So I was sitting at work, furiously taking notes, trying to collect every drop of information (this is what I’m like. My supervisor calls it taking “copious notes,” I call it being driven by a constant fear of failure). It’s easier to balance my notebook on my lap if my legs are crossed (the angle and the height created are ergonomically perfect for taking notes), but the downside is that I can lose feeling in the dangling foot every once in a while. Usually I notice it happening and bounce my foot on the floor for a while to wake it back up, but this one time I was extra distracted, and too busy taking notes, to even think of switching my legs at regular intervals to balance myself out.
And then my supervisor thought he heard a knock on the door and asked me to check it out. I, of course, said, “Of course,” and stood up. I noticed the numb foot right away, because I couldn’t quite tell if my foot was on the floor, or even underneath me, but I persisted and took another step, and then another.
I’m not sure exactly when the foot came out from under me, but I managed to hit the light switch on my way down, sprawling on the floor in front of clients. And I still couldn’t feel my foot.
I tried to bounce back up and laugh it off, but even the two steps back to my chair were a slow motion cringe-fest as my supervisor looked on. He went to check the door, and turn the lights back on, but then we all sat back down and pretended the whole incident had never happened, which was a blessing. I felt no pain (adrenaline is a wonderful thing, because I’m pretty sure my head hit the floor at some point), and went back to taking my copious notes, but I made sure to test out my feet every few minutes, especially before my next attempt at standing up.
I had two reactions to the whole thing: 1) I felt very silly and embarrassed, 2) I sort of liked the slow motion drama of the whole thing and the split second realization that I had just given myself a great story to tell. I think the second reaction won out.
It also made me think about why women cross their legs. Some part of it is automatic and anatomically prescribed, I’m sure. I feel more balanced with my legs crossed, and more ill at ease with my legs flat on the floor and pressed together. Another part of it is the training that tells you it’s more feminine and demure to cross your legs than to sit with your feet flat on the ground, “like a man.” Men can sit with their legs wide apart if they like. Women rarely do that. There’s something about modesty in there, and the history of skirt-wearing for women, but there’s more to it. Maybe self-protection. Maybe a signal that this woman is not advertising her sexuality, and is making sure to remain prim and proper.
The whole event also reminded me of the way my old dog, Dina, used to walk with her paws folded under her, when she was fourteen years old and experiencing neurological damage. She used to smile through it too, as if she was balanced perfectly on all four paws, and I found myself emulating her. And thinking of her.
I tend to feel off balance most of the time, literally and figuratively, and this was just a more dramatic example of it. And, really, I survived. No one laughed at me (that I know of), and no permanent damage was done. Maybe I need to take Dina’s lesson to heart: it doesn’t matter if you are balanced on all fours; it only matters if you are living your life the best way you can.
(By the way, Cricket completely disagrees on this one. She is all about dignity.)