Every time it's my turn for Worst. Night. Ever. someone points out that, as Ned put it, I have a problematically high "tolerance for bullshit." Something about that, along with my loud aversions to certain footwear, led my coworkers and Blogtown voters to concoct not just a single, event-based night of torment, but three solid days of being forced to wear what I think pretty much every reasonable human being can agree is a stain on the very existence of footwear: Vibram toe shoes.
But honestly, when this went up for vote, I was kind of rooting for it. Unlike the other two possibilities (attending the KISS concert in full makeup and on the KISS party bus—I really do hate KISS, but this would've been stupid fun—or performing stand-up comedy at an open mic), it didn't require any real effort or scheduling. I was free to do my usual thing, and not have to worry about messy makeup or stage fright. Just wear something like this for three days? I can do it:
But... that's not exactly what happened. Something you may have picked up on is that WNE's rules tend to evolve on the fly, like when Steve Humphrey, in his infinite cruelty, decided something as staid as the above simply wouldn't do. Instead, he had something much, much worse shipped to the office overnight:
I know. :( They're the worst of the worst of the worst. I still feel the need to apologize to everyone I visually assaulted in them. I could tell they were cramping other people's style, not just my own. Nobody wants to be in a social setting where anyone is wearing these.
They arrived at work on Friday, about 2:30 pm. I immediately put them on to get the clock going. It felt so much worse than I thought it would. I was even kind of mad about it. I hopped a bus to NE, watching people notice them, their eyes filling with questions. For a moment I thought I might be paranoid about how many people were looking, but no. Worse, I was headed to meet a woman who I had never met in person, and who wanted to consult with me about a fashion-related event she is producing. I moved in quickly, and she didn't register the shoes until we stood up to leave. I braced myself. We'd been talking for an hour about maintaining standards of sophistication, and then I hit her with those motherfuckers. She blurted out something like, "Oh my god, those shoes! They're... great!" She was a nice lady.
Moving on, I arrived at the birthday party of a style-conscious friend, whose boyfriend is someone I have collaborated with many times on fashion events of our own. Most of their crowd are successful art director-types who hobnob with, like, Pink Martini and collect modern furniture. They were not buying it for a second. Pretty much every single person I knew there screamed something like, "What the FUCK ARE YOU DOING???!!" Now, another rule that was conjured out of nowhere was that I could only explain to people that I was wearing them because they're "so comfortable." Maayyybe this could have passed muster if they were a solid, neutral color. But the Shrek/highlighter deal? It screams "I lost a bet." Luckily someone at the party had seen what was happening on the blog, and news traveled fast. Still, they bothered me more than I thought they would. I just wanted to go home and hide. It was the first time I ever felt the urge to step in dog shit intentionally.
Saturday meant going to Tacos 'n' Tequila at Mississippi Studios. I made an effort to put on a happy face about it. It kind of worked, despite the fact that at least one stranger took a photo of me without asking, which is now surely living on the internet somewhere along with some terrible comment that completely misrepresents everything I believe in. Following that, I was due for an overnight out at a friend's farm in Sandy.
Mercury publisher Rob Thompson had earlier indicated that he thought spending the night out on a farm was "cheating," since my exposure to the public would be more limited and the shoes are arguably more acceptable in any kind of outdoor setting, but trust me, it still sucked. This was a cool farm filled with educated, worldly people doing interesting things, most of whom I was meeting for the first time, and every single one of them—from a Swedish industrial designer to a glassblower to a female firefighter to an organic farmer, a restauranteur, a truck driver, and the groundskeeper—teased me about my shoes.
The farm also gave me more of an opportunity to check out whatever supposed advantages these shoes have for their outdoorsy demographic. Just tooling around town, they were fine, comfort-wise. The toe separation thing was a little weird but not super noticeable, although by the end of the day they would slightly pull on my right big toe for some reason. Here I got to hike around the acreage, through mud and forest and lots of lawn. They are a little flimsy for hiking, actually; the soles are thin, and bits of sharp plant matter poked me through the bottoms, plus the toes are really good for collecting bits of clover and weeds as you walk. If anything they seem better suited to aquatic activities, like creek walking or anything that involves wet rocks.
Besides, we got back on Sunday with enough time to meet up with some friends having a late brunch at Swift. Naturally I ran into the fiance of one of the city's most famous fashion designers sitting outside. We said our hellos, he clocked the shoes. I saw him pause, the wheels in his brain creaking, trying to make sense... but no. He hesitated, then blurted, like everyone else, "What the FUCK is up with that?!" Comfort. Something about a farm. Bye. I went in and saw my friends immediately mouth "Woah" to each other, but they didn't say anything until after they ate. Then gently, "Okay, so tell me the story about your shoes?"
I got home and went on a weeding rampage in my backyard; they were pretty good for that. Then I went on a 30-block round trip walk to the grocery store, and realized halfway back: My feet hurt. They have little cushioning on the bottom, and my soles were pounded sore. The muscles connecting my toes to the bottom of my feet ached. They were not, like I was lying to everyone, "just so comfortable." They just straight suck.
They also make strangers wary of you, like you might be unpredictable or experiencing mental health issues. I was almost home from the store when I ran into a lost dog. My phone was at home charging so I asked a couple pushing a stroller if I could use their phone to call the number on the dog's tag. She was a senior, small, sweet pooch who kept running out into the middle of the street, but those bastards backed away as if they thought I was trying to pull something, and lied (probably), claiming neither one of them had their phones either. As if. (Side note: The dog is fine.)
I am a person of my word, and so I also wore the shoes to the office on Monday. At 2:30 pm three full 24-hour cycles would be complete. I didn't even bring other shoes to change into, so technically I wore them for over three days. Speaking of over, I was totally over it at this point. They are basically like being in costume. Like literally you are wearing the remnants of a neon troll costume when you put them on, and you know the kind of attention you get when you wear a costume? It opens the door for strangers to talk to you even more than usual, and it means you have to have a repetitive conversation about it with everyone you interact with, from the sketchy dude who approaches you on the MAX about some weird drug thing at 8:45 am to the peanut gallery of day drinkers I walk by outside the Ash Street Saloon every time I grab something for lunch, and it gets really, really tired.
Mondays are super busy deadline days, and when I left I was grumpy and hungry. My husband (who by the way was cheerfully amused by all of this) helpfully offered me a lift home if I would walk over the bridge to meet him on Rontoms' patio, where chances were excellent I would see even more people I knew. I grumbled and sent sad-face emoticons, but I went. And yes, we saw people. People we hadn't seen in a while. People we could have pretended not to see on the way out if my husband wasn't such a fucking chatterbox. My sense of humor was gone. I was rude. At this point I was just glaring back at people, like, "What. Say it. What do you want to say now?" Ugh.
I've worn nothing but Common Projects and Rachel Comey ankle boots since, and I don't miss the Vibrams at all, but here's my problem: I can't throw them away, and I certainly can't give them away. They're $85 shoes, and I would feel like a total shit heel just tossing them, and burning them would smell wicked bad. So, thanks to you, I've grudgingly allowed them a place on the very bottom rung of my shoe wardrobe, with the idea that I might put them to some use at the river or on upcoming canoe and camping trips. Congratulations, Blogtown. I now own the Worst. Shoes. Ever. (Unless you want them, cuz you can totally have them.)
PROGRAMMING NOTE: We decided not to ruin anyone's holiday weekend, so we're skipping WNE for this week, but we'll be back next week for you to vote on Alison's Worst Night, so don't accidentally blow off your voting hand with a firecracker before then.