Shoes, of all things, have been sort of a ‘thing’ for me over the past year.
It started when I walked into the UU church in Boiling Springs, and the pastor there was wearing completely impractical, gorgeous, bright shoes with her robe.
Those shoes…looked like rebellion.
They made me grin a gleefully naughty grin.
They made me want to wear wild shoes.
To be subversive.
I’m not the type of girl who has a zillion pairs of shoes. Until recently, I had exactly FOUR pairs of shoes — a pair of Birkenstock sandles for the summer, an old pair of Sketcher sneakers, a nice pair of Born clogs for dressing up, and my trusty black Clarks for everyday wear. I also had this pair of candy apple red, patent leather flats that I would wear once a year for The Vagina Monologues, but they were just a costume piece.
Shoes have always been utilitarian in my world. Some of the strictest uniform rules came into play around shoes. Plain, nondescript, flat or very low heel, black, matte shoes with no stitching, buckles, texture, contrasting soles, or any other embellishment. PLAIN was key.
Those are the shoes I’ve worn since 1999. Even before that, as a child, I had “school shoes” and “uniform shoes” and that was it.
Shoes have never been a fashion statement, nor have I given them much thought even since I left the Army.
Until I saw Aija’s delightfully subversive heels peeping out from under her robe.
Like so much about her, they slightly terrified [in the best possible way, I promise] and very much impressed me. She was BRAVE to wear those shoes.
One day, while sitting and chatting with her, the topic of her shoes came up. We were sitting at a table, so she couldn’t see my feet. All of a sudden, she said to me, in her very authoritative voice, “Show me your shoes.”
“The shoes. Show them to me. Stick your foot out. Come on.”
I stuck my foot out. What else was I going to do? She was giving me that look she has….
I was wearing my trusty black Clarks. Functional, sturdy, good arch support, slight compression for the tops of my feet, which tend to swell…..I like my Clarks.
“You left the Army 5 years ago. Why are you still wearing their shoes?”
These were definitely NOT army approved shoes. They had a texture to the leather, the stitching was tan against a black hide, and there were embossed buttons on them. They would NEVER pass muster as uniform shoes.
I pointed this out to her.
She gave me the look again, but said nothing.
I tried to justify them. They go with everything. They last forever. I just can’t wear outrageous shoes like other people. Besides, I have the candy apple red flats I wear for the monologues every year…..
Still nothing. Just the look.
Fast forward to the end of that conversation, and she gave me a challenge. Two actually.
- Wear the red shoes for more than just a play.
- Find a pair of outrageous shoes that you love, buy them, and wear them proudly, and without shame.
So far, I’ve done well with the first one. The red shoes are firmly in rotation now. Finding a pair of outrageous shoes that I want to buy though….now that’s been a challenge. I have a lot of physical issues, first of all, that limit the types of shoes I can wear. Beyond that, though, the thought of spending that much money on a pair of wild shoes just freaks me out.
But this past week, I FOUND THEM.
The wild shoes of my dreams.
WATER COLOR PAINTED CHUCK TAYLORS.
I don’t even LIKE Chuck Taylors normally, but these caught my eye on Facebook, and I instantly fell in love with them. A bright, wild rainbow of color splashed on a white canvas shoe.
Can’t you just see my big old size 9 feet in these? I can!
So I did what I normally do when I see something I like — I shared it to my page, so that other people could see the awesomeness that are these painted shoes.
And wouldn’t you know it — I got hate mail.
And not just one little letter.
Six nasty messages in my inbox from people who felt the need to berate me because of the damn shoes.
Last fall, when I came out, I got a lot of nastygrams. I basically expected it. But all that crap had tapered off by the start of the new year, so imagine my surprise when I opened up my inbox and there were messages from people who felt the need to express their opinions about my impending choice of footwear.
“Why must you continue to shove the homosexual agenda down our throats. You should keep it to yourself. No one needs to see that.”
“I’m so disappointed in you. You used to be such a nice girl, and a good influence on so many young people. I don’t know what happened, but you need to get right with God. You of all people are the last person I would have expected to backslide this far. You need to reconsider any contact you might have with children. They are young and impressionable, and don’t need to grow up thinking that this is in any way normal or acceptable.”
“All those sermons about holiness were just lies coming out of your mouth. You might as well just kill yourself and get it over with, because you’re going to hell if you stay on this path of sin. You’re unrepentant about your sexual sin, and that liberal so called “church” your [sic] attending is lying to you. you need to come back to the Lord and crawl to the altar, begging for His grace. He died for you, and you are just throwing all that in his face and walking away. You should be ashamed.”
“Those shoes are a walking reminder that you are living in sin. Do you really want that ‘scarlet letter’ to be the first thing people see?”
Those are just the highlights of what was said.
I wanted to print them off, show them to Aija and say, “See? No good came of this. NONE. It just brought me more hurt. I’m wearing the Clarks from now until kingdom come.”
And then I did something I rarely do.
I. GOT. ANGRY.
Angry enough to delete the messages, block the people who sent them from contacting me again, and start a “saving my pennies for the rainbow chucks” jar.
And then I did what any good artist would do.
I hopped on pintrest to find instructions, called up two of my “crafty” friends, and said, “ladies, let’s tie dye some cheap sneakers.”
And that’s exactly what we did.
I brushed the dye onto the white canvas in big glops, letting it fully soak the fabric, and grinned. Now *I* felt like the subversive one. You want rebellion? I’ll give you rebellion.
I’m saving up for my rainbow water colored low top chucks, but this is pride month, and as long as they dry okay, I’m going to wear the LOUDEST, PROUDEST, BRIGHTEST shoes,
because this is MY rebellion.
And anyone who doesn’t like it can kiss my FEET.