Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I was going through my closet the other day and discovered that I own more shoes than I have ever owned in my life.

The bottom of my closet looks like a beach in Mexico: awash in deceased footwear.
Some of these are simply worn out, holes in the soles and the like. Others have died of neglect, either because they are uncomfortable or I forgot I owned them.

I seem to be mentally capable of keeping track of only four pairs of shoes at a time: the brown ones, the black ones, the sneakers and the sandals. These favored few are on the top of the pile at the bottom of my closet. Or they are lined up in the kitchen, much to Kathie’s distress. When I come into the house from anywhere, first the coat comes off, then the shoes. She finally instituted what she calls the “two pair rule.” I am only permitted to have two pairs of shoes in the kitchen at any given time. The others get pitched in the dining room closet where I have to rummage around the old slide projector, the broken vacuum and the reel-to-reel tape recorder to fish them out. We actually had a discussion at one point about whether bedroom slippers counted as shoes. The higher court ruled that slippers were, indeed, shoes.

I don’t think I am alone in my inability to focus on footwear. I have been noticing that a lot of guys wear the same shoes day in and day out. There is one older man on my train who wears the same pair of sneakers every day. So my four shoe rotation probably puts me on the upper end of the male shoe awareness spectrum.

Apparently, women are not like this. I once read that the first thing a woman notices about a man is his shoes. Maybe this is because he is usually sprawled out with his big clods in the aisle.

I don’t think I have ever noticed a woman’s shoes unless there was something funky going on. For example, I was walking on the street in Manhattan on a chilly morning recently, when I saw the otherwise well-dressed woman ahead of me was wearing flip-flops on her bare feet. My heart ached for her poor, exposed piggies given the range of unpleasant things that can happen to even a shod foot on the mean streets of New York.

Some women will spend their last dime on shoes and have huge collections. Kathie is not one of these, but our daughter loves to shop for shoes. I also know this from TV. Many women on “House Hunters” have said their reason for seeking a larger home is to have more room for their shoe collection.

After years of enduring my reckless and thoughtless shoe behavior, my wife and daughter drafted rules for me to follow to establish podiatric peace in the house:
. No socks with sneakers and shorts. The original rule was no sneakers with shorts, but I won a revision on appeal. For some reason, those low white socks that wind up bunched in the toe of your shoe are allowed. Black socks with shorts and sneakers is, of course, an unspeakable felony.
. No sneakers in Italy. I am told the Italians don’t wear sneakers. It does me no good to argue that I am not an Italian.
. No socks with sandals. I guess I agree, but toenail maintenance can be time consuming.
. No sneakers to work. I whine: “EVERYBODY wears their sneakers to work, so why can’t I?”

Oh well, back to my closet to see if I still have the white bucks I wore in grade school.

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