In Grade 6, all the girls at school had crushes on the new boy, Jeremy. I just wanted his Salomon hiking boots.
The thing is, I didn’t really like the boots. They were ugly. Brown, clunky, and oddly shaped, with a zipped flap that covered the laces. But Jeremy seemed to move through life with ease — relaxed and charming and desirable. And I wanted some of that. I daydreamed of how his boots would look on me. Rugged and tough. Girls weren’t supposed to like ugly things, but I barely felt like a girl, and I needed a way to communicate that.
For weeks, my parents drove me across the city from shoe store to shoe store, and each time we heard the same refrain: “We don’t carry boys’ Salomons in your size.” No one in the city did.
The smallest I could find was a boys’ 7. They were three sizes too big, but I was desperate. The salesperson knelt down and pressed his thumb in the two-inch space between the tips of my toes and the top of the shoe. Nothing but empty air. It was embarrassing.
I stood up and turned to the full-length mirror, hoping I wouldn’t like what I saw.
But I loved it.
Something about those boots made me stand taller. I took up space in a way that I hadn’t before. In the same way that Jeremy did, the way boys are allowed to. When I walked around the store, I moved with swagger. My strides were longer. I felt more confident.
“I’ll take them,” I said.
I wore them around the house when I got home, but I kept tripping over my feet. I was caught between loving the way I felt in them, and resenting myself for not being bigger. Caught between a newfound confidence and a tinge of shame for thinking I could wear such monstrous shoes. But if I returned them, I risked never feeling this good in my body again.
Ultimately, I had to face it: the boots didn’t fit. The next day, my mom and I returned them. I was crushed.