He posted in the writing gigs section of Craigslist. 

Some people say they’re empowering; others say they’re oppressive. They’re high heels, and, like them or not, women keep wearing them. The benefits of walking tall are obvious–attractiveness to the opposite sex, added height and confidence. But at what price? If one were to look inside the mind (and shoe closet) of a shoe diva, what would one find? What does the siren call of fashion footwear sound like? And is the wearer still smiling when she removes her shoes at the end of the day?

I am interested in having a short story written about a professional woman who has a love-hate relationship with her collection of impossibly high, pointy-toed stilettos.  

For a moment, I indulged the illusion that the posting entity might be a women’s fashion magazine or website. I released the moment and wrote a quick, yet thorough, e-mail that detailed my many qualifications for writing a PG-rated pervy shoe story. Writing gigs don’t last long on Craigslist and I’m unemployed. I spend much longer moments dreaming of groceries.

I had questions for “Paul.”  “For you or publication?  Erotica or literary fiction?”  The unemployed are not choosy. I wanted to know what Paul was buying so I could sell it. Fast. For American cash money. The kind they take at Trader Joe’s.

He admired my powers of perception. He liked the ridiculous water bra workshop casualty I sent him as a sample. “I’m in discussions with several other writers but I must say you stand out.”  Just as I would accept his money, I accepted his flattery. I’m a writer. I like praise nearly as much as I like Trader Joe’s tomato and basil hummus.

Paul was discerning. There is plenty of free foot fetish literature on the internet. I did my research. I sensed that he wanted more of a connection.  That he didn’t take as much pleasure in reading the same stories as hordes of the similarly-stimulated. 

He asked if we could chat online.  He wanted to share the nuances of his custom order.  I grudgingly threw in the extra time and learned the following:  He is turned on by the thought of women’s feet hurting.  He loves very high, pointy-toed stiletto pumps.

And Paul is really into bunions.

For those not learned in podiatry, a bunion is “an unnatural, bony hump that forms at the base of the big toe where it attaches to the foot. Often, the big toe deviates toward the other toes.” In layman’s terms, they’re painful foot deformities.  Painful, smokin’ hot deformities to some, it seems.

I was all business. “Anything else?  Calluses, blisters, bleeding, corns?” 

No calluses, blisters or bleeding.  A corn or two would be fine.

He specified that the afflicted, yet fashionable, main character should have little to no interaction with men. He reiterated that she should be an educated professional.  Paul did not want a trashy heroine in hooker heels.  He wanted me to write him a girlfriend.  He didn’t need to say it. 

I received a lesson in two types of shoeplay: dangling and dipping. Dangling occurs when a woman, often seated with legs crossed, allows her shoe to dangle from her toes, exposing her heels.  A woman is dipping when she slips her foot in and out of her shoe, often when she’s been standing in uncomfortable shoes for a long time.  Though Paul enjoys dangling, he prefers dipping.  He kindly provided me with a YouTube link to ensure my comprehension.   Though he was at work, he located the video link in a jiffy.

In addition, he instructed that “[r]ealism and authenticity with respect to the woman’s day are what give this admittedly formulaic story novelty for me.”  He seemed innocuous, even sort of sweet.  Then he asked the question.

“Do you happen to have bunions?”

“Damn,” I thought, “Please tell me he did not just ask that.”  He was not sweet and innocuous.  He was trying to score some free foot chat.  The kind provided by professionals for $3.99 a minute. I shut him down and advised that matters involving my own feet were outside the realm of our transaction. 

He explained that he pays some of the writers to provide photos of their feet as “author inscriptions”. In exchange for the promise of one picture of my bare feet, Paul tacked a cool ten onto the $50 he would deposit in my Paypal account immediately.  He wanted to know more.  Did I have bunions?  (Lie number one:  Yes. I have early stage bunions. Truth: I don’t even know what that means.)  Did I wear pointy-toed shoes?  (Lie number two:  Yes.  Truth: I am 5’9” and, though I like some heel on my shoes, five-inch stilettos hold little appeal.)   What color polish will you use?  (Lie number three:  I don’t know yet. You’ll find out when I do. Truth: Is he freaking kidding me?)

I wrote the story. She’s an architect.  She dips and dangles with the best of them.  Her Manolos are $500 vises, twisting her feet into shapes no foot should know. 

[She] is happy to dress conservatively from the ankles up, but is unyielding in her insistence on wearing the highest heels possible.  Her feet, disarranged and misshapen without the stunning stilettos, are perfect when tucked inside the pointy, pretty, pain-making pumps she wears.  They proclaim her womanhood and dare anyone to think otherwise.

It wasn’t terrible.  I arranged my feet to look as ugly as possible, snapped and uploaded a picture and sent it and the story to Paul.

I didn’t hear back for two days.  I had my money but where was my flattery? 

“I’m sorry for not writing back sooner.  My mom had surgery.  She’s recovering nicely.  I love the story and the picture.” 

I admitted that I had been worried that the story was more literary than he wanted.  “No.  I love rich narrative.  I would like for you to do another.”  During our interactions, I took note that he was not a stupid person.  I was genuinely pleased that he liked the story.  Then he asked, “Didn’t you say you had corns?  Which toes are they on?  I can’t really tell from the picture.”

Ick.  I knew there would be some hanky-panky going on with the story, but cognitive dissonance had downplayed the co-starring role my feet would play.  Double ick. I did not respond to his e-mail.  It didn’t seem necessary.

That was about a month ago.  He e-mailed the other day to tell me he wants to buy another of my “incredible” stories after the holidays.  The ick factor faded with the compliment, the promise of compensation and the idea of him saving up to buy stories about women with beautiful bunions.  I will gladly write him another story.   I’m a writer. It’s what I do.

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LAUREN BECKER is founder and editor of Corium Magazine. Her work has appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Tin House, The Los Angeles Review, Wigleaf, and The Rumpus. Her collection of short fiction, If I Would Leave Myself Behind, was published by Curbside Splendor in June of 2014.

51 responses to “He Prefers Bunions”

  1. Richard Cox says:

    I’ve seen and heard of many odd things, but short stories custom written for an audience of one is new to me. The world is indeed a strange place.

    You could’ve Photoshopped some corns onto your feet. Maybe next time.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I meant to say “foot fetish short stories custom written for an audience of one.” Otherwise it’s not quite as strange.

    • You are very wise, Richard. If only I had known you before … I would say I’d keep it in mind for the future but I am keeping my feet firmly ensconced in socks and boots, even while writing the next story for him.

      As to the strangeness of the request, (1) I live in the SF Bay Area. Nothing is surprising, and (2) I found the posting on Craigslist. I am rarely surprised there, either …

      Thanks for commenting on my very first post!

  2. The foot fetish part does add a little something to the custom-written thing. If it had been about bunnies or picnics, I probably wouldn’t have put it up here. Though there are probably some really good bunny stories.

  3. Dana says:

    I laughed and groaned out loud! Kudos!

  4. i love making people laugh and groan. ooh, did that sound bad?! thanks dana!

  5. Heh. This was neat. Fun just slightly bordering toward squicky but never actually crossing the line for the most part.

  6. There’s something Victorian about this – the epistolary (e-epistolary?) exchange, the very mannered, literary nature of what is (to our chap) top-notch porn…

    I was quite moved by “He wanted me to write him a girlfriend.” Both by the sweet sadness of his desire and by your sensitivity in realising what he wanted.

    Mind you, he wanted you to write him a girlfriend with bunions. Weirdo.

  7. Hi Steve: You made me laugh out loud. I will not use the acronym.

    Victorian. I like that. I think “Paul” is an unusual guy — harmless and rather nice. It was rather gentlemanly of him to pay me before I wrote the story. And I truly do find it sweet that he saves his money to purchase stories.

    People have their things. I’ve met weirder. And women with bunions need love, too. If there are any on here who would like an introduction, I would be happy to make one. So long as you don’t steal my gig. Hee. It really is a good gig. Writing the story was practically like Mad Libs — he gave me so many parameters I just had to fill in a few blanks …

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  8. Ben Loory says:

    “[r]ealism and authenticity with respect to the woman’s day are what give this admittedly formulaic story novelty for me.”

    hahahaha if i were you i’d frame that! make sure you put the attribution at the bottom: “- Paul, foot perv”


    • you are a kind and gentle soul, ben loory. 😛

      • Ben Loory says:

        somehow i feel offended, but i’m not sure why…

        did he ever explain what it was there was to like about feet? i’ve never understood that. i mean not that they repulse me or anything.

        • He didn’t explain and I didn’t ask. I think it’s like a preference for hair color or height. Just a little more extreme. I’m betting his mom has messed up feet. My mom does. She used to wear those pointy-toed shoes. I swear, I could probably live off this guy if I kept him supplied with pictures of my mom’s feet.

          He’s also not just into feet. He likes the idea of the woman being uncomfortable, in pain. So there’s a sadistic streak in him. I really try not to judge. If women want to wear uncomfortable shoes and he enjoys watching them dip and dangle and whatever, it’s consensual. If he locks them in his basement and forces the stilettos on them, I’m going to have a problem …

  9. Stefan Kiesbye says:

    Hi Lauren, good to read you. Well it’s a job for a modern Anais Nin, “The Delta of Bunions.” I think audiences of one might be the best paying too, and they’re deliciously creepy, or just creepy. One of my friends one had a quiet disturbing reading job, but hey, writing is way better! Wonder if Paul might love reading about himself?!

    • Hi Stefan! Good to hear from you. I enjoyed writing the story for him and the one here, so I’m not complaining. More to report re: your final comment later … (See you at AWP, I hope!)

  10. “For American cash money. The kind they take at Trader Joe’s”. I am somewhat unemployed right now, and those thoughts really resonated with me. I’d never thought of looking for writing gigs on Craigslists. It was interesting to read about what happened when you did.

  11. Evan Karp says:

    “The kind provided by professionals for $3.99 a minute.” hee.
    Well-written Lauren. An interesting story told well. This has given me the brilliant idea to post some wanted ads of my own on CL, and I thank you for that!

  12. Oh this was good, so good!

    I had horrible giant warts on my big toes this summer – making sandals a physical necessity and an aesthetic tragedy. As much as I love the foot massage/pedicure, going to the podiatrist for the first time had a slightly creepy tinge to it. This guy didn’t just love his work, I think he truly LOVED his work. I’ve never seen that much glee when shaving crusty, black, dead skin from a toe.

    Too bad I didn’t take any photos. I’d have gladly shared them with you. Not bunions or corns, but painful deformities nonetheless. (Also, feel free to use that in your next adventure, should you choose to accept it.)

    So delighted to have you here with us, Lauren! Welcome!

    • Oh, my. That sounds truly gross, all around. Better a disproportionately happy podiatrist than gynecologist, though, right?! I hope your feet are lovely and sandal-worthy again! Thanks for the nice welcome, Kimberly — I’m excited to be here!

  13. i’ve worked on cases where bunions serve as the basis of the disability claims.

    when it comes to feet, mine are sick as hell looking and yet i’m like the eddie murphy character in boomerang.

  14. “During our interactions, I took note that he was not a stupid person. ”


    God, I miss Craigslist. And Trader Joe’s.

    Welcome aboard, Lauren! People are strange. But they make for great stories.

  15. ha, lauren, my feet are like most people’s feet – just weird and creepy looking, only a bit more so. hee.

    indeed, one plaintiff genuinely seemed to be in need of serious help with her bunion and corn issues. the attorney i worked with still ripped her to shit in the deposition, so much so that i though her husband was going to come after us after it all ended. i did get to have some fun in one of the cases, asking wasn’t it true that her husband had posted notes how he enjoyed, uh, aiming his orgasm at her corns (he was quite a profilic blogger about his/their fetishes).

  16. Bunions update: Paul responds.

    I was pretty sure Paul would find the story. I thought it likely that he does regular searches using some of the tag words. Gotta keep up with world of bunions. And any news about a new line of Jimmy Choo’s …

    Several hours after it was posted, Paul sent the following:

    Thank you for not revealing my identity. I’m grateful to you. And
    kudos to you for turning your experience into a a great article!

    And I will gladly enjoy more of your stories in the new year! No need
    for any more pics. Sorry for icking you out.

    Happy Holidays!

    I know some of you think he’s a weirdo, but I think Paul’s a gracious guy who happens to like mangled feet. I thanked him and asked if I could share his response. I guess I wanted to provide more of a human context. And maybe to assuage a little guilt for using a mutual experience for my own purposes. He responded as follows:

    I don’t mind at all if you post my response. Thanks for asking.

    And by the way, aren’t you curious as to how I found your article so
    quickly? I’m certainly not psychic. And no, my mom did not have foot
    problems, but a woman who played an integral role in my childhood did.
    You’re welcome to ask anything you like!

    I haven’t written back. As I said in the story, I don’t think it’s necessary. I wrote for him. I wrote about my experience writing for him. There’s a difference between client and subject and, though I would be happy to write more stories for him, I am going to leave it at that.

  17. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Everybody’s got their something, ya’ll, and based on what I’ve read so far, I do give Paul credit for knowing what he wants, getting engaged to scratch his itch, and pushing at the boundaries without pushing through them. And props to you, Lauren, for handling it all with good sense, grace and humor. If more people were like the main characters of this incident, I suspect fewer such incidents would end in harm, and even tragedy.

    • People do all have their itches, don’t they? I know i’ve been asked to be a party to much, much stranger! Thanks for giving Paul a break. And for the other nice things you said. As for your last sentence, I agree. This was clearly a very unique situation (!) but I try to be careful in any situation where i agree to do work for someone i don’t know. Paul knows my last name now (and probably did before, if he Googled me), but I’m not concerned. If I had had any super-creepy feelings or felt like I was in any danger, I would have backed out long ago. Intuition is a good thing that far too few people utilize. Thanks, Uche!

  18. Erika Rae says:

    Oh my God, this is…so unbelievably hilarious. I LOVE it. “Didn’t you say you had corns? What toes are they on?” I also love how you tried to make your feet as ugly as possible for the photo shoot. You just can’t make this stuff up. Beautiful. (And you, by the way, are such a charming and witty author. Nice to “meet” you.)

    Now…how *did* Paul find your post so quickly? Care to weigh in, “Paul”? Oh, and just in case you’re still hiring, I have square feet. Toes straight across like a cheese board. Balance like you wouldn’t believe. Have I got stories to tell…

  19. During the negotiation for photos, I caught myself wishing my feet were more messed up! He’d be enchanted by their deformity, dazzled by their memory of the pointy-toed shoes that created their beautiful freakishness … and he’d pay me more of that American cash money for pictures of the monstrosities ’cause, you know, girl’s gotta eat.

    I knew Paul would find the article. My guess is that he’s like a … maybe a Trekkie or something. Someone with a very strong interest in keeping current. With tags like “shoeplay,” “dipping,” and “dangling,” it was a matter of time. A very short time, but I was truly not surprised.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think squares would appeal to a guy who likes very pointy triangles. Darn! But I’m envious of your good balance! And you’re incredibly nice. Thanks so much for your kind welcome, Erika!

  20. Megan DiLullo says:

    Ha! I love it. And I love even more that you admit, very publicly, that you wrote a story for him. People and their quirks are so wildly entertaining, especially when captured with such grace.

    Welcome aboard.

    • I battled with myself a bit about the admission, actually. I’m still job-hunting and the field in which I’ve worked is pretty conservative. I kept my full name off my blog until about 6 months ago, when I grew tired of living a double life because my published stuff that can be found online is not “Highlights” material. But I write and I’m damn good at the work I do/have done and I threw my name on there and wrote a story about writing a story for a foot fetishist and I’m, like, 99.2% ok with it!! Thanks, Megan — it’s great to be here.

  21. Lauren, you’re a pro when talking about foot/feet/bunions. My own effort is a bit more tentative:

  22. Thanks for your kind words, Lauren. I suppose I was expressing my catty, writerly jealousy! I am sure you’re a pro talking about non-bunion matters. I’m off to check out your other writing!

  23. no, i really only specialize in bunions. but thank you for thinking otherwise, daniel! oh, and the writerly jealousy … in the real universe, it rightfully goes in the opposite direction!

  24. foot fetish site tried to follow me on twitter. made the decision to block, though friend recommended that i leverage my apparent “expertise” to further financial advantage. i don’t think that’s the career direction I’d like to pursue, though I’ll certainly write for Paul and entertain other offers! 🙂

  25. […] Becker has joined the crew at The Nervous Breakdown and writes about writing about bunions. Also at TNB, Daniel Nester interviews […]

  26. Paul Bunion says:

    Paul here. Feel free to say hello on Twitter! http://www.twitter.com/dseveruss

  27. […] of my feet are pretty thick and tough.  If I were a lady I’d probably be the ultimate object for Lauren Becker’s Paul Bunions.  Especially if he likes ’em flat-footed (with stilettos heels off, of […]

  28. […] they were having painful surgery on their painful bunions. This led me to discover the account of another writer who came across a similar ad he’d posted months earlier and who had taken this thing a step […]

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