The one about shoes


Image from

Image from

So, yesterday I took my preschooler shoe shopping.
It would have been easier to climb a wall of razor blades. Naked. In a blizzard.
Whatever made me think I could place a 3-year-old girl around shelves lined with pink, purple, glitter and licensed characters beckoning from every box and expect her to pick out something conservative?

What made me think she’d pull one box at a time from the shelves? What made me think we could do this in 15 minutes?

Is it asking too much to find presentable, reasonable, dyed in a hue occurring in nature, spare of any licensed characters and flashing lights footwear?
If you’re willing to shell out some bucks, then it’s possible. If you’re looking for bargains, it’s going to be painful — razor blade painful.

Let’s point out right now that I don’t own a “Born to Shop” T-shirt. I like to get in and get out when it comes to shopping, particularly when it involves people with short fuses, small bladders and Dora the Explorer obsessions.


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As I struggled to pull the neon purple, blue, pink and red disco shoes off Girl from the East’s  feet, I looked lovingly at the display of baby shoes. So cute and sweet. One pair had little cupcake appliques. Another, a simple Mary Jane with a bright red button. But these designs don’t carry over to the toddler side of the aisle.

Want to know why? The baby shoes are sweet and attractive because the mothers, fathers and grandparents are selecting them. The toddler shoes suck because the manufacturers know that the kids with this size feet are aware and making choices.

They are old enough to manipulate and be manipulated with licensed characters. Put Dora or SpongeBob on the shoe and the kids will scream for them until their parents’ ears bleed. They’ll make life so miserable that buying $12 Hannah Montana Croc rip-offs will seem like a day at the spa.

These down- and-dirty marketing tactics reduce parents to our own most desperate measures. Here are my three favorites:

There’s the bait and switch: Allow the shoe to be tried on. Then, when it’s safely off the foot, distract the child’s attention and pitch the shoes into the next aisle. When you arrive at the checkout line, declare the shoes as lost, having fallen out of the cart never to be found again.  Ever wonder why you see ugly shoes tucked into bread displays? 
Next is the  inventory shortage: This is where you say: “Sorry, honey. They don’t have it in your size.” I am using the tactic as long as I can because she’s learning those numbers at a fast clip.
Finally, there is the delayed gratification: With this strategy, you bank on short-term memory failure.  “We’ll get it another time,” you promise,  knowing you’ll either win this one or live to deeply regret your words.

Your parents pulled one of these on you, didn’t they?

Heck, I’m still waiting for my first car.

Art imitates life

It’s open mic night at the local coffee house.

The first to take the stage is a cute, perky young woman. She is infused with energy. There are quite a few people in the house and based on the waves, smiles and verbal exchanges, they are here for her.

She does not begin until everyone in the room is seated and quiet. She demands this.  Once she begins, two things are apparent: She manages her guitar well enough for a beginner. Her voice …. needs work.

She makes up for it by flashing a bright smile and interacting with the audience. We are forgiving because she is young and frankly, it takes guts to get up in front of people and sing music you have written yourself. 

When she is done with her set, the second musician climbs on stage. She is also cute, perky and full of enthusiasm. She handles her instrument well. But then she starts singing.

Her voice is strong and sure and perfectly pitched and projects around the room, enveloping us all in a warm, liquid embrace. There are no demands for our attention. Her music draw us in and hold us captive for the whole set.

Meanwhile, the first singer is at the back of the room working her well-oiled marketing machine: selling merchandise, promoting future shows and seeking donations for studio time. She doesn’t pay  attention to the woman strumming the guitar and filling the room with sweet sounds.

When singer No. 2 is done, she has an awkward moment involving a foot tangled in a stool, a music stand threatening to tumble and sheet music spilling over the stage in a waterfall of ink and paper. She shyly thanks the audience and takes a seat next to her boyfriend, who appears to be her only fan in attendance. They huddle together, alternately sipping coffee and reassembling her music binder.

This humble but beautifully gifted singer sits and listens as other performers share their brand of expression with the audience. She hasn’t brought T-shirts or flyers or a jar for tips. Singer No. 1 is still hustling her way around the room.

This little moment in time seems to sum everything up about life. There are two kinds of people.  The first has pure talent. The other has a vision fueled by determination. Who will succeed?   It’s anyone’s guess which, if any, of tonight’s performers will go on to future acclaim.  There are plenty of wildly talented folks out there doing something other than sharing their gifts. On the other hand, there is no shortage of marginally original millionaires out there benefitting from the right kind of promotion.