Like most women I love shoes. But I don’t love most women’s shoes. I love my Chuck Taylor All-Stars in pumpkin and lime and black leather and the plaid ones for the holidays with the jingle bells on the tongues. I love my cowboy boots. I love my Timberland hiking boots and my Keens and my running shoes and my three pairs of Crocs and my espadrilles. I love my flipflops. I love all my shoes but the one thing I don’t love is wearing them.
I’ve been kicking my shoes off at every possible opportunity for as long as I can remember. Wherever I live, the last thing I have to do before I go out is look for my shoes, which could be anyplace I happened to have finally had enough confinement and stepped out of them.
My mom had odd ideas about shoes. She had it set in her mind that a child must be shod in heavy protective boots before he or she was ready to take those first steps. So here you are at about a year old pulling yourself up to a standing position and reaching out to Daddy and you’ve got to lift the half-pounders tied onto your tiny little feet, leaving you no flexibility to work on balance.
Sometime after I learned to walk, which I managed to do despite the “walkers,” my mother was convinced by someone that I needed to wear “corrective” shoes because my left foot toed in. I spent the next five years of my life wearing a kind of proto-Doc Marten model of ankle boot that would have looked a little punk if it weren’t for the plaid dresses and bad home perms.
Eventually I must have protested enough that I was allowed to wear normal shoes, if what you call normal is Buster Browns. It was many years before my sister and I were permitted to wear sneakers because Mom was sure our feet would “spread.” I thought this was an odd concept and took to pointing out that people had run barefoot through the forests and fields of the world long before shoes were invented but she was not swayed. So I just kept kicking off my shoes whenever I could. And my left foot still toes in.
Jack, on the other hand, loved to wear his shoes. Tightly tied. At all times. His shoes came off only when he was sitting on the edge of the bed ready to retire. Even his boat shoes are the three-grommet style because he likes to feel his feet securely bound. My mom loved him, by the way, but I can’t say for sure if it’s because of a shared philosophy of shoes.
We were married on the bow of a boat under sail and even then he was rubber-soled and sure-footed. I of course was barefoot. Then we moved aboard EV. I watched as Jack occasionally made it all the way through breakfast without putting his shoes on. Then he made a deliberate decision to try and be on the boat without shoes, especially since most boat owners ask you to leave your shoes on the dock or on deck before boarding. He says that first week was brutal and the bottoms of his feet felt clubbed. But he stuck with it and now he kicks his shoes off in the cockpit as soon as we get back onboard. Plus, the arthritis in his big toe he used to complain about seems to have up and left.
Yesterday morning we were sharing our night watch experiences and observations and he said, “It’s so funny. There I was on watch with a t-shirt, a sweater, long pants and a foul weather jacket bundled up under a blanket — and bare feet!”
Yep. That’s life on a boat. And I, a shoe-shunner, have found my proper home. Nearly two weeks straight without shoes — or a bra. It’s a kind of heaven.