Donna Fielder: Shoe name change can can lead to big mix-up

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I heard from my friend Pam Rainey this week. She had a story to share. It has always been my theory that us girls can get through anything if we stick together.

That’s why women spend so much time sharing experiences. We’re bonding on women issues. We’re forming alliances that shepherd us through life’s hard times. OK, so we’re mostly gossiping. But still. …

I am pleased to be able to share Pam’s experience with you, and I know we’ll all benefit from it.

Pam was in Dillard’s last week on a shoe search. She was, appropriately enough, in the shoe section when she was approached by a nice, fresh-faced young man who wanted to know if he could help her.

“I said to him, ‘I have had two knee replacements, back surgery and I cannot wear thongs! Look. All you have up there are thongs! Why? Don’t you see that little old ladies can’t wear thongs?’

“He actually blushed and walked away,” she said.

Pam was a little taken aback by that. What was his problem? Was he heavily in­vested in the rubber sandal industry and mad that she wasn’t contributing to his income? Did he have something against enclosed shoes? What?

“Mom,” Pam’s daughters explained when she complained about his odd behavior. “Thongs aren’t shoes anymore. We call those things flip-flops now. You were talking to that poor guy about scanty underwear!”

It’s true. Sometime while Pam and I and many others like us were busy being room mothers, somebody invented panties that left out all the material. They strung together a piece of elastic, an inch of nylon and a length of dental floss and voila! They had the next underwear rage.

They called them thongs. And they put a price tag on them higher than the underpants of yore made of 17 yards of pink or cream sateen with a size tag bigger than a whole thong.

That left the shoe industry to come up with another name for the sandals. Hence the term flip-flops was born.

Pam’s daughters were horribly embarrassed by her loud discussion with the nice young man, Pam told me. But she didn’t care. After all they put her through as they moved through the awkward age between 6 and 26, it was her turn to cause a few red faces.

I told my daughter this, laughing all the while, but she aligned herself with Pam’s girls. It’s hard when your mother gets to be a certain age and stops caring what people think, she said, looking pointedly at my short shorts and “The older I get, the more people can kiss my [expletive]” T-shirt. It seemed like the conversation had turned personal. I certainly had nothing to be embarrassed about from my children, she told me. Whereas, some of my antics had driven her and her brother to move out of town.

You think that walking around with four children all the same age was not embarrassing? I asked Christi. “A family outing looked like I had whelped a litter of puppies.”

And of course, I said, I never would have done anything to embarrass my children.

Christi rolled her eyes.

“Well that time when I was pregnant comes to mind,” she said. “You know, when I was uh, expanding at a high rate and I had to keep visiting the bra department of the women’s stores.”

A memory was starting to form in my mind.

We were in the lingerie department at Dillard’s. Christi was in the large economy size area and I was trying to be helpful. It was quiet in there as I dug through a rack of undergarments with cups like kites. Suddenly I found one that seemed like it would fit the bill. I looked up but Christi was all the way over perusing the Omar the Tentmaker line.

“Christi, over here,” I shouted, and the store grew even more quiet. “I found one that looks like it would sail a yacht to Bermuda!”

She grabbed the garment, paid for it without trying it on and slunk out of the store four steps ahead of me while two clerks snickered behind the check-out desk.

And as for Pam’s nice young shoe clerk: “Maybe he will graduate from college, move to another department or have some other good fortune so that I can go back to the only store where I can sometimes find comfortable shoes!” she said.

Her daughters should be happy. At least she didn’t buy the thongs.

DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is .

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