My wife and I recently went shoe shopping. As it is with most married couples, this means that she shopped for shoes while I tagged along.
She is quite sneaky regarding such things. I was lured into a mega-superstore with hints that we might visit Sporting Goods only to find myself wandering in a maze of shoes. The stacks of footwear were so high, their tops became lost in the ragged bellies of passing clouds.
"Where are we going?" I asked in a decidedly non-whiny tone of voice. "What are we doing here?"
"Quit your whining!" replied my wife. "Sheesh! You sound worse than a car that needs a brake job! We're here because you and I both need new shoes."
Me? Need shoes? This was news. I glanced at my feet. Yup: each foot was thoroughly shod. Why did I need more shoes? After all, a guy can wear only one pair at a time!
I knew better than to voice these thoughts. We were already in the Shoe Department, and Federal Law required that we buy at least one set of shoes before exiting said department. At least that's what my wife seems to think.
I have noticed that even though both genders have the same number of feet, women seem to need more shoes than men. Remember when it came to light that Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines, owned several THOUSAND pairs of shoes? Males generally reacted by shaking their heads and muttering "What a crazy woman!" Females generally reacted by shaking their heads and muttering "What a lucky gal!"
So there I was, looking at serious time in a federal penitentiary unless I made a shoe purchase. My wife picked out a pair for me -- not only is she better than me at shopping, she also seems to derive some sort of weird pleasure from it -- and I did my part by trying them on.
The ancient ritual of trying on a single shoe and walking around in it a bit swept me back to an important moment in my personal shoe-wearing history.
I was perhaps eight years old, and Dad and I were at Orville Terkelsen's shoe store. It's hard to believe nowadays, but our tiny town really once was able to support a shoe store.
Dad had taken me to Terkelsen's to buy my very first pair of work boots. Up until then I owned exactly two sets of shoes: my school shoes, which had to be worn with care as they were also my Sunday shoes, and my "tenners." Said "tenners" were also known as "Keds."
After Dad and Orville had visited a spell and got up to speed regarding the local news, the talk turned to shoes. "The boy here needs a pair of good work boots," Dad said.
I nearly burst with pride. Work boots? For me? Only real men who worked real hard needed work boots! This could only mean that I was at last a man. I tried to recall when this metamorphosis had taken place, but came up empty. It must have happened sometime the night before, while I slept.
Orville sat me down and produced a nifty-looking gizmo that he used to measure my foot. He announced my size, then advised that we go a bit larger since I was probably still growing. Dad agreed with the seasoned shoe sage.