Friday, August 8, 2014

Back When Thongs Were Thongs

When I was little, everyone called these thongs.  Except my family.  We called them flip flops.  And we only wore them in the summer, and usually just when we went to the beach.

If you say the word thong today, you know what people think you mean.

And I remember some people calling them tongs.  To me, tongs are things you use for cooking, to pull food of the grill or take out of boiling water.  I remember an absurd conversation with a cousin of mine who was looking for "tongs" and when I asked what for, I pictured her trying to wear cooking tongs on her feet.

We had a foreign language teacher in the early 2000s who called them thongs and the kids went absolutely bananas.  He came from an area in this state where I know people used to call them thongs.  When they were doing the clothing unit, it somehow came up, and when he mentioned the word and then said he wears thongs in the summer....  well, you can imagine that in an 8th grade classroom.

Especially since people were all about wearing thong underwear just at that time.

Usually, the flipsflops I remember were 100% plastic and that piece that goes between the toes was a real killer if you wore them for more than the 5 minutes it took to walk from the parking lot to the sand.  Remember those?  Between your big and 2nd toe would be all raw from trying to walk with that awful plastic.

Even more fabulous, that nasty plastic between the toes would pull out as you were walking and the foam would have ripped so you couldn't replace it, so then you'd try to slide/drag your foot along so you didn't burn your feet on the tar.

While carrying all of your junk from the beach to your car, with a sad, wet towel dragging along your legs.

Come one, weren't your beach trips like that?

Women wore sandals in the summer, but men didn't usually wear them unless they were at the beach, headed to the shower or foreign.  All the Canadian tourists seemed to all wear sandals, even the men.

Wow, what a stereotype.  But so true in my memory.

Then the great Teva invention came along in the 90s and suddenly it was cool for everyone to wear sandals, even men.  They were made for water sports but people started thinking they could walk trails and run around town in them.  They started making more substantial soles, giving lots of straps for support.

But I never liked them.  I thought it looked like everyone had rubber boats on their feet and if you had poor arches, I didn't like seeing your squished feet.

And they were expensive!!  You went from $2 for a terrible pair at CVS to $30+ for fancy Tevas.

And then we arrived at the atrocity we have before us today:

1.  people wear them year round, in all climates; they even make socks with places for toes so you can wear them with flipflops in cold weather
2.  people wear them when they are so filthy, they are a public health hazard (and by "they", I mean both the shoes are filthy and/or the people wearing them are filthy)
3.  we have to see feet that should never see the light of day
4.  people can't walk in them, so they shuffle, slide or simply walk with part of their feet on the ground and part on the shoe
5.  somehow it became cool to wear slide on shower shoes like prisoners wear, so kids wear them with socks all year long

Can you tell I can't stand them?

What concerns me most is when people have babies in their arms or are trying to chase after toddlers and the adults are wearing flipflops.  If you've ever tried to move quickly in them, you know how treacherous they can be.  I'm always afraid someone will slip, fall out of them or get them caught on something and drop the baby or miss the toddler as he toddles out into traffic.

Since I usually have on closed toed shoes of substance, I would have to try to catch that baby or grab the toddler and it's just too much stress for me.

I remember when my former principal tried to stop kids from wearing them to school.  She tried to say that the floor wax and cleaner wasn't really safe for bare skin and that inevitably when people wear flipflops, they fall out of them and end up with bare feet on the floor.  She emphasized the dressing for success thing. She talked about the health hazard they pose.  She talked about needing to have shoes on when going out for a fire alarm.

Parents and teachers protested and today, that same principal wears them to school.  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Even our superintendent had a pair on during the opening day last year.  With a suit.

If everyone had beautiful feet, well kept toenails and substantial flipflops, I might be OK with them.  But thanks to the super cheapo deapo stores that sell the paper thin kind for $1, this will never happen.

I wear them at home, don't get me wrong.  They are fantastic to throw on to grab the paper or the mail, to make my morning greenhouse visit.  But no one should have to bear witness to my feet unless they want to.   I never wear them in public.

I have no problem with people wearing them to the beach or for water activities.  I have no problem with people wearing them in hotels or dorms.

I definitely don't want to see 99% of the feet I see these days.  I'd like to shop for groceries without seeing rotten toenails and scaly feet.  I'd like to attend a concert without the person next to me putting their grubby flipflopped feet on the seat back beside me.  I'd rather not see your filthy toe prints on the your flipflops.

I'd like people to wear sandals again, the kind that provide a lot of strappy distraction so I don't have to see the whole foot.

But really, I'd like everyone to just wear sneakers and keep their dirty foot secrets to themselves!

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