“Try these on,” my grandmother commanded. “They’re lamé!!!! They’re
“But I only need them for gym class,” I protested as I struggled into
the accursed golden sneakers. I was ten years old at the time, but
this had already become a ritual: the back-to-school pilgrimage to
To my grandmother, Fayva was a Temple of Delights in which the cultic
goddess Synthetica and her consort Roo presided over a garish orgy of
fluorescent green saddle shoes, cork-heeled pumps (with or without
decorative grommets), and, of course, the ubiquitous ’Roos-brand
sneakers (available in white or gold lamé.)
“Can’t I just get those?” I implored, pointing at a pair of white
sneakers with Velcro closures. It seemed a fair compromise, even from
the perspective of a ten-year-old.
“No,” my grandmother snapped, “you can’t get The Velcro.” She always
prefaced the word Velcro with a pronoun as if in honor and awe of this
mystical substance. “If you get The Sneakers with The Velcro you
won’t be able to use these.” She held up two neon orange lace ribbons—
‘Madonna Bows’ to use the parlance of the time—which she clearly
intended for me to use as shoelaces.
The indignity was unbearable. Hot tears began to flow down my
face. “Why are you crying?” she shouted, immediately calling the
attention of everyone in the store to the horrific tableau being
played out upon my feet.
“I feel sick,” I sputtered. The golden sneakers, the orange bows, but
worst of all, the overwhelming stench of plasticine chemicals, of Peds
that had been worn and re-worn, of soiled insoles and cork heels . . .
they all mingled with my shame and conspired against my senses! I
fainted. Oh, the ignominy of cheap shoes!!
Submitted by Tara Helfman of the New Haven, Connecticut.
Super Fantastic Runner Up
Manolo’s Super Fantastic Essay Contest
Click here for the complete list of winners