Thursday, November 11, 2004

Black shoes

Someone recently suggested I treat myself to a new pair of shoes. Whenever you get news, this person said, of a good nature, one should buy new shoes. I'm a rare species of woman: I'm not terribly into shoes. My shoe buying habits tend to be of the last minute, and only when my existing shoes have started to come across at the seams, and the big toe is sticking out the front end. Once, I wore a pair of loaters even though the sole had virtually separated from the moccasin and water was seeping in, soaking my feet. I also still have a pair of sandals that because of an incident involving gallons and gallons of rain and a plastic bag were nearly consumed by bacteria; I dropped the sandals into a bucket of bleach, scrapped off the bacteria, and voila, I can still wear them.

Added to my inability to actually stop wearing shoes until they fall apart, I also have a tendency to buy black shoes because I'm firmly of the belief that you can never go wrong with black; it matches everything and is mostly always appropriate. I do have one pair of navy pumps, but only because I have two or three navy suits. But everything else -- from loafers to dress shoes to high heels to sandals -- it's all black, baby.

Years ago, I read the poem Ithaka at my high school baccalaureate. I wore a new dress that day -- black with little pink flowers. It was my biggest public speaking gig ever. I was nervous. Yes, I'd recently graduated from the Dale Carnegie class, but I was still most happy when no one noticed me at all. And somehow, peer pressure did me in and I had volunteered to read a poem in front of my 200 fellow students and their friends and family. Before I left the house, I made sure my dress wasn't caught in my hose, that I had a copy of the poem, and in a moment of vanity, left my glasses at home; I wasn't driving, and I figured if I couldn't see the audience, I couldn't freak out. The last thing I wanted to do was freak out in front of 80 gazillion people.

The baccalaureate was held on the campus of a local college. As my family and I walked from the car to the church, I looked down and noticed, for the first time, that I was wearing two different shoes. On my left foot, I was wearing the aforementioned black moccasin that was falling apart and on my right foot, I was wearing my black dress shoe (basket-weave pattern, if you were really wondering). So much for freaking out at the podium -- I freaked out right there in the parking lot. My mother reassured me, saying that if I hadn't noticed that I was wearing two different shoes, no one else would either; after all they were both black, weren't they?

The key point to keep in mind was, I was not wearing my glasses and I was assuming the 80 gazillion people in the audience all had 20/20 vision and instead of listening to my reading of "Ithaka", they would all be pointing at my mismatched -- albeit black -- shoes and laughing; you know the old adage: You can learn a lot from a person from her shoes. I could just see us all at our 25th high school reunion and the class president saying, "Remember Seema? She couldn't even match her shoes for baccalaureate, is it any surprise she's matching David Hasslehoff's record as the world's oldest lifeguard?"

I'm happy to report I got through that incident without anyone noticing -- or remarking, as the case might be -- on my mis-matched shoes and I didn't faint or freak out at the podium when I read the poem. Also, I stopped lifeguarding after my sophomore year of college, so David Hasslehoff never had to worry about competition from me. Now, I never, ever leave the house without giving my shoes a once-over, because just like people wake up in a cold sweat thinking they've missed an important exam, I always think of myself as the girl with two different shoes on.

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