small boys, all this was was wasted on little Marie.
And- as a Sociologist/ Feminist, Big Marie now understand that it is not easy being a small boy in the rough and tumble, gender stereotyped world of primary school.
What better way to take five than some comforting, under the table foot time with another warm, soft, damp foot? It’s not quite the same as a cuddle with mum but hey-it’s something.
Mark’s foot instinctively knew this!
And we’re back to that puppy dog quality of his. Don’t you just love the way dogs throw themselves in a heap and fall asleep? So companionable and unselfconscious.
We could all learn a lesson from dogs – and I would add- Mark Carter’s feet.