A few months ago I had what I guess you would call a milestone birthday—although given the deliberately poor choices I have made over my lifetime, pretty much every birthday at this point is some sort of actuarial miracle. In any event, this flipping of the chronology to a suffix with a zero put me in a somewhat ruminative state: Maybe, I thought, I should do something nice for myself, instead of something bad to myself.
Now, I have many poor qualities—I drink too much, I am callous and indifferent to the feelings of those around me, I am quick to anger and deficient in patience, I have almost no willingness to follow through on anything that requires more than minimal effort and I can't even work up the energy to feel particularly guilty about that, I will instinctively walk curbside when I am traversing the streets with a woman (apparently this is a sexist thing, which, THANKS A LOT MOM), I am petty and gossipy even about people I quite like, I privilege my own sadness much more highly than those who have much better reasons to be depressed, my first instinct is always to be cruel or clever rather than compassionate or concerned, I don't recycle wire hangers because it is a hassle to fit them in the same bag as the bottles and cans, I am probably more dismissive of HBO's "Girls" than I would be about a similar show with less supposed significance, I relentlessly mansplain, my sodium intake may very well lead to the discovery of "second-hand salt" as a thing, I blame other people for things that are almost certainly my own fault and I am terrible about returning phone calls—but I will say that I have never been particularly extravagant when it comes to attire. My wardrobe consists of whatever was on sale at The Gap last season, and I cannot abide the idea of paying more than two figures for a pair of shoes. It just seems crazy, right?
As a consequence, of course, my feet are KILLING ME. I mean, I am carrying a good deal of weight around to begin with, so it's asking a lot of $79 Oxfords to bear the burden of my poor dietary choices and aversion to exercise. So I thought to myself, you know what, you had a big birthday, why not get yourself a pair of handmade shoes? Now of course these things are super-expensive, and it's not like I was looking for Daniel Day-Lewis to make them, but we're still talking several thousands of dollars as an entry point. But why not? Don't I deserve it? (I don't, of course. I am pretty much a worthless human being who has inexplicably done far better than any just god would allow, which simply affirms my belief in the randomness and indifference of the universe—and this is not just me exaggerating for effect or anything…. I'm no fucking good. You know how you read about people who are super-depressed and they can't get past the idea that they're total drains on everyone around them and the world would be better off if they weren't in it? Well, those people have serious medical conditions and need and deserve help. I just suck, and even trained professionals would be all, "Well, I'm not supposed to say this, but you're right to feel that way." Still, there's something about a big birthday that makes you briefly consider yourself worthy of a reward.) Yes, I thought to myself, yes I do.
One other thing about me: I am terrified of the dentist. I have not been in such a long stretch of time that, not only would it be socially unacceptable to let you know the length between now and my last visit, even thinking about it on my own induces a kind of phobia where I need to focus on something more pleasant, like having my testicles crushed with a hammer, to resume functioning normally. Just hearing about dental procedures is enough to send me scurrying into the corner for the rest of the afternoon.
I mention all this because I was recently talking to a fellow who lives in my apartment building as we were waiting for the elevator. I'm not sure we know each other's names, but we've both been in the building long enough to have the kinds of superficial chats in which one engages while staring with one eye for the level to settle at L. We exchanged pleasantries about the weather and when I asked him how he was doing he said, "Terrible. I have to have a root canal tomorrow."
I visibly tensed, but he appeared not to notice, because he continued.
"This is like my fifth one," he said, not exactly proud, but not without a certain degree of manliness in simply having survived so many procedures.
"And it's not how painful they are that's the worst thing," he went on, each word a giant needle to my incisors. "Those things are fucking expensive. Couple thousand dollars each."
It is the rare moment in life when our actuality mimics the iconography of cartooning with near-exactitude, but as he uttered that phrase I am almost sure you could see, above my head, a pair of bespoke shoes floating off into the distance with a pair of Mercurian wings, replaced by a bunch of Dead Ringers-style tools and discarded teeth. That's where my shoe money was going to go, I knew… to root canals. And thus died one of the only dreams I had left.
Anyway, here are some tips on buying shoes. I guess if I'm sticking to my current price point I should probably take some of these into account.