I learned to tie my shoes shortly before I entered kindergarten. It wasn’t an admissions requirement. More a matter of pride. No one wanted to be the boy who had to ask the teacher to tie his shoes. Girls, for the most part, didn’t have to worry about it. They wore funny little slipper type shoes with a buckle strap to hold them on. The thing is, it was about then that my education began the bumpy ride it was to be for the rest of my life. Apparently I did not learn how to tie my shoes so that they would not become untied. Now, as I complete my seventieth year, my tie up shoes remain, as they have for much of the last sixty-five years, in the constant process of becoming untied.
I only solved the problem once, and that was with a pair of Topsiders. Once they were neatly tied in just the right way, I superglued the bows. I might do that again with the pair I now have. A more successful strategy has been to avoid tie up shoes altogether. Thus my life long preference since kindergarten has been loafers, not counting the years in which engineer or cowboy boots were in. Loafers come in every style to suit every time and event, and I’ve owned them all. My favorite is the traditional preppy penny loafer, my trademark footwear. I still have a few pairs of tie up shoes, but they are the bane of my life. Thankfully, they are relegated now to sneakers and hiking boots, both of which have it in for me.
What I’ve noticed the last few years is that more of the men my age, who did learn how to tie their shoes so that they wouldn’t become untied, have converted to something less demanding than digital bow tying dexterity while bending over to reach the floor. They’ve opted for ridiculous looking old man shoes bound to their feet with Velcro. Some of them still have trouble because it does require a degree of bending over and reaching down, but that’s another problem. I will not go down that path, the path of Velcro bindings on old man shoes. It’s loafers to the end.
But I digress, what this started out as was a brief essay on my bumpy educational career. It’s true, it all began with shoe tying in kindergarten and the pattern seems to have followed me all the way. I’ve entered each phase enthusiastically prepared to learn, but what I’ve learned tends to become untied and must be done over again and again. Life long learning has been my discipline, partly to expand intellectual horizons, but partly to retie the lessons that once appeared securely laced up. I wonder if my grandchildren, who appear confident that their very fine education is being laced up and securely tied, will have the same problem. Probably not. They’re girls, and got away with funny little slipper type shoes with a buckle strap to hold them on.