SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2003        Personal Memory Ethnographies


The Shoes        shoes

It was summer of 1992, just before I was about to start my first year of junior high.  My mother was taking me shopping for a new pair of shoes, the reason I was a little excited was that we were going to a name brand store not the usual discount store.

This was an important change.  Growing up in Arrowhead Ranch I was always around people that had more money than we had.  When my family moved to Phoenix from L.A. in 1987, both my parents experienced a large decrease in income.  We were able to afford to live in a nice neighborhood but didn’t have a lot left over for anything else.  As a result all the kids I knew had nicer clothes, shoes, bikes, and cars than my sister or I did.  This was never a real big issue during my younger years, but going into junior high I wanted some of these nicer things to make a better impression on the kids I would meet there.

When my mom and I pulled up in front of the sports store I was happy because I knew I was going to get a nicer pair of shoes than I had been given in the past.  My mom looked excited too, because she was happy that she and dad were able to start getting nicer things for my sister and me.  Once we walked into the store I saw the pair of Nike Jordan’s that I wanted, but they were about $110, way out of our price range.  We walked back to the shoe wall, past all the cool Nike, Adidas, and Reebok clothes and sports equipment, and my mom showed her coupon to one of the workers.  They took us over to the women’s section and pulled a pair of shoes off the wall.  Right about then I was not so happy with this idea, what teenage boy wants to wear girls’ shoes?  My mom looked a little surprised, I don’t think she had realized that the coupon she had was for women’s shoes.  I could tell by her face that she was a little disappointed. Oh no, I can tell Eric does not want   these shoes, but they don’t look very feminine and I don’t have time to look for another pair.  I ended up with a pair of women’s Diadora tennis shoes!  Since things hadn’t turned out the way I had wanted I felt obligated to pout.  I gave my mom a pretty hard time about the situation and pretty much acted like a spoiled and selfish brat.   Despite my misgivings the whole gender aspect never turned out to be that much of a problem.  The shoes didn’t look very girly and none of my friends at school ever really noticed, so that worked out all right. 

Looking back at this incident I realize it may seem like a trivial memory to hold on to.  I think for me it represents a lot of lessons that I had been learning all throughout my childhood but didn’t really realize until much later.  I haven’t talked with my mom about this incident but I think she was affected by it too.  My mother is not a superficial person, nor am I now, but I know she wanted to get my sister and me nicer things.  She was probably disappointed in both having to buy me shoes I was unhappy with and the way I handled the situation.  I think my mom expected a little more understanding on my behalf as to why we couldn’t have all the expensive things that everyone else I saw had, and was hurt that I reacted so selfishly and with such little concern for her feelings or situation. 

This was the first time I really remember feeling “left out”.  I was starting to see differences between the haves and have-nots.  This was an eye-opening experience and looking back on it I realize how this difference between haves and have-nots can lead to frustration and unhappiness on the part of those who feel they have less.  Through this and other similar experiences I have also realized many of these luxury items are completely unnecessary.  I like nice things as much as the next person, they are fun to have and usually make life more enjoyable.  But I realize that when it comes to what counts, what is really important, my/our ideals and viewpoints, what makes me/us who you am/are, those luxuries are irrelevant.  This experience was instrumental in allowing me to see in myself and in society what I needed to see to arrive at these conclusions, and that is why I think I still remember it.

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