I have yet to find an occasion in which Dansko clogs do not work. I wore them to my own wedding, and probably to yours, if you were so decent as to invite me. It all started at the Pennsylvania Association of Township Supervisors meeting in which I manned a transportation engineering booth for my firm, chitchatting with township engineers and supervisors from all over the state. When the Bucks County Township Engineer walked up in a tweed jacket, corduroy pants, and clogs, I felt my brain split open. He told me the name of the Scandinavian specialty shop where he bought them, but remarked how they were almost identical to Danskos. A suited Dansko person?! It hadn't even occurred to me that I could look smart and sassy in a suit AND clogs. He projected an air of self-confidence and professionalism mixed in with, dare I say, whimsy. Even though I had a three hundred dollar pair of uncomfortable peeptoe wedges on my feet right at that moment, I wanted to be dressed like that dude. Beard and everything.
I started gradually integrating them into my life, first with a pair of the professional black clog, then some Mary Janes, then some more business type styles with semi-heels, now I have six pairs. Not long after my clog obsession began, when I was single, working a professional, extremely conservative corporate gig, and my mostly paired up friends ached to get me into a relationship, a co-worker/friend invited me to a picnic that promised to have lots of single men. To be honest, the single men meant nothing to me. It was the spectacle of the vodka ice slalom was the real draw.
I skipped that part of college, the drinking as sport part. My friend hadn't, and neither had her friends. She absolutely knew how to take binge drinking to a new level--she designed themes and take home supplies to go along with her parties. In college, I did my drinking alone in the ghetto across town after a long shift waiting table while listening to "Blue Train" and writing poetry like, "Death Surrounds Me Like a Shroud , No. 487." Seeing an ice sculpture designed specifically to get people drunk intrigued me. The closest I had gotten to a sorority party was working as a graphic designer for t-shirt promoting sorority events. (Yes, I really did that in my twenties.) I feared this party was going to be much like watching a Wild Kingdom special entitled Mating Rituals of the Suburban Corporate Professional, in which, like most Wild Kingdom episodes, I'd like to watch, but not participate.
I showed up and it was even worse than I suspected. Red Bull was involved. Jello shots. There was also a large ring in the middle of the yard where people were to put on fat Sumo Wrestling outfits and wrestle each other, I suppose, while drunk on shots that were just administered by a stranger pouring Raspberry Stoli on an ice slide as you knelt in front of them, tongue extended waiting for your dignity to pass out.
I was woefully out of my element. The hostess was my friend from work, and one of the funniest people I have ever met. But we were, uh, different. I lived in the city, rode my courier bike everywhere and frequently would walk around with one pant leg rolled up to my knee with nary a thought about it. I drove a beat up VW Jetta that flooded every time it rained, because of an uncaulked sunroof. I just named the car Jacques, as in Cousteau, and bailed him with my Nalgene if I needed to drive, otherwise, I just opened the windows and let him air dry. She, on the other hand, wore those pointy elven shoes, drove a pristine Beamer and was without fail, done up to the shizzle. Nails. Hair. She even had a mirror in her cubicle that had a little crown painted on it so when you looked at yourself, it appeared that you were wearing a tiara, and it said in Puerto Rican gangsta script, "La Princesa." She agreed with my mother that my black hair needed to be dyed down to light brown, so I didn't look so old.
I was really looking forward to the picnic, I admit. It was like being able to experience the drunken revelry I missed in college. I admit I drank once in high school, never smoked pot. I went to university and began working night shift at a restaurant. I just missed all the debauchery that defined youth. I wore my red dansko clog sandals, white capris and a black v-neck sweater. My friend sidled up to me when I walked in.
I gave her the vata nod. "Hey."
"What the fuck, Ang?"
"Ang, I love you, but those are the fugliest shoes I have ever seen."
"I really could care less what you think. I think they are cool. Not to mention comfortable." She began explaining to me in Spanish, as she was Dominican and I am half-Panamanian, and when she was serious, she turned it on. She said she had men she wanted to introduce me to, and now she can't. She told me that she would grease my size ten feet up and stuff them into her size six strappy numbers, if she had to. She told me she was going to do my hair while we are at it, and maybe put me in a short skirt.
"Who the fuck wears pants to a picnic, Manita?" She roared in English.
"Uh, me. Lay off, dude. I look fine."
And to her credit, she did. She proceeded to give me a drink, then show me around the place. And by show me around the picnic, I of course mean that she walked me around the house and yard, systematically asking every man in the party what they thought of my shoes, my pants and my hair. I suppose this was her version of Shock Therapy. It would have worked if I were attracted to the type of man that enjoys vodka shots off of ice slaloms, kicking someone's ass while dressed in a fat suit and Red Bull mixed drinks, but in general, I tuned out. It is a beautiful escape hatch of the brain to suppress traumatic events. Having that type of honest insight into every man's brain at that given picnic, hearing what they think of my shoes, my white pants, my cleavage and my hair made the introvert in me pull the fucking ejection seat.
I imagined I laughed nervously a lot. I am positive that I drank heavily. What I do remember is thinking, beyond writing snottily feminist manifestos in my head, as well as horribly insulting and downright snobbish things about each person I encountered that night is this: "There is a man out there in this wild, cruel world who understands the red Danskos. A man who finds sensible, Scandinavian footwear as sexy as the reasonable, early-to-bed person who is wearing them. Who doesn't judge a woman by the content on her feet."
"You really have the coolest shoes. I especially love your red sandals."
"Thanks." We stare into each other's eyes and make out again. I am so in love with my husband. I think he complimented my shoes every date, and got this impressed, curious look when I explained how they were great when I rode my bike too. I was instantly enthralled with his particular brand of confidence, humility and kindness. Our first dates were bike rides, walks to the dog park, watching Sigur Ros in concert, and campfires out of the city.
I have never met anyone or dated anyone who believed in me as much as this man. Who thinks that my artsy, weird take on the world works. Nor had I met anyone who wears that rare combination of capable and vulnerable as sexily and fashionably as my husband does. I should say, I have never met anyone that I believe in as much as this man. We celebrated our four year wedding anniversary last week. We don't give each other gifts as such. No surprises, really. He sends me flowers enough from work that when they came on our anniversaryn the flower man said, "Happy Anniversary, Angie." And I blushed. And my gift is always that I write a blog post that he won't read for a few weeks. So, husband, I love you more than red Dansko clogs.