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Green Flip Flops

The Summer Shoe Debacle:
A Near Capital Offense
By Ukulele Loki

May 2003


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 flip-flops?”

“They’re just not professional,” replied Cindy.

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.






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