New Shoes and Friendship

An old building near our house with a sheltering tree.

Miles run yesterday: 4.5

Chapters revised in my novel so far: 6

Times I had to listen to Paolo Nutini’s “New Shoes” for this post: 4

“Hey, I put some new shoes on, and suddenly everything’s right.”–Paolo Nutini

You would not believe the amazing boots my best friend brought me today. She bought them for a penny.

Just between you and me, I may have a shoe problem.

But I have always been very, very fortunate in the friendship department.

When I was young, I was a girly girl. My 4-year-old dress habit had introduced a dress trend in the preschool set. All the moms who couldn’t get their girls to wear dresses in the past were thrilled.

And one does not wear dresses with laced shoes; dresses certainly don’t belong with tennis shoes. My shoes had buckles.

So when skill tests made the rounds in kindergarten, I passed all of them with flying colors: telephone number, parents’ names, address, cutting with scissors… all except the Shoe Tying test. When we were sitting in Circle Time, I held paper phones, paper houses, paper scissors… and the other kids held paper shoes. With ties. I ignored them.

My mom couldn’t figure out why I kept asking for buckle shoes. When she discovered the reason, she went right out and bought me shoes with ties.

I was devastated.

But I had a secret weapon: my best friend in kindergarten whose middle name, she had told me, was “Bing Bong.” I found this fascinating.

Every day after naptime, I asked her to tie my shoes for me. She did, for many weeks. And then, one day, she said, “Why don’t you tie them yourself?” And then she tore the ears off of my favorite, miniature, blue rubber rabbit. And we weren’t the best of friends after that.

I am still thankful for her shoe tying skills and for the way she encouraged me to be independent.

In college, my best friend was one of the smartest, most well-read people I’ve ever met. She could remember conversations verbatim, and when I cried on her shoulder for the fiftieth night in a row about the same boy, she never once said, “He’s a horrible, no-good idiot.”

She also put up with an awful lot of talk about shoes. When you walk miles and miles around campus and up to Franklin Street and back to the dorm and then out on the town again, you have to have shoes that go the distance.

One Halloween, I had bought nifty black shoes (with ties!) that had a cool, hip granny vibe about them. We dressed up as black eyed peas (before the music group existed) and joined the throngs of people showing off their costumes at the big Halloween celebration downtown.

Me: My shoes are getting ruined! Look at them.

Her: We can clean them off later.

Me: They won’t clean off. They won’t. Maybe I should just stop walking.

Her: Stop walking, and we’re sleeping in the street. Is that what you want?

There was an element of tough love in our relationship.

And she saw me through very many pairs of shoes; shoes with soles that had been walked right through, and new ones that we exclaimed over together. Sometimes, because of our shared interests and big, curly hair, we looked similar from our heads right down to our toes.

People would say, “Are you two sisters? You look so similar!”

And she would reply, “Yes. I’m the pretty one.”

I will never forget when I was going for my first job with a salary, and I was unsure whether I had a chance at getting it.

She looked me straight in the eye and said, “They would be fools not to hire you. There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll get it.”

And I did.

Yesterday, I went out for lunch and a quick shop with my BFF. She may have a bigger shoe problem than I do, but don’t tell her I said that.

We are bound together by the excitement about new running shoes, new boots, the joy of wearing rain boots in the puddles.

While we were shopping, I found a pair of lace-up (!) black boots with faux fur that had been $220 and were reduced to $33.

I carried them around the store and then put them back. I didn’t need the guilt.

“I could get them for you for Christmas! I don’t have any ideas!” she said.

“Please don’t, it’s fine. Really.”

Today, she showed up on my doorstep with a hug, a card and The Boots. When she drove back to the store and went to the register, they rang them up and charged her a penny because they were out on the floor in error.

A penny.

I told her she was the luckiest person I knew.

But really, I know I’m the lucky one to have such a good friend, one who never has to buy or give me another thing to make me feel rich. My life has been blessed by all of the friends who have changed me… for good.


On Trend: iPad 3, Sauconys and Members Only Jackets

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Years I have worn Saucony Rides, in every color available: at least 7

Times my son has mentioned the iPad 3, now apparently called the iPad HD, to me in the last two months: 124

Members Only jackets I owned in seventh grade: 2

My favorite memory of my great uncle Don was when he came to visit us all at my grandmother’s house. It was circa 1985, and he was wearing a Members Only jacket. He had bought it only after a scare where the sales guy mentioned the name, and Don started apologizing, afraid he was touching items available only to an exclusive club.

Yeah. It was the club of cool middle schoolers. Word. I got my first Members Only jacket the Christmas of seventh grade. It was black, as I had specified, and I wore it over every single article of clothing I owned from December until June, when school let out for the summer. When I walked the 3/4 mile to school carrying my violin and books that slid everywhere (backpacks were so uncool), my jacket kept me looking on trend. In January, I froze to death because I was way too cool to wear an actual coat, with lining and stuff. In April, I pushed the sleeves up and sweated in that sucker. I really hope my mom washed it from time to time, but I don’t remember that part. I must have taken it off to go to sleep, right?

The next year, I asked for a slightly upscale version of my Goth-like favorite. Christmas of eighth grade was the salmon-colored, slightly girlier version of the previous year’s fave. When I walked to school, people were less afraid I was going to beat them up, Outsiders-style. It also complimented the bright green eyeshadow I was fond of wearing, the eyeshadow my mom would inspect before I walked out the door and say, “You’re going to school… like that?”

I’m still fascinated by trends, about why people make the choices they do. After reading Steve Jobs’s biography, it was incredible to learn that he made product-line choices based solely on what he liked. He believed that he knew better than the average person did what they might want in the future. No trend-spotters for him.

We could probably all learn from him: you can’t make people read your blog or buy your jackets or even just “Like” things, and there are plenty of examples of big companies who figured this out the hard way… remember New Coke?

I have been to my local running store now twice and have to head back later this week because my shoes are once again on order. Instead of citron and black, my new ones will have a thin, pink accent. The running shoe companies seem to understand that we want color and variety and trend-consciousness. But where they seem to be missing the point is on the re-design.

My stand-bys, the Saucony Rides, are one size larger than my regular shoes and built like boats. They are not streamlined or sexy or slim. But that’s the point. I have a super-high arch, and I need lots and lots of cushioning and support. And really, when I’m running super-fast (or not), who can tell how clunky they are?

Problem for me: guess what Saucony’s doing next? This summer’s re-vamp will strip down the cushioning layer to move toward the trend of less shoe, more Vibram Five-Finger-ness. Sigh. Next trend: hip replacement? Arch reconstruction?

And in the meantime, the latest trend in my house is reminding my son that even if the iPad 3 has Siri or teleportation or a quantum physics app, he won’t be getting one.