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Homechinese poemsThe Shoes of Marriage by Bi Shumin~ 毕淑敏《婚姻鞋》with English Translations

The Shoes of Marriage by Bi Shumin~ 毕淑敏《婚姻鞋》with English Translations

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The Shoes of Marriage

Marriage is a pair of shoes.
We have feet before we have shoes. The warmth of the sand, the delicious coolness of the grass on our little feet in our childhood, and the free and uninhibited joy of those days would awaken us from our dreams throughout our lives.
As our journeys take us farther and farther, we begin to experience the pains that come with them and hop frantically like ostriches on scorching deserts or get stung by leeches in deep swamps.
Life is an endless journey. That’s why shoes were invented.
The purpose of putting on shoes is to walk and to get where we want to go. Sometimes, however, a grit in the shoe can bring more indescribable suffering than all other perils of the journey.
Shoes have thus become a topic of conversation from generation to generation within the civilized world.
Shoes can be made of all kinds of material. The most simple and crude shoe is a fresh plantain leaf. The most expensive are the crystal shoes that were given to Cinderella by the fairy.
The first essential about any shoes is that they fit the feet. Likewise, the essence of marriage is compatibility.
Do not ever covet elegant shoes and abuse your own feet. What other people see as shoes are in fact your feet as you feel them. Feet are more important than shoes. This is a truth all too often forgotten.
In the many years that I worked as a doctor, I often had to bandage young girls’ feet, when they came to me with their ankles bleeding because of the sharp edges of their shoes. I would apply a snow-white gauze bandage on them before they slipped on their panty-hose. As I watched them walk off with their graceful steps, I knew that when they danced, their lips would twist with the pain in their feet.
I have seen my grandmother’s shoes but not her feet. She always hid her feet from view as if they were hideous objects. Our feet, which carry our weight as we stand and walk, are blameless. They render us outstanding service. It was her shoes that were hideous. They were an instrument of torture and a mold that distorted nature.
Each time I learn about an uncivilized arranged marriage, I am reminded of my grandmother’s tiny shoes and her bound feet.
When I was a child, I had a pair of beautiful red leather shoes, but the shoes pinched my toes. Whenever I refused to wear them, adults would perfunctorily feel the inside of the shoes with their hands and say, “What nice shoes! Put them on.” I resisted in the most violent way I knew as a child. I have never understood why the person wearing shoes is not entitled to final veto power.
If you have not experienced a certain kind of marriage, do not make irresponsible remarks.
You need skates to skate, hiking boots to walk in the snow, galoshes for the rain, and walking shoes when traveling…There are infinite varieties of shoes to choose from in the whole wide world, but only one pair of feet for each of us. My friend, you need to weigh your choices carefully!
As a child playing sports, I received from my teacher, on the eve of a track-and-field event, a pair of orange-colored spiked running shoes, along with his expressed wish that wearing them would be like adding wings to a tiger. So I took off the white tennis shoes I wore during my everyday training and put on the running shoes, which felt as soft as orange peels. As I did so, my confidence vanished. When I saw that the spikes had left a row of marks on the track, I felt as if my feet had been changed into a pair of hoofs. I said I didn’t want the running shoes, but everyone present said I was being silly. So, at the crack of the starting pistol, I began to run in those shoes. By the time I threw out my chest, as usual, to meet the tape, it was already draped across a competitor’s chest like a sash of honor.
The orange-colored running shoes were blameless. The responsibility rested with those who had offered me advice. The world abounds in good shoes, but some will not fit. Wise counsel is of no avail. You need listen only to what your feet have to say in the middle of the night.
Looking at the South African women running barefoot in all her glory in the world track-and-field event, I smiled. World records can be broken with or without shoes. Feet grow, but shoes don’t. Herein lies an eternal contradiction. Which has the greater strength – the foot or the shoe? The foot, I believe. I’ve seen shoes that have worn out, but never feet that have worn thin. When the shoe pinches the foot, one’s big toe can always poke a hole and stick itself out to enjoy fresh air.
There inevitably comes a point in one’s lifetime when the feet stop growing. Choose your shoes with care! Make sure they fit your feet. In marital terms, one foot represents the man, the other the woman. They are joined like a pair of similar but by no means identical shoes. Henceforth, what you see on the road of life are no longer footprints but shoeprints.
Cutting feet to fit shoes is a fool’s act of cruelty. The story about a stupid man who returns empty-handed after a shoe-buying trip because he forgot to bring his measurement ridicules the pedantic. When the going gets tough, the feet and shoes must unite as one. When the feet are lifted by a cloud to the height of fame and fortune, one must not discard the shoes.
The feet, of course, are more precious than shoes. When shoes truly hurt our feet, we might as well get on with our journey barefoot!

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