Last week, we were talking about new shoes. Or the way that people talk about shoes. If you’re a woman, you probably know what I mean. “Those shoes look comfortable” means “Your shoes are ugly.” In shoe discussions, shoes can be cute or comfortable, but usually not both. Occasionally, someone might say, “Those shoes are so cute, but are they comfortable?” But that’s as close as the words ‘cute’ and ‘comfortable’ come in the shoe world and still be a compliment.
But the award went to Colette for the most insulting comment about shoes. Once she was in an airport when a total stranger said to her, “Those shoes must be comfortable because they sure are ugly.”
When I hear a story like Colette’s, I am stunned. My only response is to wonder why anyone would do something so thoughtless. Even if he were Manolo Blahnik, it would have been inappropriate. And why was this guy studying Colette’s feet anyway? In what universe was he taught that this was appropriate behavior?
Probably, he thought he was being funny, and he was never going to see Colette again. So why not just say it? In that way, he is like the folks on the Internet, who make hateful comments. They can be cruel with no ramifications because they don’t have to face their victims.
But most of us aren’t cruel. Our sin is not pausing between the thought and expression. Something seems funny, and we blurt it out, without taking a second to consider the reaction. That is especially true of those of us who pride ourselves on our wit.
So I’m proposing a simple solution. Take a breath after the thought and consider the Buddhist adage about right speech:
It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will.
That should solve many of our problems.
Still, as a warning to that guy in the airport: If you are still going about insulting women’s shoes, keep this in mind: Comfortable shoes come off fast. They are heavy. And they hurt when they hit the side of your head.