This was written for OneCity, blog of the Interdependence Project NYC
I’ve watched my shoelace get progressively shorter. The lace in question is attached to the right-side partner of a pair of black leather Kenneth Coles known as my Work Shoes (formerly, my Interview Shoes and before that, my Dress Shoes). I’ve had this pair of Coles since I was 16 and they’re scuffed on the sides and top, deeply creased where my toes bend when I walk, and the heels are worn in the particular groove of a moderate over-pronator.
“See?” said my podiatrist during my last visit, holding the left shoe closer to his face. “History of moderate over-pronation,” he concluded, like paleontologist inspecting a fossilized egg.
“Is that bad?” I asked.
“You’re going to need orthodics,” he said. I frowned.
“Are those expensive?”
In addition to over-pronation and an inclination towards shin splints (immediate and immobilizing), my feet smell like a rice paddy when wet. I am also a vigorous shoe-tier. I tie my shoes with authority, like an actor in a play trying to convey a powerful inner disposition. I yank and pull and wrench. That long, floppy lace is made my bitch, again and again. And usually it’s fine – sneaker and boot laces are tough and designed to take abuse.
This one, however, wasn’t built for punishment. The Kenneth C’s themselves are nice. Once, a tailor who was measuring me for a pair of slacks noticed them and exclaimed, “Oh! Italian?” I told him they were not and he shook his head in wonderment and said, “very nice.” Having no sense of fashion in men’s dress shoes, I came away thinking, “They must really be nice.”
I started my current job last June (type: Office/corporate, law-related, requiring education but not intelligence). The rules demand that I be clad in “Business Casual” attire at all times, so my Interview Shoes came in to heavy rotation as my Work Shoes. My first day of work, I sat down in my kitchen, full of English muffins and morning light a-streaming, and commenced tying. Leftie went fine. Switch to Rightie and SNAP. With the first tug, I broke the thin leather lace nearly in half. No time, I thought. First day. Go. Using a ball point pen for precision, I re-threaded and took off.
Six months on, the nubby, frazzled remains of my right shoelace have come to embody my attitude towards my job, and work in general. I’ve broken it twice more, and each time I move down one eyelet and re-thread, thinking, “I’ll replace it over the weekend.” Well, I’m down to the last eyelet. If I try to walk to the coffee room too fast, or skip to catch an elevator, the shoe flaps on and off my heel like a percussive jaw: fwop – fwop – fwop. It really is time to replace it, but I know I won’t until it snaps again and disintegrates, like a tiny leather spaghetti noodle in the wind. On that day, I’ll leave my desk and head downstairs in search of a replacement lace, dragging Rightie behind me like a club foot so he doesn’t come off. If someone asks me what’s wrong, I’ll smile ruefully and say, “Oh, nothing,” all the while thinking, You were tough, little one. We had a good run.