Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Vanity Fair

"What others think of us would be of little moment did it not, when known, so deeply tinge what we think of ourselves."
-Paul Valery, French critic and poet (1871 - 1945)

I once had my friend collect me at my house to drive us both to college. When she reached my door I saw that she carried a couple of black bags. They were filled with clothes she thought that I might like, that she no longer needed. I was very grateful but she said that there were even more bundles in the car.
I slipped my feet, which were enrobed by thick socks, into a pair of worn sandals and went to assist her. We together brought in about five sacks of clothing. Mostly they were items she had no more use for because she had replaced them with newer versions.
It was most kind of her and I told her so as we rode along in her car.
I found out the extent of her kindness when we reached college and she did not get out of the car. She informed me that her class had been cancelled and the lift to college had been purely for my sake. I extended my gratitude and reached down for my bag of books which rested at my feet.
My feet. Oh, my feet.
I clenched my eyes shut, hoping that when I opened them again I would see my ordinary, college-going shoes, my respectable and intended pair.
Alas, no. I was, horrifically, wearing my old sandals over a ghastly, ugly pair of men's socks. I assumed I would faint: I believe my friend's laughter kept me alert. I had forgotten to change them and she, whose fault it was, thought it hysterical. I numbly climbed out of the car, lost and desperate. She sped away and left me standing in the parking lot wearing the costume from Another Planet.
After a moment I had an idea: I tore off the socks, balled them up and squashed them into my bag between my college notes and my sandwiches.
Bare-toed, shame-faced, I wandered to my class on that grey November morning feeling a trifle foolish. My toes blinked, unaccustomed to the sunlight.
I carried the socks around with me all the rest of that long, chilly day.
I cannot profess a cliche here that I long to go back, that this time I would march in proudly, sandal-socked and defiant. I can say nothing of the sort, I am afraid.
I still absolutely loathe the vision of myself in those Winter socks and Summer sandals and would still prefer to go barefoot than that alternative.
I don't quite understand it. After all, I proclaim on a regular basis that appearances are irrelevant and caring so much for them is shallow. It has to be acknowledged I suppose, that we each have our distinctive dislikes and a certain, acceptable degree of vanity about us.

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