It happened a few weeks ago while I was in Austin for the South by Southwest film festival. I remember the exact, epiphany-like moment (what alcoholics refer to as “a moment of clarity”) — like the time I realized I was straight, and another time, years later, that I realized being straight doesn’t have to keep you from having a crush on Ryan Gosling. I was standing at a crosswalk, en route to a screening, and looked down. There they were: some stranger’s ugly feet. She was wearing flip-flops, which was a little weird to begin with; the week was uncharacteristically chilly and it rained a whole lot. I’ve never felt one way or another about sandals and have, in the past, indulged in their usage, but in that moment I felt viewing these feet was a personal offense, one directed at me. I may not have wanted to look at each of this girl’s nubby little toes, but I was forced to. I didn’t have another choice. I mean, I guess I could have looked at anything else but her feet. But still.
In that instant my thinking was transformed — I denounced my faith in sandals and became a convert to the Church of the Covered Foot. And I’m pretty sure that no one should ever be wearing sandals, except maybe if you’re actually on your way to the beach (wading in a kiddy pool on a Brooklyn rooftop doesn’t count) or you’re going to yoga and can’t find your slippers.
A friend of mine has always had a strong aversion to sandals and it’s always befuddled me a little bit. So when I switched over to the sandal-loathing side of the street, I asked her why she hated sandals. “It’s just gross, nobody wants to see that,” she texted back; followed by, “Can we talk about this tomorrow? I need to go to sleep.” She brings up a good, grumpy point: walking around New York City in the summer time is basically like walking around barefoot. I can’t even imagine what kind of ickiness you pick up and collect on your daily journey. And not everyone is going to take a good, cleansing Silkwood shower before getting into bed. You could be sleeping with that ick — that’s like crawling into the sack with one of the human Petri dishes from “Jersey Shore.” Just thinking about it is turning me into Elliot Gould in “Contagion,” watching everyone in the restaurant touch their face.
It would be one thing if everyone kept their feet clean and pristine, with toenails painted in Easter egg colors and cuticles sharply manicured. But as we all know, that simply isn’t the case. Americans are fat and lazy and their feet show it. Walk around any water park for five seconds and you’ll understand that like the people they’re attached to, feet are largely unwashed, uncared f0r hooves. Who wants to look at that on purpose (besides Quentin Tarantino — dude’s a freak)?
There are simple solutions to this open-toed epidemic — namely, wear real shoes; the kind adults wear to office jobs or parole hearings, or clandestine meetings with high class escorts. Just because they encase your entire foot doesn’t mean they have to be stifling or unhip — Vans and TOMS are perfect alternatives to sandals, breezy enough for summertime use and not terribly disgusting. And if you’re like me and live in tony suburban Connecticut, you can get dock shoes like Sperry topsiders (in Connecticut you get issued a pair in the mail, along with your farmable Authenticity of Whiteness). Hell, even the water park has an easy remedy — water-socks, those long-forgotten spongy shoe-things that my mother suggests I wear every time we go on a cruise.
I’m not foolish enough to think that everyone will abandon their recklessly sandal-centric ways, and quite frankly the look is much more appealing on women (especially if they’re on dates and have just gotten their nails did), but I am hopeful that people will wake up, en masse, to the idea that we’re all a part of “The Matrix.” And then, after fighting the robot menace, that sandals are a really, really bad idea.