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I spend my days trapped, sometimes for eight or 14 hours at a stretch. My captors twist. They squeeze. My skin blisters under pitiless, chafing leather straps. I’m talking, of course, about high heels and the utter agony of dealing with them all day as I hop, skip, trip, and fall my way though a summer internship at a large financial institution smack in the middle of Corporate America. Middle of Corporate America though it may be, it’s still five blocks away from my subway station.
Do you know how many spike-heel-swallowing sidewalk cracks, ankle-turning potholes, skirt-splashing puddles, and treacherous patches of new cement that is?
(I certainly don’t. It’s too hard to count and walk at the same time.)
On campus when I wake up 10 minutes before class, bleary-eyed and stumbling in my sleep-deprivation-induced clumsiness, one saving grace—others include the shuttle, the seven-minute rule, and Apple Crispitos—is under my bed.
I have owned my favorite pair of flip flops (purple, rubber, from the Gap) for better than four years. Two seconds and I’m out the door. They’re summery. I could walk all day in them.
Best of all, they go equally well with skirts and pajamas. (Please don’t tell my mother I said that—we’ve all been there. My mother also often calls them “thongs.” As in, “Sweetie, do you wear your thongs every day?” I used to get as far as an outraged “Mother…!” before I wised up. I’ve learned not to blink at the question.)
Last summer, I was lucky enough to edit a guide for Let’s Go Publications. Among the many perks of the job at 67 Mt. Auburn was an office full of college students who dressed like college students. I wore jeans (or skirts or dresses) and my trusty flip flops every day. Bliss.
But this summer, all that changed. When June arrived, I traded a job among scores of travel-loving college students for a job among thousands of transaction-loving financial professionals. I traded in my jeans and tees for slacks and collars. And I traded in my beloved sandals for pumps and slingbacks.
By the time I got to work on my first day, my little toes were covered with blisters and my ankles ached from walking as rigidly as possible to avoid twisting them. I had logged about half an hour in them so far. Great. Only another 49 17/18 days to go.
At my internship, being as it is in the marketing department of my particular financial colossus, most of my colleagues are women. I watched them wonderingly for my first few days. They all wore heels—sometimes so high I wondered how they breathed up there—and miraculously, they never seemed to wobble. Where did they learn it and what had I missed?
I eventually started carrying my strappy leather contraptions to and from work every day. Certainly this arrangement was more comfortable, but that didn’t stop me from feeling hopelessly out of it in the elevator every morning. Inevitably, I’d pull up to a corner only to find I’d parked my flip flops next to a smart set of Manolo Blahniks. I could feel every eye in the elevator staring with pity down at me and would shrink in provincial shyness against the wall.
Come September, I’ll be able to chuck nice shoes aside once more and carry on in all of my accustomed New Balanced glory. It will likely be the last time I get to do it. My heels will come back to campus with me to go to information sessions and interviews as I attempt to bridge the gap between myself as a college student and myself as gainfully employed. They will slice the year into alternating islands of shoe prison and shoe freedom.
If the past three years are any indication, the year will pass quickly, unnervingly quickly. As for where I’ll be when it’s over, I’m not sure yet.
But this well-heeled summer (get it? a shoe joke that’s also about money!) has given me more of an idea than I’ve had since deciding, at the age of nine, that I would become the Yankees’ first-ever female sportscaster. (Alas—another dream gone. I wonder what kind of shoes Suzyn Waldman wears to the radio booth.)
My job’s been fairly awesome for the most part. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve met some great people. I’ve spent a summer back home in New York for the first time in three years. I’ve discovered a couple of things I might want to do with my life.
In my mind, at least, that’s a start.
And no matter what, I’ll be keeping my flips flops.
Laura L. Krug ’06, a Crimson executive editor, is an English concentrator in Dunster House. In the fall, you can find her at any store in the Square that sells flip flops.
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