A couple of weeks ago, I went out to dinner with the very few friends from high school whom I like enough to engage in such activities with. Remind me to tell you stories about why I disliked high school, and why my fifth-year reunion last December was a ludicrous waste of time.
At the end of our dinner, as we stepped outside the restaurant and began saying our goodbyes before heading in our individual directions, the topic of shoes somehow came up in conversation. I, of course, had to add my two cents to this discussion, so I remarked that I can’t stand to wear real shoes, even during winter.
N looked down at the requisite flip-flops on my feet, and said understandingly, “Yeah, but, see, it’s part of your culture.”
I wonder if my face betrayed the disgust I felt. A lifetime spent combating ignorance and explaining who I am and why I do the things I do, and yet it still came down to such inane observations from people I thought knew me. “My culture? You think I wear flip-flops because of my culture?”
“Well, yeah, don’t you?”
I laughed, because the whole exchange was so ridiculous I couldn’t even believe I was making this clarification: “Buddy, I wear flip-flops because my feet feel freakin’ claustrophobic in real shoes, alright?”
I came home and shook my head a few more times over the absurdity. The next day, after a morning spent shaking off nagging feelings of deja vu, I remembered bits of a poem I had written last year, and the part that comes back to haunt me is this:
You will stop laughing at me
For wearing flip-flops almost
When you understand that
My ancestors wore sandals
Across all seasons
Because they couldn’t afford real shoes to cover
Their brown feet
As they toiled in the fields.
And you will nod in understanding and slip off
And we’ll sit on a sunny plot of grass,
Squinting at the sky.
Well. Never let it be said that long-lost high school friends don’t know me. But just to clarify, I really wear flip-flops only because of the claustrophobia reason mentioned above.
One thing to add: Much love and gratitude and sunshine to Fathima and Ruqayyah for their beautiful emails. I will reply, but, meanwhile, thank you both for taking the time to check in – and, of course, thank you to everyone else who’s harassed me via the tagboard and comment box, too. I’m here, I’m alive, I’ve missed Blogistan. I told blurker N, who caught me on AIM the other afternoon, that you’d all stab me if you knew the number of half-written weblog entries that I’ve let sit on my computer instead of posting them as I should have been the last couple of months. So, stay tuned for stories about why I enjoy my job, about my first time at the recent ISNA convention in Chicago (and the rockstars I met!), and for musings on Lebanon and September 11th (I do nothing if not write on topics much too late, clearly).
Did I mention I missed you all? I really did, dammit, contrary to what you may think of my periodic, flaky-flake habit of abandoning you without explanation. The next round of cranberry juice is on me. Here’s to sunshine in September, rockstars.