My friend is getting out of my car, on her way to an appointment. She looks down at her hands.
“Shit! I didn’t mean to wear these!” She’s sporting huge, black mitts, meant for snowmobiling.
“You can have mine…” I start to offer her my gloves, then pull my hands back. I’m wearing some gloves I received as a gift. They’re an eye-watering shade of lime, nothing I would have picked. But they were the right weight, so I grabbed them and put them on that day. I know that everyone who’s seen them on me was thinking I was stuck in the Hypercolor early 90’s, that I have no sense of style, that I have no sense.
“You don’t mind? These gloves are GREAT! ”
“Oh, you don’t have to say that, I know they’re ugly.”
She looks at me, not quite knowing what to say. Smiles. Opens the car door.
“I think they’re nice.”
Back to school shopping is fun. Unless you’re poor. When I was 8, I knew how much groceries cost, how much a phone bill was, how much money it cost to fill the tank with gas. And I knew we rarely had enough. We were in a bargain basement, clearance type store. My parents found these shoes. Green. Suede. Five hole lace-ups. I knew that the other girls in my class would have hi-tops, with velcro closures, pink and blue accents. And I knew my parents didn’t need a scene.
I was going to make my parents believe I liked these shoes. I was going to make them believe I was quirky, and these weird shoes were exactly what I was looking for. I was going to make them believe that being the odd-girl out was who I wanted to be.
We bought the shoes.
Grade 3 was the year of the Great Shoe Trade. Puberty hadn’t hit, all of us girls were basically the same size, we’d never heard of athlete’s foot. The swap would go down at recess.
The first few times, I made excuses. Had to go to the bathroom, teacher was calling me. Couldn’t put my shoes in the circle.
But one day I couldn’t get away. I slipped them off, and waited. Waited for someone to say “I’m not wearing those snot green things!”
One of the girls dove in, plucked them off the top of the pile.
I slipped on someone’s white Adidas. Looked at the girl who had my shoes.
“You don’t have to wear them. I know they’re gross. You don’t have to be nice.”
She squinted at me, cocked her head to one side. Shrugged.