it’s official. winter is almost here. i tried to hold out with my fall coat as long as i could, but my frozen body parts convinced me that it was time to dig my brown knee-length parka and timberland boots from my suitcase. ugh, i thought, back to feeling like a walking puffy brown turd. but i wasn’t really dreading having to wear my boots. they’re one thing i’m certain is coming back to the usa with me. they’re rugged forrest green with brown and black. a style that has brought my friends to ask ‘where’s the duck hunting paaaaarty?’ and a drunk ukrainian man at the grocery store to insist i came from canada.
sooo they’re not exactly feminine. but that’s the part that i love. i feel so badass in my duck hunting party boots. i can’t even imagine the millions of insects i’ve clomped over with every step i take. or how many good swift kicks in the butt i could give. my boots empower me.
but as much as these boots make me feel empowered or ready to take on whatever winter boulder climbing i might face, the looks i get from ukrainians for my choice in shoes are sometimes hard to ignore. fashion here is number one. no, i don’t mean that, i mean appearance here is number one. i can’t say fashion, because on the world ranking of fashion, mullets, mesh and rhinestones are kind of out.
but it’s a ‘presentable togetherness’ that is so valued here, something that to be honest not many americans think is important. there certainly isn’t any going to the store in pajama pants nor ‘people of walmart ukraine edition’. one must always leave the house with polished shoes (a habit of mine now too) and stop in the middle of the sidewalk to use a hand-wipes for ‘on the spot shoe cleaning’ (i think they might be going a little too far).
appearance in ukraine means a lot. more so for the ladies. especially for the ladies. despite my taste in rugged boots and the two times i cross-dressed for summer camp, i dress fairly feminine…whatever that really means. but in ukraine, i don’t think i’ve ever felt so sloppy and inelegant before. i dress professionally for school but my fellow female teachers and students prance around me in the highest of heels as if they came out of the womb with them on. even my 6th graders wear heels! i’m pretty sure i was 22 when i bought my frist pair and walked around like a horse on ice.
my fellow teacher once asked me ‘why do you not wear heels?’ pointing disapprovingly to my 2-inches-if-that black wedges i pulled from the free box of the peace corps office. i told her ‘ohhhhh they heels aren’t for me’. which is true. i’m pretty sure i would cry inwardly from the pain they cause, then later trip, and inevitably die. that’s how it would go. so, NO THANKS. i’ll just continue being the awkward, frumpy, bunion-less flat shoed masculine boot wearing american girl that embrasses disapproving glares at as she stomps on by.