It Is Very Important To Me That I Not Have To Wear Shoes

So for a while I was in graduate school. I’m not anymore,  and thank gods for that. If I’d stayed in any longer, I might have become an Artist. We’re talking about a school where you can show up to your writing workshop with a bunch of yarn glued to a sheet of printer paper and have a 2-hour discussion about what it says about gender politics. Which is why I was so shocked by the email I received towards the end of my first month at the school:

[Ovid],

A few security reports have come to my attention here in the Student Affairs office regarding to fact that you often walk in and around the 116 S Michigan Building without shoes.  This email is to request that you come meet with me and [Cruella De Ville], Associate Director Environmental Health and Safety, to discuss this.

I see that this Wednesday you have class in the afternoons so are you available to meet with us in the morning before class?  We are free to meet at 10:00 am or 11:00 am but can certainly arrange it if you need to meet earlier.

Looking forward to hearing from you shortly.
Thank you,
[Baroness von No-Fun]

Yeah, I don’t wear shoes except in winter. It’s not the first time I’ve mentioned it on this stupid website. Yell at me all you want in the comments, I’m used to it. But the POINT is, what the hell were the administrative staff at this ART SCHOOL doing confronting me about my shoelessness? Didn’t they have some misused animal carcass to dispose of, or some student to reprimand for drinking a pitcher of his own urine during his critique? (True story.) I wasn’t going to let these people shoe me with their rules. I had to act, and act decisively.

This was somewhat complicated by the fact that I was under a vow of silence at the time, thanks to the professor of my Lucid Dreaming class. (ART. SCHOOL.) So I essentially had three options.

OPTION ONE: Ignore the email completely and go about my barefoot business.

OPTION TWO: Take the meeting, but postpone it to next week, when I would no longer be under the vow of silence.

OPTION THREE: Fuck it, let’s do Wednesday.

GUESS WHICH ONE I PICKED

So now I had two days to figure out a way to communicate in the meeting without using my voice. Luckily, I could still use my words. I sat down in the graduate computer lab, and composed a letter.

Two days later, I showed up at the office of Student Affairs, barefoot, grinning, and completely speechless. I sat down between the head of Student Affairs and the Associate Director of Environmental Health and Safety, shook their hands, and then produced a letter from my satchel. The head of Student Affairs made a photocopy, and the two women read together in silence.

This is what the letter said:

To Whom it May Concern,

I am grateful that the school cares enough about my well-being to arrange this meeting. The reports are true, as you can see – I do not wear shoes. In consideration of your concern, I feel I owe you an explanation as to why. I do not wear shoes because wearing shoes is against my religion.

I belong to an esoteric Buddhist sect known as Paryayana Buddhism. My religion forbids the eating of meat, the wearing of shoes, and being the first owner of any thing. I am the last living practitioner of this religion, my teacher having passed away four years ago. While I appreciate that the school has certain policies, to begin wearing shoes now would be a disgrace to my teacher’s memory.

Paryayana teaches us that we must adhere to our beliefs, but be reasonable in their application. Thus, I do not intend to remain barefoot when the temperature drops below thirty degrees. I have been walking barefoot for many years, and am prepared to provide a signed note from a podiatrist attesting to its health benefits. I am also more than willing to sign any form of legal release that you require. Only allow me to continue practicing my faith.

Go in peace,

[Ovid]

The two administrators read the letter, then read it again. They looked at each other, then looked at me.

“We’re going to need to take some time to have our legal team look at this,” they said. “But we’re not telling you you have to wear shoes. Just to be clear, that’s not what we’re doing. Just … can we meet again next week?”

I nodded.

Exactly one week later, I was once again sitting in their office, fully able to speak, signing the liability release their legal team had drafted for them. The release granted me permission to be barefoot anywhere on campus, except in the wood and metal shops and in the general vicinity of the laser cutter, all of which seemed, you know, pretty reasonable. After that, I had to show the form to one or two security guards, but most of them knew me already. I got away with so much shit thanks to those security guards.

You see, the school’s administration had fallen victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is “Never get involved in a land war in Asia,” but only slight less well-known is this: Never match wits with a writing major, when pride is on the line.

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14 thoughts on “It Is Very Important To Me That I Not Have To Wear Shoes

  1. I’m loving these personal stories. (Actually I don’t even care that you aren’t writing myths, I have a passion for stories of any kind.) What other stuff did you do for that lucid dreaming class? I’m going to a liberal arts school right now, so we don’t have the more extreme underwater basketweaving classes.

    Also, how is that coat of arms going? Did you and your friend get that latin figured out?

    • We did a lot of stuff in the lucid dreaming class – dream journals, a variety of tests to see if we were dreaming, performances based on our dreams. At one point I blindfolded the entire class under the pretense of a game and then had an accomplice rob them while they were distracted. One of the security guards I knew held onto their stuff until we could ransom it back to its owners.

      The latin is figured, I just need to decide what to paint on the thing.

      Oh and just to be clear, I was the only one in the class who got a vow of silence :-/

  2. Oh my god, you are magical. <3

    I don't know what gets people so up-in-arms about not wearing shoes. As long as you're not putting your feet on their dinner tables or whatever, it's YOUR concern, not theirs.

    Also, I'm fascinated by the idea that your teacher would make you take a vow of silence. What exactly was it supposed to accomplish?

    • It was supposed to make me aware of when I was speaking at the service of others, in order to entertain them or gratify them. It also taught me when speech was unnecessary. These were lessons I desperately needed (and still need) to learn.

  3. Good for you! Honestly, I want to know your secrets. I loathe shoes. Maybe I live in too small a town, though, because I can’t get away with going without. (It is too cold here right now anyway.)

  4. What the fuck kind of school did you go to!? If I saw a school like that on TV, I would naturally have to assume they were taking the piss, but…?

  5. Here in Belgium it’s usually too cold/rainy/both to walk barefoot and nobody does it anyway. Once I walked barefoot on campus because I had broken my sandal in the summer, I did it very naturally because it’s when you look emarrassed taht people start to notice. Then my department secretary YELLED at me, which I actually found funny. The lesson I learnt is, if you’re going to wear sandals, have a spare pair.

  6. Ok, that Paryayana Buddhism thing looked pretty cool, so I looked it up. The only other reference to it I could find was in this completely incomprehensible blog piece about Buddhist myths. (http://cubocumi49.over-blog.com/2014/01/buddhist-myths.html Seriously, what is this???)
    Some of the only coherent sentences in the whole article are copied word for word from Ovid’s story. (Just the lines “My religion forbids the eating of meat, the wearing of shoes, and being the first owner of any thing” and “I belong to an esoteric Buddhist sect known as Paryayana Buddhism”.) And if that wasn’t weird enough, it looks like it was published on the 15th of January. And all the links lead to some weird psuedo-porn thingy, so that’s…atypical.
    I have no idea what any of this means, but it’s all so glorious I had to share it.

  7. Just wanted to drop a note and say I’ve been reading your blog and laughing and thinking and just generally enjoying myself. You’re a wonderful writer, and I loved this post particularly. Any blogger using a quote from Princess Bride is good by me.

    Write on!

    Sarah

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