flip flops

Flip Flops, we used to call them thongs, a name now almost exclusively relegated to skimpy underpants. Whether you call flip flops or thongs or jandals, pluggers, go-aheads, slaps, you know what they are, those simple open-toed sandals, consisting of a flat sole held loosely on the foot by a Y-shaped strap that passes between the first and second toes and around either side of the foot.
    When I was a kid, we wore flips flops only to the beach or pool or to the front yard, where they were promptly discarded for barefoot play. Since we didn’t wear them often, we only got the cheap rubber kind, water resistant and in some bright color. And since we didn’t wear them often, our toes were unaccustomed to the Y strap straddling that tender area between our toes. That first day of flip flop season was always marked by blisters. We would even try to wear the strap between other toes to ease the soreness. Eventually we began to tolerate the strap, and just about the time our feet grew comfortable enough to actually wear the flip flops for any amount of time, my brother and I would test fate and wear the shoes to the park for the ultimate test of tensile strength. That would invariably be the day the rubber stopper failed, the flip flop became nothing but a flop. We would have to walk home, one foot bare on the hot concrete sidewalk or asphalt and gravel footpath, carefully avoiding broken glass, sharp rocks and whatever other foot-stabbing, foreign object debris that may lie in wait.
    Truth be told, I would have much rather been completely barefoot, but that was against the rules, even when we lived at the beach or in the desert. My father, much to his credit, made us wear proper footwear to support our feet and keep the risk of sunburn to a minimum. I didn’t know that last part until a few years ago when we were at Disney’s Epcot Center together, and he told my daughter that she should wear proper shoes to the theme park so her feet wouldn’t get sunburned. I think she donned sneakers. I wore a Crocs brand slides, basically a flip flop with a strap across the foot rather than between the toes. No sunburn but my feet were tired at the end of the day. After 12 hours of walking and standing, my feet probably would have tired even if I had worn my cross-trainers.
    Now, for so many, flip flops are the footwear of choice. I personally do not have anything against the flips. I still hate the toe inter-space wedge (that’s a very tender area), and I fear the aforementioned mechanical failure. That’s why I have not worn actual flips since high school. I like sandals. I always thought they were cute, but they were never right for me. It was a great day, indeed, when I learned that not all flip flops, or sandals for that matter, were made with the Y strap.
    Even so, I think what really sold me on sandals was a singular moment a number of years ago not long after B and were married. He was playing bass at a Sunday night church service in Seattle, when the city was still prominent as the grunge music center of the world. He wore a long sleeve, blue and green striped oxford shirt, with distressed jeans and sandals. I didn’t think much of his outfit before, but after the service, he found me in the back of the sanctuary sitting with the drummer and another guitar player. He propped himself up on the back of a pew a couple rows in front of us and rested his besandaled feet on the seat facing us. He had long blond hair then and a permanent 5 o’clock shadow. He leaned his elbows on his knees, folded his hands together, and laughed with ease, flashing a carefree smile. Suddenly it was as if I was seeing him again for the very first time. My knees went weak, and I remember thinking how sexy he looked. Later in the car when I told him, he said, “Yeah, I know. I think it’s the sandals.”
    So, Sandals, flips flops, slides, barefoot even, whatever. I’m a fan.