I have a long history with the sandals made of cork with two clunky buckles. My mom bought a pair from Lands’ End around 1992, and I remember someone commenting to her, “They’re ugly, but they must be comfortable.” She agreed about the comfort, at least. And because my mom had a pair of these amazing, comfortable sandals and because my mom was (and is) really, really cool, I wanted a pair. In one of the most serendipitous moments of my life, after a ballet class at the recreation center, my mom found a pair of me-sized blue Lands’ End sandals sitting in a garbage can. We have no qualms about trash digging, and good thing because those sandals became my favorite thing. Fifth grade me, circa 1994, was even in such a phase to determine that God must be a woman, must be an incarnation of the only person I had known who had died (my great-grandmother), and this grandma-God placed those shoes in the garbage just for me. (I remember coming up with this theory. It was the religion of Pre-Teen Sandalism, because my conviction began and ended there.)

In less of a religious miracle, in college, I was kind of infatuated with a guy who, in hindsight, I had no business being infatuated with. He actually observed the sabbath by spending the morning in church and spending the afternoon in bed, asleep, and he worshiped girls who worshiped God, which is one of many, many reasons it didn’t work out. (I am confident he doesn’t read my blog.) He played guitar, of course, and wore Birkenstocks, and I was young and impressionable and I had to find some common ground, so I bought Birkenstocks. That was in spring 2003, and from then on, even after he got married to a mutual friend, I wore those ugly-yet-comfortable shoes like it was my job. My job, actually, was the only place I didn’t wear them. They lasted four years, and in summer of 2007, I had to come to terms with their demise.

I got another, identical replacement pair, of course, even though I was no longer eating meat, and they were definitely made of suede. I’m wearing that pair now, and the left one, the one that goes on the foot that points straight ahead instead of to the side, like my right foot, is close to getting another hole through the bottom. This pair has only been around for three years. When they no longer have hope for resuscitation, I think I’ll have to research vegan versions of the shoe, but I’ll always, always wear those kicks. (Except at work. OSHA has yet to see the light that is the Birkenstock.)