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Tammy Swift, Published November 29 2009

Swift: To calf and calf not: Chic boots a test of wills

I am not ashamed to admit this. I hail from a long line of large-calved women.

It’s true. We have single-calfedly done for lower-leg development what Popeye did for forearms.

Archaeologists have discovered crude cave drawings of a female stick figure who looks like she’s standing on two large hams. What most people don’t realize is that those “hams” are actually calves and the figure represents a little-known type of early human called the Swiftus Calfula Gigantus.

Some fashion historians trace the birth of the hoop skirt to the Princess Juansholab of Portugal, who was trying to hide an unexpected pregnancy.

But family legend has it that the hoop skirt was actually created by the Arch Duchess of Cankle, a Swift ancestor who was trying to hide her well-developed calves.

Centuries later, yours truly would make it out for cheerleading. Part of the pre-approved uniform included black-and-orange kneesocks, emblazoned with the school initials, “GUHS.”

The other cheerleaders, who practically needed garters to hold up their socks on their fawn-like legs, sported a teensy “GUHS” on their hosiery. But once I pulled the socks over my generous calves, the “GUHS” could be read from space.

I completely ignored the leg-warmer fad of 1982 for fear they would make me look like I should be pulling a beer wagon.

Naturally, I grew up to become quite sensitive about my calves. In the past few years, however, I lost a lot of weight. This suddenly meant I could shop in normal stores and buy clothing that did not include condescending labels like: “You’re Pretty Too!,” or “Caftans for Cuties.”

It also meant I could buy knee-high boots. I was quite proud as I went to the local shoe store to buy some chic, black, high-heeled boots. I selected several promising display styles and handed them to the unfriendly looking, young clerk.

She returned with the boxes, plunked them down and promptly ignored me, which seemed odd, as I was the only customer in the department. Time after time, I slipped into the boots, only to discover a disturbing trend; they were so snug in the calves that I could scarcely zip them up.

My new, size-8 self was shocked by this. I wasn’t used to things not fitting. I somehow tracked down the clerk, who was busy perfecting her scowl. “I think I’ll need to go up a half-size,” I told her. “These are too snug in the calves.”

She looked at me with open disdain. “Going up a half-size isn’t going to help,” she snapped. “You’re going to need a Calf Plus boot.”

I didn’t know what bothered me more. Maybe it was her borderline-hostile attitude. Maybe it was the fact I’d lost so much weight and yet found my CMI (Calf Mass Index) was still disturbingly high. Perhaps it was the fact that some marketing genius had come up with a term called “Calf Plus,” which sounded like a milk-replacement formula for underage livestock.

She proceeded to march over to a side display to forage for a more suitable model for my freakishly massive calves. “These are Calf Plus,” she announced, holding up a boot that looked like it had been prescribed by a podiatrist after bunion surgery. “Do you like these?”

At this point, I was determined to prove her wrong. I was going to shoehorn myself into the regular boots if it was the last thing I did. I took a deep breath, sucked in my calves and – in a surge of superhuman strength – pulled the zipper to the top. My boots runneth over with excess calf flesh, but they were on.

At least something good came from my humiliation. After the incident, I got on Facebook and complained about my experience. A surprising number of women friends reported that they, too, were forced to wear “Calf Plus” boots.

So now I’m working on an invention. It will be a girdle-like contraption for the leg, which will do for the calves what the Spanky did for hips.

I’m calling it “DeCalf.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525 or tswift@forumcomm.com