White Sneakers

November 4, 2010
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White shoes look nice and shiny at the store, but once you buy them, the dirt shows. At least, that what my mom told me when I pleaded for that perfect pair of white sneakers at Macy’s eight years ago.

My mother has a plethora of advise to give on the subject of shoe wear, in fact. “Always tie your shoes, or you’ll trip!” and “Don’t wear thongs [and by this, my mother means flip flops, a newfangled term that is just too hard for her to grasp] when it’s cold out or you’ll regret it!” and of course, “Don’t you even think about putting on your sneakers half way so your heels are still hanging out the back. I mean it.”
Oh, and the universal, “No white shoes after labor day!” Speaking of which, WHO in the world came up with this rule? Whose idea was it that you can’t wear specifically colored shoes for a whole half of the year? And why should this exist? Does wearing white shoes in December preempt the ending of the world?

There are certain things you’re told NOT to do for fear or embarrassment. Don’t wear polka dots AND stripes. Don’t laugh the loudest. Don’t interrupt a conversation. Don’t hold hands with a guy unless you’re going out. Don’t skip for joy. Don’t dress all in black. Don’t write depressing poetry. Don’t sing along unless your voice is on tune. Don’t swear. Don’t tell dumb jokes. Don’t philosophize about life—you’re just a teenager. Don’t get in a political debate with someone you disagree with: better to leave it unsaid and not worry about it. Don’t forgive. Don’t forget. Don’t keep a friend’s secrets; they make the best rumors. Don’t smile all the time. Don’t frown all the time. Don’t be a nerd. Or a teachers’ pet. Or a smoker. Or fat. Or too skinny. Or gay. Or “too religious”. Or “dumb”.

Or yourself. But, on that note, what do adults mean when they say “Be Yourself”? It’s the number one response to all pleads for advice:

“How should I act in the job interview?”

“Just be yourself, hon.”

“What do I do on the first date?”

“Just be yourself and he’ll like you.”

The truth that they don’t want to tell you is that no teenager, at least not any I know, fully knows who they are. I know I don’t. So how do we know if we would be any different if our peers weren’t there to correct us? Would I still like the same music? The same clothes? When we decide to be different, are we doing it because it’s who we are or because we just want to show society who’s boss?

The point of white sneakers isn’t practicality. The point of white sneakers isn’t durability. The point of white sneakers isn’t to fit in or even to stand out. The point of white sneakers is simple. The point of white sneakers is to own a pair of white sneakers. Because before they get dirty, and they always do, at least you get to walk around and feel special.





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