An Unpaid Forfeit

This is a post whose beginnings had been sitting in my draft folder for 11 months. I'm publishing it now, and bringing it up-to-date a little.

My optometrist, back before I moved, was a tiny woman of a very slight build and a quietly-spoken voice. There was no way she could make me do anything against my will. No way at all. Every time I went, though, we would have exactly the same conversation.

"I prefer to dilate your pupils as part of the examination. Lets me get a better look inside your eyes, and it wears off after an hour or so. Shall we do that?"

"No. Last time I did that, it lasted all day. Makes me nauseous. I think you can skip that bit Doc."

"I really would prefer it if you'd let me dilate you."

"I don't wanna I don't wanna I don't wanna."

"Please, I promise you, it'll be fine."

"Oh, all right then, I suppose."

The upshot of this conversation is I would spend the rest of the day wearing Roy Orbison shades, staggering around like a drunk, and tripping over my shoes which would look like they're in clown sizes. I'd complain about it for the rest of the day, to which everybody helpfully reminded me, "Well, you could have refused, couldn't you". No. That's the problem. I couldn't. OK, I admit it, I'm a bit of a pushover, especially when it comes to ladies. One thing I should have learned by now, though, is to never underestimate the willpower of a strong-minded woman, and its obvious corollary. Never enter a bet with one. But of course, that's precisely what I did.

An upbeat and funny friend of mine on Twitter was expecting her first child, handling the trials and tribulations of the whole business with a more than liberal dose of humor. Strange thing how stream-of-consciousness discussions begin, but it started with an exchange of blog comments about her shoe collection and her desire not to let her "condition" change a thing. "Awww, bless her", I start thinking, overcome with pathos. The idea of anyone insistent on sticking to their skinny jeans and heels as long as possible through pregnancy – definitely a first time mom. For many moms-to-be, that final trimester consists of swollen ankles and constant walks up and down the house, while helicopters hover overhead and radio back to Sea World that Free Willy has escaped. Heels? Yup. Sure. Whatever. And one thing I can be trusted on is to open my mouth. "If you make it to 28 weeks, I'll be in awe of your superhuman powers," I tweeted. Somehow, between there and now, that escalated from a mere observation to a bet. The game's afoot, and, of course, I lost. And, since a bet's not a bet unless you've got something to lose, what would my forfeit be? Surely, the punishment should fit the crime. There's only one logical suggestion. I should put on a pair of heels.

This does, of course, raise a few issues – perhaps, surprisingly, not the issues that immediately spring to most people's minds. I refuse to take myself too seriously. I'll go out of my way to do things just to raise a smile, or in this case, hopefully, a laugh. And, no, I'm certainly not insecure – a joke like this is in no way a challenge to my sexuality, two-year-old boys have been marching up and down the hallway in their mom's slingbacks since the dawn of time – so, what the heck? Why not? It's not like I'll be wearing them all day at work. Could be fun, and, who knows, I might even learn a bit of empathy for some women I see who are obviously in discomfort from these things. Besides, I've supposedly got a decent pair of legs. Most friends of mine my age have things that I can only equate with hairy milk bottles. Anyway, Wikipedia tells me that high heels being just for women isn't necessarily the case. They were practical for Mongolian horsemen and Egyptian butchers. (Seriously, I'm not making this up). Dance shoes such as Cuban heels aren't considered effeminate, are they? Of course, that would be cheating on the bet, wouldn't it?

The only issues that come into play are purely logistical. How do I get a pair that fit? My daughters don't wear them, and even if they did, my plates of meat are far too big. I'm a ten and a half (US) wide fitting in a tennis shoe. It's not that they don't make heels in that size – far from it – but it would be nice if they were fashionable. And, despite the fact that this is something that will be over and done with in a few seconds, it would be nice if they actually fit. I have no idea what would happen if I was to were into Wal-Mart and start trying on shoes. I think I'll draw the line there. Other plots ensued. I could order them online, perhaps. (There's a surprisingly large amount of size 11's up there. I'm figuring add half a size for comfort to even stand a chance of getting my lithe and lissom feet in them). Perhaps I could head out on the razz and see if I can find myself a lady with feet that size, explain my predicament, and that I'm interested in borrowing her shoes. Or maybe not. I honestly don't look at feet all that much when I'm out. After a visit to the Goodwill store confirmed my suspicions – women's shoes are definitely not made to fit on men's feet – there was a radical suggestion that I should try a "specialty" store to find what I was looking for. Success! I had precisely what was needed, but at this point, I was accused of stalling. The very thought! About a month had passed as I tried to think my way out of this acquisition problem (or, perhaps, hoping that people would forget?). Of course, nobody would forget something like this – and I'm definitely not going to be accused of welching on a bet. By hook or by crook, I was going to have to get me a pair, get this photo taken, and be done with it. And, to make up for that extra month or so, I needed to finesse the deal. Just take the whole thing a little bit further. Produce a picture that's recognizable, iconic even. So here's the result… OK, I'm just kidding. This one is Betty Grable, being iconic in heels. I never got to pay my forfeit.

The month that it took to find an appropriate pair of shoes saw plenty of other life-changing events for me, which have only come completely into focus recently. Acquiring a pair of shoes for a fun bet became secondary very rapidly. There are a lot of metaphorical attics to clean out; things from back then, things that are best forgotten about, and things that need to be brought forward to now. A lot of those events were hurtful and painful; but the jesting and joking that surrounded that bet was one of several happy moments that were interspersed among the difficulties. It's all too easy for us, when we decide that it's time to move on, to attempt to make too clean a break, too radical a disconnect. Sometimes, we don't have the choice; sometimes the choice is made for us. As part of the disconnect, we lose a lot that is good along with everything else that we try to purge from our existence. I lost touch with a lot of people over that interval, during a very dark time indeed. Trying to regain, to reconnect with those people, to show them the new light that I am in, is an important part of this process. I know that there'll be a few I won't get back; a few that won't recognize me; a few that won't want to recognize me. Some have every right to be cautious. Some may not like how the different light reflects on me, and will be gone. Those heels that it took so long to find are gone, too; to go through with this silly forfeit again might seem a bit ridiculous, but for some reason I feel compelled to do so. They're symbolic of an important part of me, that part that actively refuses to be taken too seriously. Despite anything else that may have happened in the interim, that part of me never went away. I don't know if @lolas_mum is bothered one way or the other, but this somehow seems an important thing for me to do. Perhaps once I have the confidence again to do something as ridiculous as this, then I might have the confidence to write here about those details that will, one day, have to be written about. I recently got reminded (in re-runs) that the literal meaning of nostalgia is "the pain from an old wound". I've still got plenty to be nostalgic about.


About darlingman1970

Born in the UK and a graduate in mathematics from Cambridge University, Chris Nash has followed a career in software engineering which he continued after moving the United States in 1996 and now brings him to California in 2010. However, Chris does not want to be considered as merely a code monkey, and has always been interested in writing; in areas as diverse as factual technical manuals all the way through to fiction. An avid reader, Chris is a fan particularly of mystery novels and enjoys above all the works of Agatha Christie and David Hewson. Chris has recently gone through some significant life changes which, at the moment, he is considering as the basis for a forthcoming novel and as food for thought on his blog. He manages to couple his loves of writing and technology and is particularly interested in how internet innovations have an impact on the writing and promotional process. Chris is a firm supporter of Creative Commons and other 'open' initiatives and believes strongly that such distribution mechanisms are the "right" way to handle intellectual property in an evolving digital world. Chris is a keen Nintendo DS and Wii player in his spare time, and is currently happily attached, living in the Central Coast area of California. Find him on Twitter as @darlingman1970. Don't ask him how old he is.
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