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  • Sam Darling

Even shoes are political

My eldest has some atypical brain things that make her hilarious and challenging. She’s probably going to be like a friend of mine who failed most classes in high school but then got a perfect score on the SATs.

One of her less charming issues is sensory processing. Stuff that most kids can shrug off will make her freak out. Like, instead of removing the tag from the shirt that is bugging her she will become enraged and throw a tantrum about her discomfort. With time and training she’s getting better with this and she’ll likely outgrow it.

Meanwhile though, procuring shoes when her feet jump a size is a nightmare. She’s been wearing the same pair of faux Crocs for over two years. I disinfect them once in a while and am grateful she chose a shoe that’s easy to clean. I also told her if she wants to wear these all day her future job will have to be surgeon.

As weather turned colder I started to soften the ground by telling her she would have to change to shoes and socks more suitable for snow and rain. I worked on this for weeks in advance. “We’re going to have to get you good rain shoes so think about that.” It’s a way of spreading the tantrum out into smaller more manageable chunks. I also had her try on a variety of shoes when we’re at friends’ houses. She always hated them and that’s fine, at least I’m getting her into the spirit of trying on shoes.

Finally, the weather turned cold enough I could convince her it was time and we go to a big box chain store and I spot a pair of shoes that are literally perfect for her. She loves cats and Yo-Kai Watch. They light up when you jump. Could they be any cuter?

I’m all excited for her. She says she hates them but I can tell she’s intrigued. She’s warming to the idea of these shoes. She tries them on and she even says they’re okay. (They’re “okay”! That’s a ringing endorsement compared to a tantrum.) Then, a clerk restocking shoes next to us goes, “Those are boys’ shoes. You’re in the boys’ aisle. There are ballet flats in that one.” She points to the next aisle over. I reflexively responded with excessive enthusiasm, “But these light up and they’re great! They have kitties! Do they come in my size?!”

My kid no longer wants to buy the shoes.

I mean, you know sexism is everywhere and women are trained young to accept uncomfortable footwear but damn. Did I even ask your opinion?

I bought the shoes and threatened her continued existence if she refused to wear them at least five times. She’s been wearing them for a few weeks now and hasn’t insisted on the old pink shoes. I feel like dodged a sexism bullet.

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