While other, better, people are looking for signs of spring like crocuses and returning birds, my mind is focused on my feet. The very second that the hideous mounds of dingy snow have melted, and the ambient temperature rises above 40, I will be able to wear flip-flops again. I wear them all spring, all summer, and as far into Michigan fall as I can possibly go without risking frostbite. In the summer I usually wear a floaty skirt, a T-shirt and coordinating flip-flops which range in fanciness from the kind you buy at Target for two bucks, to a vertiginous pair of platforms that I wear for more formal occasions. I also own a pair of “Fit Flops” which I bought because they promised to give me legs like Cyd Charisse; so far I still have the legs of a Victorian dining table, but they are supremely comfortable shoes.
Although I am usually highly susceptible to the disapproval of others, the flip-flops are an area in which I am proud to say I have stood firm. (No pun intended). I have been told countless times that they are bad for my feet, they offer no support, they are “an accident waiting to happen.” I have, in fact, wiped out walking a gravel path in a pair of platform flip-flops, turning my ankle and embarrassing myself. After a day of ice and elevation, I was back in the shoes that threw me. I also broke a toe last summer after accidentally kicking a metal shopping cart. Although the flip-flops were, arguably, the cause of the injury (because, what, I would have been wearing steel-toed boots at the grocery store?) the bonus was that the aggrieved toe, swollen to the size of a plum, would not fit into any shoes in my possession, other than…flip-flops. Had the Queen of England visited Michigan and invited me to share clotted cream scones with her, I would necessarily have worn flip-flops with my elegant dress, or gone barefoot. Despite this evidence, which I largely choose to disregard, I find it hard to believe that flip-flops are any more dangerous than stilettos, which many women wear on a daily basis. I tell myself that the lack of support and frequent injury during three or four months of the year is balanced by the fact that I spend the rest of the year in an orthopedically wholesome assortment of Asics, Danskos and Uggs.
Other nay-sayers come from the fashion world. I am a reader of fashion magazines, and a frequent visitor to various fashion-related websites; flip flops are roundly dismissed as unattractive, juvenile, and not much better than Crocs or Birkenstocks. They make legs look stumpy. They say to the world “I don’t care what I look like.” They are a “Don’t” of unrivalled significance. (Well, aside from Crocs, wife beaters and Christmas sweaters). My defense to this assault is that I think they are damned cute. I think they say “beach,” and “freedom,” and “woohoo!” I think they speak of fun, watermelon, popsicles, fireworks, endless days, sun-warmed tomatoes, grilling, and porch-sitting. There is nothing like them for showing off a pedicure and a toe ring. They take the seriousness out of a skirt, and a cute pair with a patterned strap or a flower on top makes people smile. My legs are stumpy anyway; why not have stumpy legs and cute, summery feet instead of broadcasting my need for fashion sleight-of-hand by wearing kitten heels to the farmer’s market?
Speaking of kitten heels, I do have other, dressier summer shoes. For the theater, a wedding, or a luncheon with my mother at “The Club,” I have a pair of kitten heeled slides, a pair of neutral pumps, and a pair of sky-high wedge slides in a neutral tone for that leg-lengthening effect. They are pretty, and I know where the line is between flip-flop occasions (brunch by somebody’s pool) and Real Shoe occasions (cocktail parties). When I cater, I still wear my Danskos because there is nothing quite like dropping an 8-inch Chef’s knife on your bare foot to put paid to a day of slicing and dicing. I also wear my Chuck Taylor’s and my Tom’s when I feel like it, most often on occasions where I am likely to be walking through dirt or mud. I had only to sink into the muddy field in flip-flops during one soccer game to figure that out.
I have also tried Crocs, which are very comfortable, but which I find so distractingly hideous that I couldn’t stick it out. They remind me of clown shoes, and I am pathologically terrified of clowns. They cannot, unless one is a 16-year-old model, be worn with a skirt. They make a funny squishing sound when you walk. Birkenstocks have also been rejected, although I really loved the pair I owned, and found them extraordinarily comfortable. I do not like them with shirts, however, and they project a kind of earnestness which, frankly, I project merely by showing up. I do not need to enhance the impression that I am a Lefty Tofu-Eating Whale Saver with a copy of “Mother Jones” in my hemp carryall. Quite honestly, I would rather have people think things like “she looks kind of serious, but hey, she has cute flip-flops and fanciful, multicolored toenails!” Because I know that’s what they’re thinking.
I am chomping at the bit for the opening of Flip Flop Season. I have gotten them all out already (and there are lots of them) inspected them for wear, and made plans to replace any that blew out last season, like the pair I was wearing when I fell halfway down the basement stairs. I guess that would count as another flip flop-related injury. At any rate, as part of the Checking of the Flops ritual, I have painted my toenails in colors inspired by the picture in this post. Here’s to a season of fresh air on my toes, that lovely sound of shoe slapping against foot, and relatively few injuries!