Friday, August 9, 2013


A friend of mine once pointed out the inconsistency in my vegetarianism and the fact I was wearing a pricey pair of leather shoes. I ignored this point for awhile. One man can only do so much, right? Wrong. Eventually, I gave up all things leather—watchbands, belts, shoes.

That friend and I are no longer speaking.

I have ordered shoes online for years now. The selection is dreary. The joy of a great shoe find is gone. And so when I ventured into the Nike Running store at The Grove in L.A. to buy a new jogging outfit, my eyes drifted toward the shoe section. I looked away, but then returned to blatant, lustful ogling. I eyed one pair, knowing it would go perfectly with a lot of my gym gear. I touched it. I picked it up. I could not detect any trace of leather, suede or whatever other cow residue goes into footwear.

I had to ask. Sure enough, all synthetic mesh stuff. No. Animal. Product.

I asked the employee if she had it in a size ten. “Uh, I just work the register.” Yes, in my urgent need to know, I had taken the shoe far from the shoe section, too impatient to wait for someone to reappear from the back.

I returned to the designated area and dutifully sat as a high maintenance woman questioned Shoe Guy. In retrospect, she probably wasn’t high maintenance at all. But she stood between me and shoe freedom.

When I finally had Shoe Guy’s attention, I blurted, “Do you have this in a 10?”

His response startled me. “Let me give you the gay test so I can make sure you’ve got the right shoe.”

A flurry of thoughts converged in my brain within the next split second. Is this allowed? Can they discriminate based on sexual orientation? California just got gay marriage back. Is shoe equality still on the agenda? Is my desired shoe too masculine? Am I not masculine enough?

“It just takes a few moments. Step on the treadmill.”

I remained speechless, the thoughts still racing. What business is it for him if I walk a certain way:? I’ve been wearing shoes for most of my forty-eight years and worked through my blister moments just fine. Didn’t I pass the gay test years ago?

Detecting my resistance, Shoe Guy said, “Let’s measure your foot first.”

“I’m a 10.” The shoe department is the only place in the world I’m allowed to say that. He insisted on measuring. Suddenly, my perfect number was in doubt.

10. Yep, still got it.

Again, I held up my shoe. Still, he doubted me. “The gay test is the best way to make sure you get the right shoe.”

I could no longer hide my frown or my exasperation. “I just want to try this on. I’m a 10.” As we’d clearly established. The shoe area was drawing a crowd of back-to-school shoppers so Shoe Guy stopped his invasive quest. The shoes fit, I paid and I left, my great shoe discovery slightly tainted by the odd ordeal I underwent.

It was only as I paid for my parking that I realized there had been a simple miscommunication. Gay test. Gait test.

felt like Emily Litella, that classic Gilda Radner character who got all rattled about a push for Violence in Schools when the issue was actually Violins in Schools and questioned the fairness of the deaf penalty when talk had been about the death penalty. What’s all this fuss about a gay test just to buy a pair of shoes. It’s terrible. Haven’t gay people had enough discrimination? ... Gait test?! Oh, that’s different. Never mind.

What I really need is a hearing test.


Rick Modien said...

Hilarious! Loved it. Great job, RG.
Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I have been wondering about the avoidance of leather in the hope of doing less harm to living creatures. By choosing plastic, which is part of a very toxic system that does much harm to life, is one actually doing less harm than by choosing leather? Some leathers are also produced by very deadly toxic means, but not all. I am actually living rural, and gay, and indifferent to the look of my shoes. I could probably get humane minimally toxic leather from somebody local, although I have no ideal as to how to make even the most rudimentary shoe. I also have no idea of how to research the question of the life harm of plastic shoes versus the life harm of leather shoes... maybe you have looked into the matter.

Rural Gay said...

Hi Hina,
I am sure there is a significant environmental impact from making the shoes I wear. Basically all that we do has ramifications. No doubt, all kinds of manufacturing require significant tweaking. For me, however, no kind of leather is acceptable as long as an animal is killed in order to obtain the material. There are others who will continue to buy leather and who will say that this is part of using as much of the animal as possible. I just want to remove myself as much as possible from any direct killing of an animal. My choice is imperfect but it is something I can live with for now.

You are very ambitious to consider constructing your own shoes. I do hope you give it a try. You can probably be quite successful after a little Google/YouTube research. Good luck!