I’m going abroad for the first time this summer, and they have repeatedly told me (like they know I’m silently, ferociously refusing the command) to bring a good pair of walking shoes. Walking shoes. The term alone strikes fear in my heart. I devoted 13 days to fretting constantly about it and on the 14th day I entered a shoe store, dragged in screaming by my sister and her best friend. With shocking ease, I had picked out a cheap pair of leather sandals and was strutting about the store, hollering ‘I didn’t know that it was possible for a shoe to have an ergonomic design but no fashion flowers embroidered on them!!’ I sailed around, flipping my hair and murmuring nonsensical Italian words, until I was brought to a screeching halt by this question:
“Do you think mom will like them?” Lib asked.
She wouldn’t. Our mom started smothering us with makeup before we were old enough figure out which of our features she was trying to disguise. She attended Bob Jones which is, in reality, a Southern Baptist University, but in her mind exists as an institute for the criminally insane where the administration refused to promote her from ‘assistant prayer captain’ to ‘prayer captain’ because they deemed her a clotheshorse (they also deemed interracial dating an abomination in the sight of the Lord, but they saved that battle for the supreme court). After slaving over our last Christmas card photo for an entire afternoon, mom tossed it aside muttering, “What was the theme here: baggy clothes?” We knew she would take one look at these shoes, pause for a beat longer than it would take to avoid conflict, and say:
“They look…orthopedic,” Forced grin. “Is that what you were going for?”
I was acting this out through a slapstick comedy routine in the aisles of Rack Room, still wearing my orthopedic sandals, when I heard a giggles coming from a pair of loafers. A woman poked her head up and continued laughing. Then she narrowed her eyes.
“I’ve got a proposal,” she said, swirling the tumbler of scotch that had materialized in her hand. Huddled next to the Shape-Ups, we devised a plan to thwart the Buy-One-Get-One sale. We would purchase our shoes together and split the savings. If I had to buy ‘good walking shoes,’ I could at least do it by running an organized crime ring out of our local mall. I approached the register with my orthopedic sandals, my middle-aged bargain-minded stranger, and a look on my face that I hoped said ‘Snitches get stitches (in the shape of fashion flowers).’ It must have come across more as ‘math is not my strong suit’ because the entire ordeal saved me six dollars and the indignity of purchasing shoes who’s target demographic has at least one artificial hip.
According to my mom, my great-grandmother has a pair “just like that!”