I had been folk dancing for about twenty years before acute powers of observation revealed to me that real folk dancers wear special shoes -- black, soft-bodied shoes with semi-rigid soles that can glide without slipping. But upon further investigation I discovered, much to my horror, that a pair of these foot covers cost about sixty dollars and, after all, dancing was just a hobby.
But one fortuitous day as I was foraging through a thrift shop, I spotted a pair of black shoes that looked very familiar. I lifted one and felt its texture. Soft. I then flexed its sole. Semi rigid. Fitting them on, I discovered that they were a perfect fit, and they were only two dollars.
Paying the shop clerk, I returned to my car, set my prizes gently on the passenger seat, and drove home, frequently glancing over to admire my thrifty purchase.
After parking in the garage, I slipped the shoes on again and laced them up. I wiggled my toes, reassuring myself of their comfortable fit. Sprinting into the house, I could barely contain my enthusiasm as I approached my wife for her approval. “Well, what do you think? Aren’t these nice?” I asked with a conspicuous grin, expecting exuberant applause accompanied by praise for my judicious purchase.
Judy looked at them briefly, then asked, “Where did you get them?” Her smile seemed somewhat artificial.
“At the thrift shop,” I eagerly admitted, revealing my frugality.
“And what did you pay for them?”
“Two dollars.” I stood erect, still awaiting her adulation.
“Seems about right,” she calmly replied, turning back to rinsing the dishes.
This wasn’t quite the high level of approval I had expected, but the real proof of my resourcefulness would be shown at the next dance.
I strode in that night wearing my now-polished dance shoes and swaggered up to two of my fellow enthusiasts. “Well, what do you think of these? I only paid two dollars for them.”
“Two dollars, eh?” offered Tomas he glanced down at my feet.
“Hmm,” hummed James without further response. I was surprised at their lack of admiration for my skillful shopping.
Returning home after the dance and still somewhat puzzled by everyone’s lack of unrestrained enthusiasm for my acquisition, I asked my wife why no one seemed to admire my new shoes.
She stared at me politely as she replied, “Bob…” she paused, cocked her head gently, slightly frowning for additional dramatic effect, then continued condescendingly, “…those are women’s shoes.”
I’m usually quick to retort in confrontational situations, but this one left me stunned and speechless. Women’s shoes? How could a simple pair of undecorated black shoes have gender?
Bewildered, I wandered into the living room, plopped into my chair preparing to sulk for the evening, and turned on the TV. The program in progress was an interview with two nuns. The topic escapes me now, but not the image. As the camera zoomed in on one of the nuns, my attention was drawn to her feet. She was wearing my shoes!
Sullen and vanquished, I slid down in my chair, inconspicuously peeling off my tainted footwear. The next morning I skulked back to the thrift shop carrying under my arm my latest contribution: a shiny, recently-polished pair of women’s dance shoes.