Sunday, November 2, 2008

socks with flip-flops

Every once and awhile, feet dressed in socks and flip-flops step into my mind. And when that happens, I just can’t stop laughing. It happened to me on the bus today. I was listening to the Smiths, who I haven’t really listened to since like sophomore year. My mind wandered back. Around the time I started listening to them in high school is just about the time I started to free myself from the hellish cookie cutter I had been stuffing myself into, and realized I could become any shape of cookie, without a cookie cutter. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I finally also realized that it wasn’t even imperative that I become a cookie at all. Just because I saw all the other dough going into the oven to be forever hardened into one form did not mean I couldn’t choose another path.

Anyway, on a trip to Rock Island, on a day I was particularly disillusioned with the oven, I walked past a man wearing socks and flip-flops. As soon as my eyes found his feet my mouth flew open and laughter plowed out, bringing me to my knees with disbelief at the hilarity. Granted, there may have been other factors surrounding the situation that made the laughter flow more easily, but to this day I can’t think about it without becoming giddy inside.

Today, I finally asked myself why.

Wearing socks with flip-flops is a situation where a person has a desire which he intends to solve via the societal structure in place, but where that societal structure fails him. It’s funny because it seems so uncomfortable. You can just imagine the way the sock must be tugging at his toes which are trying so hard to push out on either side of the tongs.

And yet, proponents of the style always claim their attire to be the most comfortable. They say they need the socks to keep their feet warm, but that tennis shoes are too suffocating. They go digging in the Lego box of society and come up with two Legos that together most resemble their ideal construction, and try to ignore the fact that they have so obviously just put two Legos together and pretended to find the ideal construction. And because the Lego pieces so obviously do not do the job, it’s like you’ve caught someone in a lie. And even though (and probably because) our whole lives are based on lies, we love catching them in other people.

We’re all trying to build individual dreams out of the same Legos. The only time we get new pieces is when a significant number of people demand it, so we usually don’t get all the ones we want. At least the people who wear socks and flip-flops are trying. They make an admirable attempt to use the Legos they have in their own way. I think we could all try a little harder to find new combinations of Legos, or demand different ones, in an effort to construct something a little closer to our original ideas. And if we fail….hey, I just think it’s hilarious.

2 comments:

Ben Schapiro said...

COOL lego metaphor (I wear socks and flip-flops when I don't feel like tying shoes and don't feel like taking off my socks), and real nice thoughts/writing all up in this blog!

Wilbr said...

A beautifully written, insightful post, which bring to mind the results of some research my friend Mark did. He was studying how UW students make the transition from high school to college, in revising their identities, as reflected in media usage. What was cool in H.S. is often no longer so at UW.

But here is where the lego metaphor is so apt: what he found was that when UW freshmen look at the lego shelf to pick out new identity elements, there are only a limited number of legos to choose from, and essentially NO ONE has the agency to construct anything authentic.

So whether it's cookies or legos, living an authentic life is the greatest challenge facing young college students entering the oven.