I need to preface this by explaining I’m a big fan of clothes. I think they’re one of the top ideas humanity has come up with. I’m not sure which is exactly on top. Clothes, the equality of people before the law, any scene where Homer Simpson gives a false name, and the curried tofu the farmer’s market on the west side of town has are in the top ten. I’m happy to wear most any kind of clothing. If I run across one while at home I’ll just toss it on, which works out better in winter.
There is one point at which this clothes-appreciation stops. That point is my feet. Not socks. I retain a love of socks even though I am still afraid to read about their history. They belong to the class of clothes that feel wonderful to put on, to have on, and to take off, along with bathing suits and long underwear. They don’t feel so good when they’re wet or have pebbles in them, but that is the fault of the water or pebbles and not inherent to the socks themselves. Also not so good if they have holes, but that’s again not the fault of the socks. Ask a pair of socks to vote on whether they should have holes or not and they would flop over, helpless in their inanimate sock natures. But I expect they’d want to have only the one authorized hole for slipping the entire foot in. I almost wrote “whole” foot there, but I didn’t want to distract people by thinking of foot-holes. That’s unsettling, which socks are not.
No, my problem is with shoes. I say it’s the fault of shoes. I’ve owned literally more than a dozen shoes and they’ve all been made of pain. Some just a little bit of pain. Others, especially boots, are vast, highly organized networks of intensely concentrated pain. Shoe-makers insist the problem is that since I am tall, I have feet that are large, toe-to-heel, and also rather more curved than the average. So either my big toe or my … part of the foot on the other side of the big toe … falls outside the normal bounds of a shoe. I say the shoe-makers are at fault, for installing in every pair of shoes ever made small, pneumatically fired mallets battering every part of my foot every moment that I wear them. So I’m always finding excuses to take my shoes off. “Why, wouldn’t it be impolite to wear my shoes in your house?” “We’re going to be on this plane nearly two hours, why not slip my feet out?” “Oh, I’m at the hipster barcade so much it’s almost like home, I can leave my shoes behind.”
Yes, in time, I get used to the pains of any particular pair of shoes and they get familiar enough to be sort of pleasant-ish. And that lasts for minutes, because that’s when the soles start to collapse and I end up walking on the pile of jagged spikes ordinarily hidden in them. Then I go on for another couple months hoping something will turn up. Meanwhile the shoes grow holes large enough to let my toes through and if you think I’m exaggerating this I will include a picture of my recently-retired boots unless it turns out I’m lazy.
So I went shopping for new shoes which I figured wouldn’t be better but would at least be different. This is not a metaphor. There was this promising rubber pair that went up nearly to my knees and had no laces. But it was too tight and as I tried taking it off I realized a cartoon might happen. Society escaped without a pair of size-12 knee-high rubber missiles firing from the shoe store towards the half-price calendars kiosk. At another store, another day, I tried one and found … something … wonderful.
They didn’t hurt! My feet went in and no particular part of my body was in agony. They just felt warm and as waterproof as you can tell from inside a Payless Shoe Store in the wing of the mall I never go to because there’s no bookstores there. It’s a wonder. I bought the shoes as fast as I could and I’ve just been delighted ever since. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before.
The shoes are a size 14. That’s bigger than I’ve ever worn before. It’s a size more generally associated with kangaroos who play basketball. It’s large enough if I ever took my boots off inside, say, a Best Buy I’d be able to sneak a Smart TV or a sales associate or maybe the water fountain out in them. I’ve never seen size 14s in a normal shoe store before and I may never see them again. I don’t care. I have shoes that work as shoes. I may never take them off again, except that it feels so good to take them off.