Friday, June 06, 2008


Life is full of do's and don'ts.

Some don'ts are common sense. DON'T put your hand in the fire. DON'T eat the yellow snow. DON'T listen to Clay Aiken.

Other DON'Ts can only be learned by a catastrophically uneducated DO. The other weekend, i DID a DON'T (and not in one of those high-five-your-friends-later sorta ways.)

It started, simply enough, with a phone call. I was faced with the unenviable position of a trip to the mall. I've written before of my disdain for all things mall-related, but I was in dire need of new summer shirts. Rather than make the journey solo, I decided to call my friend Linn. I'm fashionally-challenged and it never hurts to have a female judge in tow to avoid me coming home looking like America's Next Top Weenie.

"Hey!" I said in the best I'm-super-excited voice that I could muster up, "Here's an idea! Wanna go to the mall and help me buy some shirts?"

"Sure," she said, "I need some new shoes for my sister's wedding. Is it cool if we stop at some shoe stores?"

Here's the DON'T.

"Yeah," I said, "I'm game."

Note to self: In the future, when a girl asks you to help her shop for formal shoes, you are NOT game. You are not anywhere near game. You exist in a game-free world. That day, I was game -- and it was a game I eventually lost. I'm kidding... kinda. Linn's one of my oldest and closest friends and it actually ended up being a fun afternoon out. But I learned more that day about the inner workings of the female mind than I was ready for.

For instance, I learned that when a girl says, "I just need to find some brown shoes that'll go with my dress," what it REALLY means is, "In my mind, I have created the ideal shoe. A shoe that, when worn, will quite possibly bring wars to a close and heads of state to their knees. It is the perfect shoe, and I will settle for nothing less."

Which brings me to Important Things I Learned Numbers Two and Three -- that it is entirely possible for one pair of shoes to be "TOO brown" and another pair to be "not brown ENOUGH." Clearly, this was no routine expedition. We were on a mission -- and I took upon myself the role of apprentice.

How about these? "Too strappy." Fair enough, what about THESE? "Too heel-y! Do you want me to fall and kill myself?" Okay, okay, HERE is the perfect pair. What? Yes, I KNOW they're neon aquamarine, see-through, and covered in glitter -- but you've gotta admit, these are some pretty stylin' shoes, yeah?

Eventually, about three stores in, I started to get the hang of it. I was the one going, "Eww, TOO brown." Finally, I spotted them. Not too brown yet brown enough, straps to a tasteful minimum, heels at what I can only assume to be a manageable level. Holy smokes, had I found THE shoes? Anxiously, I summoned my tutor over.


"Hmmm...," came the reply after some thought. "Maybe."

"Maybe" involved pulling out a camera phone and holding an impromptu modeling session.

"What ARE you doing?" I asked.

"Well, it's my sister's wedding. I want to get her approval," she said while sending photos of shoes across several hundred miles of the information superhighway.

Really. Girls DO stuff like this, guys -- and my friend is NOT a prissy, shopping-obsessed stereotype in the slightest. Girls just care SO much about shoes that it takes a mall full of stores and a consortium of their peers to pick the perfect pair. And what the girls don't realize in the slightest is that we guys couldn't care less.

Ladies, you could wander amuck in clown shoes and most of us wouldn't notice. And for that small percentage of guys who DO notice feet? well, there's a vast network of intricate and astoundingly weird websites for those folks.

I'm sure I irritated my friend to no end that day. Every time she asked for my opinion, I was like, "They're nice, I guess. I dunno, they're SHOES." This would earn me an eye-roll that clearly indicated my apprenticeship was lacking. Meanwhile, whenever we encountered a shirt store, here's what I got: "These are all great. Just buy some and don't be so picky." Sigh.

Granted, she DID stop me from buying a henley with sleeves far too wee for non-muscular me. And she DID stop me from buying a sports coat that was, apparantly, icky. And she DID give me an immense amount of grief over the fact that I was clearly buying these clothes in a shallow attempt to look good for the new girl I've been seeing.

"See," she said with a grin, "we're BOTH just trying to look cute."

Women are wise indeed. Just DON'T mess with their shoes.

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