The Cankle Chronicles

My friend’s friend and I are in a mutual admiration club. We’re not friends – I’m not sure why not – but each of us thinks the other is incredible. Maybe that’s because we’re not friends and only see the best sides of each other.

“She’s so pretty … she’s perfect,” my friend’s friend said to my friend one day.

“Mm,” my friend smiled noncommittally.

“Does she have any physical flaws? Any?”

My friend smiled again, knowing I have many, and one in particular.

Her friend’s eyebrow went up. “Tell me she has cankles.”

My friend broke out into a grin. “Yes. She does. She has cankles,” she disclosed – and her friend smiled, too, glad she didn’t have to hate me.

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ONE
(Ankle Attire)

In the early ’80s, I worked at the Wrenn’s trendy clothing store. Ankle bracelets came in style, so of course all of the girls in the store were expected to wear them. Mr. Wrenn handed one to each of the other girls, and I tried mine on. It wouldn’t fit. Mr. Wrenn didn’t miss a beat; he simply cut down a necklace to fit around my ankle.

TWO
(Bikini Babe) 

On my first date with my first husband, we went to Sugar Lake, an old quarry filled with water. One end had high cliffs that the boys and an occasional very brave girl jumped from, occasionally resulting in their losing their bathing suits. You could rent a giant inner tube for a dollar and float around in it. There were vicious little fish swimming around, who would bite you on the butt, so the thing to do was lay a towel over the inner tube as protection before you arranged yourself in an attractive manner and pushed off into the water, beverage in hand. But I digress.

My primary duty at the aforementioned trendy clothing store was to sell women’s bathing suits, so I had a pretty fantastic selection of them. I’d picked out the most flattering one for that day, and sat on the rocks preening.

As I’d intended, the man who would become my ex was indeed looking. “You have rather large ankles, don’t you?” he noted.

THREE
(Ann Banes)

I worked as a standardized patient one summer, taking on the character of an economics professor with IBS. Over and over I described my fake symptoms to medical students so they could diagnose my fake condition. They weren’t supposed to know whether I was an actual patient or an actor. My costume consisted of a johnny gown over a jog-bra and bike shorts.

It was the ’90s.

One of the best students came into the room with a kind and attentive bedside manner and a keen eye for detail. He went through his list of open-ended questions and summarized his observations, ending with a perplexed, ” … and your ankles are swollen …”

Evidently I’d convinced him I was a real patient.

FOUR
(Administrative Work, Part One)

A co-worker noticed my slitted skirt at the office. “Woo-wee, sexy,” she teased, then looked down, startled. “What’s wrong with your ankles?” she exclaimed.

FIVE
(Administrative Work, Part Two)

A client at that same office watched me stand up and walk from my seat to the copier. “What’s wrong with your ankles?” she asked.

SIX
(Ankle Attire Redux)

An online friend in England designs and sells women’s shoes, specializing in pointy-toed stilettos. They are elegant and lovely and cost a small fortune. One day she posted a new style, pumps with delicate straps encircling the ankles. I commented on their gorgeousness.

“You need them,” she wrote privately.

“They would never fit my cankles,” I wrote back.

“Rubbish,” she told me. “I’m sure you have lovely legs. Send me your ankle measurement.”

I did so.

I never heard from her again.

SEVEN
(Travel Cankles)

Air travel changed forever in 2001. We are all presumed guilty until we show ourselves innocent by passing first through a metal detector, then standing before a scanner with hands over head, elbows back, utterly vulnerable for unknown persons’ viewing pleasure. After submitting ourselves to those processes, if anything looks fishy, there may be additional humiliation to come.

Yes, they patted down my ankles.

EIGHT
(Professional Cankles)

But before any of those things happened and the extremity of my ankle situation had been made perfectly clear to me, I did a little modeling. I was one of the Girls of the ACC, and yes, that is a story all by itself. David Chan was the photographer, Norm Stephens was his assistant, and Chrissy, a former Bunny who told great stories and later married David, took care of my makeup and wardrobe.

I started the day in a fairly ridiculous outfit that included a bolero sweater and legwarmers. (Again, it was the ’80s.) After a few shots on the living room couch of a couple who had enthusiastically donated their home to the project, Chrissy and I were instructed to change my attire and my nail polish. I inserted my thumbs into the tops of the legwarmers and began to tug them off. “No,” David stopped me. “You leave those on.”

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