Throughout school in Seychelles, I wore tons of weird shoes. From pointy, black shiny ones to brown, loose flat ones. Everyone else usually just wore sandals. Me? I had certain “standards” to maintain as a kid. So for the first year of school I wore the spick and span black shoes that I had bought in India.
When they wore out, I got a pair of weird brown shoes. They were a little too large for my feet, a little too loose to play football in and a little too much like a grown man’s shoes. And although I was proud of them when I got them, things turned around pretty quickly when I got to school on the first day of wearing them.
The shoes spelled out the perfect recipe for disaster. Football would usually consist more of flying shoes than the actual ball, and eventually even the heftiest of attackers would stay away from me for fear of getting “the boot”.
That wasn’t all. I would be the “barefoot” runner in running competitions, since my shoes would fly off at odd angles. The only good thing it did was distract the other runners just long enough for me to finish ahead of others. (Pro strategy if you ask me).
Seychelles was a sandy island. You could be on top of a mountain, and sand would still be there. It was no surprise then that the first ritual after coming home was removing sand from my shoes. So, I decided to throw away my “standards” (and my shoes) and switch to sandals instead after they wore out.
But the shoes weren’t done with me yet. A few people from Seychelles national TV were filming on our school grounds for some documentary. We were playing a football match, with me kicking my legs all over the place in a frantic attempt to clear the ball from the defensive area.
The camera could’ve captured any of a hundred thousand things about me, but when the documentary finally aired, there I was – not my face or my body – but my legs and my flying shoes. Of course, I didn’t know then that they were filming for a documentary and I had no clue when it would air, so I didn’t watch it.
Nonetheless I was a sensation in school the day after it aired. I felt like Harry Potter because I had no clue why I was famous.
“We saw your shoes on TV,” someone told me.
“My shoes?” I asked.
“Yeah, you were kicking wildly in the air and then the scene changed.”
So I finally became the “Shoe guy” for everybody.
That was the end of the brown shoes. I put them in the shoe cupboard and refused to wear them, no matter what happened. That was followed by a huge discussion at home about how I shouldn’t let the opinions of others affect who I am (which ended with me sulking and firmly deciding that I didn’t want those shoes after all).
For the next few weeks, I was the “Shoe guy” who wore sandals to school. Come to think of it, it could’ve stayed that way for years, if it hadn’t been for a guy who started wearing the most fluorescent pink shoes one could buy.
I gladly handed over the title of “Shoe guy” to him, and stepped back to my old tag of “Malabar” (which meant Indian in the Kreol language).
Of course, nothing really ends on the perfect note and I got teased for many other things. But what I learned was, if you were weird, you weren’t accepted but you could still be famous even if you weren’t accepted but you could easily lose all that infamy if someone did something that was more embarrassing.
Since that day, whenever I did anything embarrassing, I just pointed out someone famous who had done it worse. That way, I would be a style statement. As the years passed, I erased all the “Xyz guy” tags, until I just became the “guy”.
And trust me, life was much easier.