Butterfly Fins

7 Jun

by Lilian Schafer
7th Grade

As soon as I opened my eyes, my heart began to pound and my sleepy body began to fill with dread. Today was going to be the worst, most painful day of my six-year-old life. The day I was going to get my feet bound. I wiggled my toes under my blanket, as I probably would be ale to for the last time. I tried to forget what pain this day was sure to bring, and the rest of my life for that matter, but it was no use. I was simply terrified.

I knew that foot binding was supposed to be beautiful, but I knew it wasn’t. I didn’t want my foot bones to grow up. I didn’t want my feet to be shrunken. Most of all, I didn’t want to be in pain the rest of my life. I cringed as my mother waddled in on her own bound feet.

“Are you read, Ma Lei Mei?” my mother asked.

“You mean, to have my feet maimed? Then no,” I mumbled.

“Oh come on, it’s really not that bad. Don’t you want pretty feet?” my mother replied.

“They’re not pretty,” I thought to myself. “They’re ugly and dumb.” I didn’t dare say my thoughts out loud, in fear of insulting my mother.

I was dragged out of bed, and into the main room, where all of the torture tools were laid out. I considered making a run for it, but I couldn’t really go anymore, because all of the doors were shut. I…was…terrified.

“Do I really have to?” I asked my mother.

“If you want to be married, you do,” she answered.

I whimpered and cried a little, but my mother pretended not to see.

She soaked my feet in a mixture of animal blood and herbs first, to soften my feet. Then she cut back my poor little toenails until there was barely anything left. She then curled my toes inward and down, and pushed hard, until they broke. I screamed in agony. How could anyone stand this?

Then came even more pain. My mother brought the heel of my foot op to the front, and broke my foot arch. The snap the bones made was so gruesome that I will never forget it. Then, she took large, long bandages soaked in the blood and herb mixture, and bound it around my feet. She wrapped my feet so tightly that I thought that surely my feet would lose circulation and fall off.

Finally, we were done. My mother looked apologetic, but I glared at her. She handed me a bowl of rice to eat. I looked at it. Porcelain. My favorite bowl. Was this her way of being sorry? Well, I was still angry. I couldn’t even bear to look at her, so I sat up and stood. Or tried. My feet were in so much pain that when I stood up, I fell right down. I was so tired from the pain that, even though it was only noon, I wanted to sleep.

I ended up crawling to my bedroom. I fell onto my bed and fell right asleep. At first my sleep was deep and dreamless, but hours later, I had a dream.

I was a pretty butterfly with pink and blue wings. I was flying through a pristine meadow with a clear blue lake and rolling hills covered in emerald grass, dotted with purple flowers. I flew along, content, and sipped delicious nectar from a flower. Suddenly, my wings crumpled, and I plummeted. Just before I hit the ground, I transformed into a fish. I was swimming in the lake. My tail was then ruined as well, and I sank to the bottom of the lake.

I woke up with a shock. Today was the day to get my feet bound! Oh no! Then, a sharp throbbing sensation in my feet brought me back to reality. I sighed with disappointment, and looked at the mechanical clock in the corner of my room. It looked about ready to chime, which meant that it was almost five in the evening. I fell off my bed, and crawled to the main room for dinner. My mother then changed and rewrapped the bandages on my feet. I glared at her, but I guess it wasn’t exactly her fault. She just wanted me to have money and get married.

Why couldn’t boys have their feet bound? Why did women have to be crippled? Questions that will never be answered, I suppose.

Maybe I could get used to the intense, constant pain. Maybe it was worth it. Pain for money? No, probably not worth it. I didn’t really have a choice, though. My mother would have made me do it anyway. Although binding my feet was terrible, my family wanted me to, and what is more important than family? I just hope that, in the future, women have more rights and are treated better.


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