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Green Flip Flops
The Summer Shoe Debacle: A
Near Capital Offense
If you were to try and dream up a crime
to justify the outrage I just encountered at work, then I was found in
the broom closet with a half-dressed minor and an empty fifth of Vodka.
Only I wasn’t. The only offence I am guilty of committing is the
wearing of a pair of green flip-flops. Granted, they’re lime green
and covered with tufts of frilly plastic flower petals, but I hardly think
that makes me the scourge of American decency.
Which is why it surprised me that my coworker Cindy got
in such a tizzy over them. She was almost in tears. I don’t think
it was so much the flip-flops that bothered her. It must have been some
sort of principle. Well, I hated to see her suffer so, and besides, I
wanted to learn how not to offend. So I asked:
“What is it, exactly, that bothers you about these
“They’re just not professional,” replied
I paused long enough to consider my words.
“Cindy,” I said at last, “if I worked
at a bank or a law firm, I would agree: they’re not professional.
And I probably wouldn’t wear them. But Cindy, I work in a High School
special education classroom, where part of my job is to make kids laugh.
They’re fun shoes; think of them like… clown shoes.”
“But they’re not clown shoes, Loki,”
she countered; “they’re girls’ shoes.”
Her comment revealed something fundamental to understanding
her distaste, but to understand this, one must first understand Cindy.
You see, Cindy is our resident conservative, possessed of a conventional
sense of right and wrong that is virulently absolutist. Some might say
that she had “great moral clarity.” Furthermore, Cindy is
a born-again Christian, tethered by a sense of fate and duty, to an unfulfilling
marriage. To a person like Cindy there are clear rules, and there are
consequences for rule breakers. If I could just go out and wear whatever
shoes I pleased, no matter how frilly or gender inappropriate, the implications
were potentially shattering. I could hear her brain spinning: if a
man can wear those flip-flops and not be struck down by a bolt of brimstone,
just think what I’ve missed out on. I’ve wasted twenty years
cooking meatloaf and servicing a man I hate – I could have been
a CEO. Aaargh! Then I heard her crippling self-doubt give way to
vindictiveness. No. He must not be allowed to get away with those
shoes. He must be stopped!
Before she could lash out, I continued, “Well Cindy,
I’m sorry they bother you so much, but I really like these flip-flops.
“Well,” said Cindy, “I guess you just
don’t care what people think.”
She meant those words to sting, but finally here was
a point that Cindy was absolutely right on. I really didn’t care
what other people thought. I had labored under the delusion that this
was the result of self-assurance, and a quality to strive for. But I was
wrong on that point too. Apparently, living in a state of constant fear
of judgment is a Christian virtue.
I told Cindy that, since they bothered her so much, I
wouldn’t wear them again.
She seemed comforted.
And I was comforted by the knowledge that I had a pair exactly like them (except in fire-engine-red) at home. I wore them today with my red and white piped cowboy shirt and a Stetson hat, just in case any brimstone fell.