Something funny happened to me the other day.
It was warm and sunny out, and I was walking down Yonge Street wearing a simple black outfit and these shoes.
A lady standing with a group of people nearby left her group, headed over in my direction, walked up to me, and said:
"Where did you get such UGLY shoes?"
This was hilarious for a few reasons.
First, she left her group to come tell me my shoes are ugly. Rather than just pointing and laughing with her group or taking a stealth photo to share on facebook, she interrupted her day and sought me out to tell me my shoes are ugly. If the sight of someone walking down the main street of a major city in mildly unconventional footwear so vexes you that you have to stop what you're doing and intervene, I don't think you're going to make it in the city.
Second, her dress and appearance had no particular redeeming qualities. She was a poster girl for the concept of "she's let herself go". She was probably a poster girl for this concept ten years ago. Her clothes were ill-fitting and poorly made walmart-wear of the sort that you can't tell if they're from last summer or last decade, her shorts were riding up between her legs exposing her cellulite, and her hair was cropped short and plastered flat against her head with no hint of having been washed or combed in the past 24 hours. Normally when I see someone who takes so little care with their appearance I think nothing of it, simply assuming they have better things to worry about. But this lady had proven that she clearly doesn't.
Third, these shoes have gotten me the more compliments than anything else in my life, and by "anything" I mean not just fashion choices but actual achievements as well. Even if you do think they're ugly (and that's entirely your prerogative), they are a clear fashion win, moreso than anything else I've ever worn.
Between my bullies and my judgmental family members I've received more than my fair share of disses in my life, but I've never received one that was so off-target from someone who was so very clearly less cool than me. That made the whole thing utterly hilarious and not at all hurtful, and I left the interaction with a smile on my face.
I didn't blog about this when it first happened because I've been getting great mileage out of it. I've told it to all different people, and it gets a laugh every time and we all leave the conversation with smiles on our faces. But this morning in the shower I realized that this random shoe-hating lady has actually given me a very generous gift: a hilarious story!
The story works fantastically because it makes me look good ("My shoes are so awesome they offended some frumpy judgey lady, and I handled the situation with complete sangfroid!") and it makes whomever I tell the story to feel good about themselves ("At least I'm nowhere near that awful!"). If I were the kind of person who liked to brag about my personal possessions, this would give me the perfect opportunity to show off my awesome red shoes.
In fact, every decision that lady made pertaining to our interaction improved the story. By opting not to make any effort with her appearance that day, she made certain that I wouldn't feel any insult and added humour to the story, bolstering my audience's feeling good about themselves upon hearing the story. (It wouldn't be nearly so effective a story if she had been more conventionally attractive.) And by cleverly phrasing her question as "Where did you get such ugly shoes?" she gave me the perfect set-up for a good reply (a big smile and the name and location of the store). If she'd chosen to phrase it "Your shoes are ugly," I probably wouldn't have been able to immediately come up with an appropriate reply (something along the lines of "Thanks, you too!") She was generous enough to sacrifice her appearance, face (in the sociological sense), and dignity so that we may live in a world that contains amusing anecdotes.
So thank you, shoe-hating lady, for your noble sacrifice. It has brought amusement to dozens of people.