Sunday, October 21, 2012

Living in the Monkey House

I picked up a copy of Tim Gunn's "Gunn's Golden Rules:  Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work," at the Dollar Tree and happened on this passage that I think applies to a whole lot of people in life:

When presented with bizarre circumstances -- such as radical (and radically unappealing) cosmetic surgery -- I'll mutter, "That person is living in the monkey house."

What does this phrase mean?  I'm assuming that most readers have been to a monkey house at a zoo. The stench of it is like nothing I've experienced.  Every time I visit, I can't help but declare, "This place stinks!"  Well, after about ten or fifteen minutes, it no longer smells as bad.  And after half an hour, it doesn't smell at all.

The trouble with that is the following:  It still stinks.  We're merely used to it, so the smell disappears to us.  However, anyone walking into the monkey house anew is going to scream, "This place stinks!"

Tim Gunn, "Gunn's Golden Rules:  Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work," at p. 171.

There are a whole lotta folks I know who are living in the monkey house, myself included.

How often do we accept the bizarre or the substandard in our lives because we're used to it and, even worse, it's all we know?  I know folks who are putting up with bizarre situations because they either fear moving out of those situations or they simply don't know any other way to live.  Some are happier than pigs in you-know-what living in their monkey houses because they don't want to make the effort to get out of them.

I realized my co-workers and I have been living in the monkey house when an outsider made a remark about how we carry on our business in a way like no other agency, and she didn't mean it in a good way.  We'd been doing the same thing for some long without any outside observation that it just stopped being bizarre to us.  That didn't mean what we were doing wasn't bizarre; it just meant that we'd gotten used to it, and, up until recently, no one had ever told us how bizarre what we were doing was.

When confronted with the stench of our own monkey houses, oftentimes we respond, "But this is the way we've always done it."  That's why Tim Gunn has banned this phrase from his office, stating, "There's always room for improvement."  So true.

I doubt I'll be able to convince my co-workers, family and friends that they are living in the monkey house.  At least I'm one step ahead of the game because, unlike them, I haven't lost my sense of smell, so to speak.  I know a monkey house when I smell it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Angry Feet (Don't Wanna Be A Player No More)

I'll be the first to admit it:  I buy shoes the same way I used to date in the '90's.

In the '90's, after Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) and I had broken up for the second time, I started dating for the first time since 1982.  I was attracted to the same qualities in men then that I tend to be attracted to in shoes now:  Cute, unsupportive, and ultimately harmful to my well-being.  Back then, I'd date a good-looking brother who could talk a good game and look good on my arm at events, even if he was unsupportive of me and harmful to my psyche.  I dated guys who looked good but weren't good for me.  And I kept repeating the cycle, like some kind of psycho player.

I also used to wear killer shoes back then, and I mean killer -- high-heeled pumps and my favorite, pointed-toe slingback heels, my drug of choice.  I wore killer shoes so much that I had a doctor tell me I had to stop wearing heels every day or risk damaging the tendons in my calves.  I was prescribed flats.  It was an ugly time in my life.  Literally.

Fast forward to today, and I've settled down with BMNB, who has all the qualities I should be able to find together in a shoe but can't:  Cute, supportive, and comfortable.  Somehow, comfort and cuteness are mutually exclusive in women's shoes.  But now I'm older, and my feet are angry, angry at me specifically, because I keep wearing shoes that are the equivalent of my '90's dating criteria -- cute, unsupportive, and ultimately harmful to my well-being.  The pinched toe box of pointed-toe shoes has done damage to my feet, and to add to the mix, I now have plantar fasciitis, which means I shouldn't wear flats or any shoe that doesn't have a substantial arch support.  I wear shoes that are so cute and painful that I can barely make it from the parking lot to my office building without limping.  I keep a pair of tennis shoes and a pair of flats -- which I shouldn't wear -- at the office and wear the cute shoes only to meetings. I dare not walk far in the cute shoes.  But damn, they sure do look good.

And my feet are angry and in pain.  What's a shoe girl to do?

Well, my middle sister, who is also a shoe fiend with plantar fasciitis, told me that my choices pretty much come down to  Clark's.  My doctor, who laughed at me when I told her I was having foot pain at the same time she saw that I was wearing a pair of brown suede -- you guessed it -- pointed-toe slingback heels, told me, "I pretty much gave up on wearing cute shoes a long time ago."  When I looked down at her shoes, a pair of black Clark's Mary Jane flats, I pretty much agreed.  Ugh.

Today, after looking at Clark's, Hush Puppies, Softt pumps and Bjorn clogs, I broke down and bought the shoe equivalent of an ugly but good man -- a pair of Aerosoles with a stubby heel and a rounded toe box.  They look like Minnie Mouse's shoes.  They're not sexy, and they know it.  I know it, too. Ugh.

But just like I stopped running through cute men who weren't good for me, perhaps I need to stop running through cute shoes that aren't good for me.  When it comes to shoes, to borrow a turn of phrase from the late Big Pun, I don't wanna be a player no more.  It's more important to have shoes that are comfortable and supportive, even if they aren't cute, then to continue to harm my feet with numerous cute shoes that hurt.  I'm not going to lie, though -- I did throw in a pair of tan snakeskin Circa Joan and David pointed-toe kitten-heel slingbacks that were on sale.  They didn't hurt.  Yet.

I'm still looking for the shoe equivalent of BMNB -- cute, supportive, and comfortable.  I don't think I'm going to find it, though.