Shoes and Self Consciousness
Rio Grande has recently released a video on my Eastern Repousse Tool Sets that we filmed when I was there teaching last January. It’s exciting to see it out there on YouTube at long last since this is a topic we’ve wanted to feature for a long time. As with all things Rio, everyone I worked with was exceptionally professional, helpful, and just plain fun to be around. Good workshop hosts are like that; they make it easy for me to do my job, so I can make it easy for the students to learn a whole bunch of new and challenging stuff. I’m extremely fortunate to travel and teach lots of places that do just that.
People I meet, who’ve seen me on screen first, tend to be very complimentary of my video work. I, however, always see it differently, especially that very first viewing. I come from a wildly perfectionistic and hyper-critical family. I’m also a woman, and, whether by nature or social conditioning, I worry about the visible effect gravity has on my face or how gray my bangs are getting. Inevitably on seeing the final edited results, a series of more personal questions and comments fly through my head at the same time I’m obsessing about whether I adequately conveyed all the technical information. Usually the personal questions in my head begin with something like “Why does my lipstick look so orange?” Quickly followed by “Holy cow I sound so Southern!!! I was trying so hard to speak clearly, but daaayum!”
Invariably my husband will say something genuine and kind like “You look beautiful, and you don’t sound Southern.”
My response is usually, “No offense, but you sound way more Southern than me, so your saying I don’t sound Sothern is a relative commentary. You really think I looked ok?”
“Ok, I’ll believe that part because you do have good taste.”
During set up for the video at Rio Grande, we all discovered our shoes squeaked slightly on the floor, so the crew and I shot the whole thing in our sock feet. Such things can add to feeling silly and self conscious in front of the camera, or behind it for that matter. It’s far better than finding out months later than the footage looks great, but there’s this odd high pitched noise that cannot be digitally removed. The added goofiness to the shoot also probably contributed to my “handler” Yvonne calling me a Muppet. (She’s correct.)
Working in sock feet is actually normal for me since at home we don’t wear shoes inside our house. It helps keep the pollen and horrendous Atlanta pollution from getting in our lungs and aggravating our allergies and asthma. It’s also a great way for new guests to wonder if we’re Muslim and they didn’t know, or perhaps secretly Japanese, or to confirm what they’ve suspected, that we’re just “weird.” Our friend, Bill recently spent all his time at our house on the front porch or just inside the front door in the shoe removal zone, simply to avoid having to deal with his shoelaces. I’ve known Bill since I was 10, so my weird factor was nothing new to him.
Wearing shoes in other people’s houses is weird for me. Upon entering the first time, I look for signs like shoe racks by the front door and pay attention to my host’s footwear. Sometimes I just plain ask. It’s a relief when I find out the house rules include shoe removal. When the custom is to keep them on I feel like a bulldozer in stylish boots. I think of the places I’ve worn those boots, the airports and hospitals, and I realize I’m brining the scum and particulates of the ages into someone’s sacred space. Eeeew.
Little known fun fact: all of the vidoes shot in my studio at home were done in fuzzy slippers or barefoot, depending on the season. Perhaps being barefoot is why I sound slightly Southern. Before anyone asks the question posed to newscasters, yes, we were all wearing pants.