Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My New Shoes Might Be Gay

By: Ben Seeder

Look at them. It could be way worse, right? Still. The argument that they’re gay is definitely out there if you’re looking to make fun of them. There’s no getting around that. At the very least, it looks like someone trying too hard to have cool shoes that call too much attention to themselves. Without question. Possibly someone too old to be wearing them. Possibly even some dork millionaire producer or ad executive who lives in Malibu and has $500 jeans and a son who hates him. They announce “I’ve spent time doing market research on children’s shoes and have picked out the appropriately clever, totally now shoes because I’m young, modern, urban and creative. Have you sexted on the new iPhone yet? Don’t tell my wife. Do you like the Huffington Post? Can we get coffee and talk about Breaking Bad? Have you read the new Klosterman? Finally, someone to speak for us all.” In short, total bullshit. They’re stupid shoes and I hate them.  

Part of the reason this happened is because I wear size 15 shoes. I know. It’s crazy. What can you do? Good thing for me, there’s an easy, beautiful, mind-bogglingly simple and efficient answer that is Zappos.com. They’re spectacular. Even if you don’t have huge feet, they’re a goddamn delight to do business with. I promise. I was converted when I ordered a pair of shoes a few years ago at 5:47pm pacific standard time and they were on my doorstep at 11:30am the next morning. It was insane. They played a devilish prank by upgrading me to next day shipping just for fun without even telling me about it! But here’s the thing... not only do I pretty much have to use Zappos, I want to. What happens when I try to buy shoes at a regular store? Clown hour, and it usually involves the following sequence...

I walk into FootLocker or Nordstrom or wherever. full of goodwill and already comfortable with the knowledge there are no shoes that fit me in this establishment. Nothing new here. As I browse, I inevitably find a pair I like and think to myself, “You know what? Just ask. Partake in society. What’s the worst that can happen? There’s probably no chance, but who knows?” So I approach the nearest salesperson who’s usually already hovering near me anyway as most of them work on commission, and I ask. I ask WITH HUGE AMOUNTS OF EMPATHY FOR THIS TOTAL STRANGER WHO’S ABOUT TO RECEIVE A REQUEST THEY CANNOT COMPLETE. I ask, and the request is always, always preceded by something to the extent of “Hey!  Now, I know this is a long shot, but…do you happen to have these in a size 15?”...

Stunned, they usually stare at me expressionless for a cold 2-5 seconds. Then a slow nod, and then, very slowly...words. “Ohhh... Okay... Hmm. Oh. Huh... Well, you know what? No, no okay... Alright, I’m not sure if we have that exact style in the size you’re looking for, but let me look in the back and see what I can do.” The employee then disappears to the back for a minimum fifteen minutes. Sometimes, on their way, they will conspiratorially consult with their co-worker or boss. Baffled and visibly shaken, the manager quickly joins the salesperson in the back.  

Eventually, one or both of them will emerge from the stockroom with the oldest, greasiest, most banged up looking box you can imagine which may or may not be covered in cobwebs. Usually the box sags to one side like an old neglected building that hasn’t been entirely torn down yet. What happens next is usually the most embarrassing part of the ordeal for me, which is that I am presented with this ramshackle box and given the hard sell, but very softly like I’ve been abused. I’m told very seriously and as if being presented with a great opportunity, “Okay Ben, are you enjoying the mall? Good. Now, we didn’t have the shoe you were looking for in a 15, but we do have this. Now, I’m going to show you what we have and lets all keep an open mind about what’s inside.” 

Inside the box is not Gwyneth Paltrow’s head, but a pair of the ass ugliest grossest most unacceptable shoes currently existing in the American marketplace. More often than not it’s a pair of beige velcro Keds or a pair of hot orange LA Gear, or some other optical monstrosity commonly reserved for retards and the invalid. This is the difficult part because now I’m the asshole if I say anything to the extent of “What are you thinking?” or “What’s wrong with you?” or “For Christ’s sake man, I am an actual person!” Now I have to take a moment and pretend to consider them, because you’ve both put time into this and everybody’s got to pay rent, right?

After all, I exist on the fringes of society and should be happy to get to wear any shoes at all. Sure they may not be my dream shoes but at least they’re something to put some distance between my bare feet and the ground until I make it back to my prescription bicycle and customized helmet made out of rocks that people like me wear on our way to and from the meat-packing district and the Big and Tall stores, so yes, I’ll take the fudge nursing home velcros, thank you. All in all, it’s a very uncomfortable experience that could and should be easily avoided. You know who doesn’t give me this shit? A website. So yeah, you could say I enjoy Zappos.

But back to the problem at hand. 

I guess more than anything, it’s the ooze green tongue that bothers me. They’re hi-tops, so the tongue is more pronounced, and longer than usual. It’s the Gene Simmons tongue of tongues. My mind continues to run wild with all the different people who would wear shoes like this, guilt free. Bad improv comedians. Shitty, aging stand ups who have maybe schmoozed their way into writing for “The Big Bang Theory” out of pure liberal arts college connections. Some Berkley clown who designs ironic t-shirts with family money and is hugely successful. Jason Mraz. That’s the worst of all, that Mraz would probably wear them. But then again he’s probably bypassed these and gone full blown douche with the glove shoes. But Mraz would compliment them at a party, no question.   

More than anything, I’m concerned that it suggests that I don’t have actually important things to worry about, things like a family or a mortgage or a career or a business that I own so I put the thoughts and energy that would otherwise go into those things into hip, slightly goofy gym shoes for tweens instead. You know who would never, ever purchase these shoes? Someone who was in a war. Orson Welles. Gene Wilder. My Grandfather. You can believe that Hemingway wouldn’t wear these shoes. 

I was at a bar last week and ESPN’s World Series of Poker was on TV. There was some young guy being interviewed with the TV on mute and he was decked out in all turquoise, backwards hat included, that was obviously provided by some skateboard company. In short, he looked like a little boy. And at least as of that interview, he was rich. As I was watching this, one of the older men at the bar cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted at the screen “BUY ADULT CLOTHES!!!” and it was about the funniest thing I had ever heard until I looked down at my shoes.

Is anyone but me thinking about this much about my shoes? Not a chance, but it’s the small decisions like this that add up to everything. The good news is that they were sixty dollars (including shipping) and that all of my pants cover up the hi-top part of the shoes, and minimize the loud effect of the cursed green tongue.

Come on, though. Sixty bucks? If they were the absolute worst, I wouldn’t be conflicted about it. I could have done worse.  

Anyway...I’ll be around.