by Brant Dupree
Photography by Emily Yue
Nike won over my seventh grade class. Each and every student was wearing the iconic checkered shoe, boasting of their obvious athleticism and newly developed acne mounds. I, per usual, was different. Vans were the perfect fit for my 9 ½ size foot. Unfortunately, my Off the Wall shoes were segregated for their high fashion and called, by the majority of my wonderful seventh grade class, “Penis Shoes.”
“Hey, those shoes are stupid,” commented our wrestling, football, and ping pong captain, readjusting his sweatband centered on his five-head.
“You look so dumb,” remarked another tennager, more acne than adolescent.
“Those are Penis Shoes,” finalized the teenage Macho Man.
“That’s funny, lets ruin his life,” bellowed Andre the seventh grade Giant in a pitch that humans could actually hear, not just elephants.
“Good idea,” condemned the Wonder Twins.
Penis Shoes, really? How can the cumulation of seven years of grade school (six for some), of learning vocab, grammar, and literary devices, result in naming my sky blue shoes after the male reproductive organ? How can my oblong, waffle-soled shoes resemble this private member? Was I born wrong? Did I not recognize the thing most symbolic of my manhood? Disregarding my disgust at the neanderthal naming, this nickname distorted my social status, vaulting me from the math nerds to the social studies nerds, a role I could not bear. As soon as I went home, I tossed my wiener boots into my closet. No more.
Or until the next year.
I survived that horrid year, using smarts, cunning, and natural selection to wriggle my way back into an even higher seventh grade social class. Soon eighth grade year began, beginning my reign as top dog of middle school. However, to my great dismay, I began glancing strange objects latched onto the ankles of my classmates. My head was flying Off the Wall in tailspins and whirlwinds, creating a mass hysteria I held beneath the calm demeanor of an overconfident eighth grader. Penis. Penis Shoes everywhere. My accursed Penis Shoes became the most sought after footwear of the school, defeating Nike and surprisingly Uggs. After school I clambered through my cluttered closet and pulled out my vans, as blue as jazz. I took off my Nike Free Runs and slipped on my seventh grade shoes, now size 9 ½ conformities.
Fear of fitting in drives many towards sacrificial actions or regretful submission. At the time I only saw the crowd around me, not the future ahead of me. My fear of being isolated was blown out of the water when the fickleness of teenage desires was shown during my eighth grade year and their fashionable choice of footwear. We were all idiots, trapped in a dimension of awkwardness and immaturity. That’s middle school for you.
Thankfully, the teenage body matures, in more ways than one. A lot more ways than one. Grody.