Saturday, October 27, 2012

Old Man Shoes, Part II

I wanted to buy standard white sneakers, the kind I've worn most of my life. I wanted simple, unadorned white sneakers that support my arches and allow my feet to serve their intended purpose without necessarily calling undue attention to them.

They are, after all, just feet. I do not need my feet to make a statement about me. I need them to walk, to pedal the RPM bike at the gym, and occasionally to run from point A to point B without tripping over themselves and sending me into a face-plant on a hard surface.

Shoes should assist the feet in meeting this fairly limited set of responsibilities. I require only comfort and function from my shoes, whether they be for business, or sport, or casual use. My concern over shoes has never relied heavily on the opinions of others. Be sure, I would not wear sneakers with a three-piece suite, or clown shoes to a funeral, but I do not typically spend an exorbitant amount of time pondering my choice of footwear when making the purchase. The only questions that cross my mind at the shoe store are:

1. Do they fit?

2. Are they comfortable?

3. Are they reasonably priced?

4. Are they suitable for their intended purpose?

For some inexplicable reason, the last time I purchased sneakers I caved to the unreasonable whim of peer pressure. The peers in question were My Lovely Wife and Our Daughter. The two have been critical in the past for  mybuying sneakers that are, in their words, "old man shoes." Old man shoes are an insult to their stylistic sensibilities. My old man shoes are a source of embarrassment, based solely on their proximity to them whenever and wherever I am wearing them. The kind of shoe not objectionable to them is gray sneakers with touches of neon green and partially made of some mesh-like material, so that is what I purchased.

The gray and neon green mesh-like sneakers fit (check one), are comfortable (check two), and were reasonably priced (check three). In most ways they are suitable for their intended purpose, except for the inescapable and unavoidable fact my feet sound as though I am walking with whoopee cushions strapped to them.

With every step I take, a barely audible (but audible all the same) pooting gust of air escapes around my ankle. No matter how I place my foot upon the ground as I move, the sound is there, mocking me for not sticking to my guns and buying my old man shoes. Wherever I go, if those gray and green mesh-like sneakers are on my feet, I sound like Fozzy Bear testing out his new fart shoes. All that's missing is a spinning bow tie and me holding my hands out and shouting "Wocka, Wocka!"

I suspect it won't be long before I am once again wearing proper old man shoes. They might not be sexy, or stylish, or contemporary, but I'd rather have people thinking I have old man shoes instead of old man incontinence issues.

© 2012 Mark Feggeler

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Homophobic Chicken

So, how about Chick-fil-A's stand on the gay marriage issue?

At first, the company's president said he was against it, then the company seemed to back off a little when the media got hold of his statement and it built into a PR brouhaha. Chick-fil-A responded by issuing an official statement wording the company's position in terms of support for programs that educate youth and support families in keeping with being stewards of God's trust. But I must admit I prefer the company president's firmly stated position in opposition to gay marriage to the company's wishy-washy, watered down propaganda that basically says the same thing but in a way they hope isn't as directly offensive.

I'm a big believer in freedom of speech. If the president of Chick-fil-A opposes gay marriage then he should be free to say so when asked about it. You don't like his answer? Too bad. No one ever said you had to like, or agree with, everything you hear in life. And if the entire company chooses to stand behind its president, which isn't surprising since Chick-fil-A has always promoted conservative Christian values -- you can't even get waffle fries on the sabbath, for God's sake -- then that's awesome. Solidarity! It's a free market. Let 'em do and say whatever they want, so long as they aren't breaking any laws in the process.

At the same time, no one's pointing a gun at the heads of others and demanding they eat at Chick-fil-A. Once again, it's a free market. You don't like the way a company does business, or the causes that company chooses to champion or oppose, then don't give it your money.

I'm all for equality and gay rights. I've known many gay people in my time -- and if you think you haven't, then you simply haven't been paying enough attention to the people around you -- and have never felt threatened by their presence. One of my college roommates was gay. He asked me once if his being gay bothered me. I asked if he planned to rape me in my sleep, to which he answered no. Then there was no reason for me to have any problem with it, I explained.

I say let gay people wed, let them adopt children, let them have access to all the rights afforded to traditional married couples. I highly doubt it will rot the moral fiber of our country. Our's is the same culture that slaughtered Native Americans and stole their land, captured and enslaved Africans then denied them basic rights for another hundred years after they were freed, and forced Asian Americans from their homes and into prison camps during World War II. If those atrocities toward our fellow humans didn't send our country straight to the seventh ring of hell, then I can't imagine granting a gay couple that has lived together for forty years the right to call themselves "legally married" will bring down a plague of locusts upon the land.

The activist in me says "Don't eat Chick-fil-A's homophobic chicken!" But the activist in me has a very weak backbone, particularly when he's hungry. The truth is I enjoy their homophobic chicken. It's yummy. Who knows? Maybe it takes a special kind of religious zealot to make really tasty fast food. Maybe, somewhere in the midst of closed-minded condemnation and religious rhetoric, someone got good and hungry and came up with the idea of putting pickles on a fried chicken sandwich.

Plus, if you are the parent of a young child, you understand the Law of Diminished Culinary Options. Put simply, kids can be fussy eaters, and once you find a place they like to eat it wouldn't matter if Jeffrey Dahmer worked the drive-thru and Jerry Sandusky supervised the play area, you're going to bring your family there because you know your kids will eat the food.

When it all comes down to it, whether or not I choose to eat at Chick-fil-A has nothing to do with political activism. It has everything to do with being hungry and having a craving for their homophobic chicken. But, if it makes any of my activist-minded friends feel any better, I promise to feel conflicted the next time I eat there.

© 2012 Mark Feggeler

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Disturbing Letter

"Your mother took another person's life when she was young."

That's how a letter our daughter received a couple months ago began. She opened the letter on a pleasant evening as she was sifting through slips of paper her friends had placed in the "prayer jar" she had made as part of a week-long youth program at church. It arrived in the form of a greeting card we suspected might be a thank you note or an invitation to a party. Her expression quickly changed as she read the card. Glancing over her shoulder, words like "murderer" grabbed my wife's attention.

The fact is my wife was in a car accident twenty-five years ago this past August, almost exactly five years before she and I met. She was seventeen years old at the time, driving along a bend in a road in Southern Pines, NC, when a fellow high school student of hers approached from the other direction. His car was in her lane coming straight at her, fast. She hit her breaks. He didn't. Their cars locked, spun together like a top, and released. My wife ended up with many broken bones and needed multiple surgeries. The young man in the other car did not survive.

Maybe he was distracted by the radio, or an animal in the road, or simply wasn't paying attention. Perhaps there was a medical reason why his car veered off course and he didn't attempt to regain control . Maybe he had a seizure and was unaware of his surroundings. We will never know.

My heart always goes out first to the parents when I hear of such accidents. I can not imagine the pain of losing a child. Just last week, a sixteen-year-old bandmate of our daughter died when her car spun out of control and struck a tree. Words do not exist to express the sympathy one feels at these times. "I'm so sorry for your loss" is woefully inadequate when attempting to console the family at the funeral home. From someone like me, who has never experienced a loss of that magnitude, it is the best that can be mustered.

I would never presume to tell the loved one or close friend of a person who has died how to mourn, how to cope with the loss, how to fill the vaccuum that has been left behind. But there does come a time when the reality of the situation must be faced and life must go on. When, exactly? That's different for everyone. It might take days, weeks, months, or years, but it must come evenutally so the life of the person mourning does not stall and remain mired in suffering.

Unfortunately, some people cling to their grief and hold it closely to them like a security blanket. To let go of the pain and move on with life is incomprehensible. They see their loved ones' deaths as wrongs that have been committed and they seek to lay blame on the most convenient targets. To their way of thinking their loved ones didn't die, they were killed, and facts-of-the-case-be-damned someone must be held accountable. Whomever wrote that letter to our daughter is one of those people.

It would have been bad enough for this person to have mailed the letter to my wife and directly called her a murderer. But to target our daughter -- telling her to "Look your mother in the eyes and you will see the eyes of a murderer" -- is an indication that this person is not content with simply assigning blame. After twenty-five years of allowing resentment to fester, this person has found it necessary and appropriate to lash out at a fifteen-year-old girl in the hopes of driving a wedge between her and her mother. Needless to say, it didn't work.

We might never find out who wrote the letter, or why he or she chose to place such vitriolic language in a religious-themed greeting card with rainbows and flowers covering the front of it. That it was sent anonymously and with no return address tells me this person knows sending it was too shameful an act for which to take credit. It's easy to feel anger toward this person, but as more time passes I can't help feeling pity is the more appropriate response.

I doubt the young man who died in that accident all those years ago would have wanted him or her to waste a quarter of a century nurturing bitterness and hatred in his name. There surely must be more fitting ways to pay tribute to the memory a loved one.

© 2012 Mark Feggeler