It was a recklessly worded question, the kind that could have led to embarrassment in the golf club locker room crowded with naked men.
“Hey, do you wear those ugly shoes to make your butt look pretty?”
Someone half listening could have heard the question as: “Hey, those shoes really make your butt look pretty!”
It’s ill-advised for any half-naked man to use the words “butt” and “pretty” in the same sentence while standing in a locker room, but the awkward breach was made. An answer was due.
“Well, that’s not why I wear them, but if that’s the result, well, thanks!”
It’s been many years since anyone’s said I have a pretty butt. Or, more to the point, it’s been many moons.
Not to get all cheeky about it.
Maintaining some level of fitness is important to me, even as my idea of fitness clashes with many sweaty proponents driving that culture.
I won’t do Zumba, run even short distances, lift weights or punish my body with other cruel tortures popular in the gyms and aerobic centers.
I treat my body like it’s my cherished employee and I’m striving for boss of the year stature.
I encourage it to sleep in. I listen to its complaints. I discourage it from stressful activity. I pamper it. I treat it the way my wife, I’m sure, wishes I treated her.
Because it’s been my experience that most of our maladies come in pursuit of fanatical fitness. It’s an ironic truth that many middle-aged people are injured in activities designed to make them more healthy.
That’s not going to happen to me.
So I stroll. I mosey. I tromp. I amble. I hike.
I walk two or three miles most every day. I usually slack off in the rain or snow because my body tells me it would be more comfortable to stay inside and listen to music or read a good book and I don’t want to do anything to upset it.
When I walk, I think. We could all use more of both activities.
Then in April 2008, I read an Adam Sternbergh article in “New Yorker” that had a profound effect on me. I urge you to click on the link if for no other reason than to see the stunning artwork of bare feet painted to look like shoes. Bravo.
It was titled, “You Walk Wrong.” The sub-head read: “It took 4 million years of evolution to perfect the human foot. But we’re wrecking it with every step we take.”
It said studies show a natural and healthy walking is impossible for anyone wearing even comfortable shoes. Common shoes, it said, destroy the foot’s ability to distribute the pounding a lifetime of stepping bestows and that’s why so many of us wind up with chronic back and joint pain.
In lieu of going barefoot, it said a host of companies were making shoes that imitate the natural rhythms of a caveman strolling over cobblestones.
I was sold. With the article as my guide, I went out and bought a $225 pair of MBTs, a company that trumpets its stance on its website, www.theantishoe.com.
I brought them home all high on hippie chic and showed them to my wife who immediately proclaimed them the ugliest shoes she’d ever seen and set down a list of places I couldn’t wear them in her refined presence.
Taking her cue, the kids made vicious sport of me and my shoes, too. They called them moonboots and aped the Frankenstein walk.
With ungainly soles like rubber watermelon rinds, I admit, no one will ever confuse them with the ruby slippers.
Heck, even the company addresses their hideous appearance in its promotional material.
It says, “The shoe is dead. Long live the muscle-toning, posture-improving, calorie-burning joint protecting, back-relieving bilateral system that you happen to wear on your feet. If they weren’t so radically different, if their only purpose was to look good with your jeans, if they only protected your feet instead of your entire body, we might have been able to find a simpler word for them. Something like shoes.”
As catchy slogans go, it’s not exactly, “Coke, The Real Thing!”
But, honest, they work. Nagging little pains I had vanished. I feel more fit than ever.
Two years later, they’re all the rage with Joe Montana hyping a competitor’s version.
So I feel a little surge of pride when I see someone checking me out on my strolls when I’m out to walking and thinking.
And I always think the same thing.
“I hope I can walk far enough that my butt becomes so pretty no one will notice these ugly ass shoes!”