9 Jun


I get foot cramps.

In case you’ve never had foot cramps, let me break them down for you. “Foot cramps,” also known as “Charley Horses,” are incredibly painful and also kind of embarrassing muscle spasms, which cause your foot to seize up and look like a snarling cat that was just dipped in a bubble bath.

The first foot cramp I ever had left me feeling confused and alone. I was 14. It was a Tuesday eve. I was sitting on the floor of the family room, telling a story about how a tiny bit of pee had escaped my bladder during a cross-country running race. I was laughing. My family was laughing. Cheese was being shared among us. There were also crackers. It was a great night.

AND THEN…my foot cramped.

I’ll never forget the random, searing pain I felt in my left foot as I looked down and saw that it was all…twisted…contorted…and gnarled. It looked like a tree branch, hanging off of one of those really hideous and evil-looking trees that grow in Disney forests (and probably Mar-a-Lago).

I was horrified, and so, I started screaming.


My mother was alarmed, and rightly so! I was experiencing some kind of medical abnormality that would land me as a guest star on Grey’s Anatomy (and maybe even forge a friendship between Shonda and me). Books would be written about this! I’d be considered “one of those people” who have trees for limbs, or who are born with tails! (No offense to these people. If you have a Maple tree growing where your leg should be and a tail growing out of your behind, I’ll still say “hi” to you on the street.)

“Oh,” said Mother, “that’s just a foot cramp. It’ll go away.”

JUST A FOOT CRAMP?? JUST a foot cramp??

I writhed in agony as my sisters watched and laughed at my pain.

Am I sensitive to pain? Who’s to say (except for everyone who’s ever said so). Maybe other people are too insensitive to pain? Have you ever thought about that? Why shouldn’t I use papercuts as an excuse not to walk my dog? Infection is a serious risk.

Anyway. The cramp did subside. And then I ate some cheese and felt better.

That was nearly ten years ago. In the last few weeks, I’ve experienced more foot cramps than I ever thought possible.

Let me paint you a picture…

It’s a Wednesday night. I’m lying in my nice, big bed and I’m sleeping with one leg sprawled across the bed, and the other hanging off the bed. (Try to imagine how this works…you can’t, can you? I sleep like the human pretzel I’m not, which is probably why I get foot cramps. Maybe if I slept like a human pretzel roll, I wouldn’t be dealing with any of this.) I’m dreaming that I’m locked in a hotel and some old lady is chastising me for wearing a dress. Does this mean I feel dominated by the elderly? Am I itching for a vacation? It’s too soon to say. All I know is that mid-old lady lecture, I awake with a surging pain in my left foot.

NOT AGAIN, I think, as I silently whine and try to keep breathing. It takes a while, but the cramp passes, and I fall asleep.

THEN: It’s early on a Saturday morning. I’m sleeping in a bunk bed on Cape Cod. I reek of lobster and Jim Beam and there’s a lifeguard – in uniform – lying next to me.

Just kidding.

I am sleeping in a bunk bed, but I don’t smell of anything other than morning breath and shampoo. And the only things next to me are a bunch of rogue tissues that I must’ve used to blow my nose over the course of the night because I have a virus and an ear infection. I really, really have to pee, and I do a quick cost benefit analysis; either I damage my bladder by holding it for a few more hours, until I feel like it’s an acceptable time to wake up on a weekend, or I exert energy now and climb down from the top bunk. Either option is uncomfortable for me.

I decide to “just do it.” This is a mistake.

As I stretch my foot down to reach the bottom rung of the bunk bed ladder, I feel that familiar twinge of pain – FOOT CRAMP, NOOOOO!!!!

I stand awkwardly on the ladder as my foot spasms and contorts. I try not to wake anyone, but the bed is pretty rickety and I am not graceful without at least a hint of Prosecco in my system, so the entire structure is kind of shaking in the wind, as I shift my weight from left to right and try not to fall (one foot) to my death. My uncle walks by and chuckles, as if he’s not at all surprised by what’s going on.

I finally get my foot to calm the fuck down and am able to dismount the bed. I then make the decision to never, ever let my kids sleep in bunk beds…mostly because I think that physically placing one kid on top of another establishes a very literal hierarchy, and that can leave a kid dropping out of school to “find himself” as a bongo drummer in a traveling street band…but also because I don’t want my children to have foot cramps.

THEN: It’s a peaceful Tuesday afternoon. I just finished a run and am taking a nice, long shower. I decide that summer is coming and I should get used to shaving again. I look at my leg and realize I may have overcommitted; time is running out and the US no longer supports climate efforts, so I need to hurry this shower on up. I extend my leg to get a clean, even shave and BAM: foot cramp. I start yelling over Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” which happens to be playing at the very moment that my consciousness begins to float off into the mystic. I think that I see Van’s face projected on my shower wall, before coming to and realizing that Van is not in my shower at all. The foot cramp subsides, and I continue to shave.

So you see? These cramps have been following me. They’re trying to take me down, one foot at a time.

Yesterday, I decided to “proactively deal with my concerns,” and do a little research on foot cramps.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, foot cramps “tend to happen more frequently as we age.”

Please note: as we age.

Who’s this “we” and am I included? I surely can’t be included. I’m not getting older! Just wiser! Those lines around my mouth aren’t wrinkles; they’re “smile lines,” and you can direct any further questions to my grandmother, who assured me as much.

I decide to focus on the second cause: dehydration.

This is something I can wrap my head around. Fluids! I dig them!

I’ve been chugging water nonstop for a few days, and I’ve yet to feel a single cramp. *Knocks on wood and silently tells her foot to stay the fuck in line.*

Drinking so much water, however, makes me have to pee at night, which might not bode well for me, where bunk beds are concerned. So, if you read about a girl who fell off her bunk bed because a foot cramp struck on her way to the bathroom and she suffered horrible injuries, don’t feel too bad – it’s just me.







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