VANITY WARS
Summer kicks
By “Ambrose”

Remember when the arrival of the warm weather meant that it was time for a new pair of sneakers? You didn’t get your new kicks until spring was well established, after the snow was gone and the mud was pretty much dried up, because you didn’t want to have the pristine whiteness of your PF Flyers prematurely marred. They’d get dirty soon enough—maybe too soon, if one of the other kids spotted your shining white sneaks and stepped on them to scuff ’em up a bit.

At some point in our lives as adults we stop wearing sneakers, probably around the same time that “playing” turns into “working out.” You don’t work out wearing sneakers. You wear shoes that are sport-specific: running shoes, or basketball shoes, or tennis shoes. Maybe you wear cross-trainers, but that’s about as generalized as it gets. Sneakers as a fashion accessory should be carefully approached in our adult years. Let’s face it, we stopped being able to carry off that punk rock insouciance a long time ago, and when that left, so did our ability to get away with sporting a pair of Chuck Taylor high-tops. Joey Ramone is dead and it’s time to move on.

Still, it is summer, and summer means we are allowed to relax. You want to look sportif, and if the soccer ball bounds your way, you certainly want to be able to boot it back in bounds. If something more athletic than a croquet game breaks out—even if it’s just badminton, or a round of H.O.R.S.E. in the driveway, you want to be in on the action.

It is probably not a great idea to go with the shoes you actually use for whatever sport you engage in. (If you don’t actually engage in some sort of sport then you are just being a poser, and you can go right ahead and show up for the softball game in the latest Nike shoes the kids are all wearing. Just know that you aren’t fooling anyone.) Your serious shoes are the shoes you sweat in. Last season’s shoes? Dude, those are the shoes you used to sweat in. Ew. What you want to do is harken back to the classics. Retro sneakers were once the exclusive province of eccentric sneaker collectors, but the internet makes it a snap to find the look you’ve been after since sophomore year. Done right, this will allow you to look like the jock we all say we used to be—it’s the summertime, and you should go for it. Just keep in mind that you will cripple yourself if you try to wear a classic to engage in the sports that these were once designed for. Irony has its limits.

The Converse One Star is a sweet shoe: low-cut, suede. If you want to get all twenty-first century you can go to the Converse website (www.converse.com) and customize the colors you want. The selections are somewhat limited, which is as it should be with the shoe that Larry Bird used to wear. If you are going to rock the old-school plimsoles, you want to keep it classy.

If you think you can carry it off, a pair of Adidas Rod Laver tennis shoes are a bold statement that works with a wide variety of summer looks—they are as great with a pair of khakis and a blue blazer as they are with shorts and a polo shirt. A caution is in order with these—if you haven’t actually played tennis since college, maybe you should go with something else. Tennis players are a clannish lot, and you wouldn’t want to get called out by Ille Nastase or somebody.

Nike has had a line of vintage looks on the market for two seasons now. They are based on their 1977 lineup, which means that these vintage designs are actually younger than I am, sort of, but they are so sweet I can’t bring myself to hate them. Back then the latest cutting-edge material in running shoes was nylon, and the color palette these come in is as disco as a Tavares album. Nike may have overdone it a bit by furnishing these with artificially aged foam and laces; part of the appeal of new sneakers is that they are new sneakers, after all. They still have that new sneaker smell out of the box, though, and for all their inherent silliness they are indisputably classic. Perfect for that Average White Band concert at Canalfest.

That’s “Ambrose” over there, in the blue suede adidas Gazelles.


Supplement surfing
By “Faith”

I saw a grizzled man pushing himself down the sidewalk, his wiry gray and black hair at odds with gravity. He kept his upper body bent slightly forward as he led his way with the prickly chin and crazed gaze of an abandoned horse. “That’s what I look like on the inside,” I said to myself out loud in a car full of kids. It was then I knew: to live long enough to consider Friskies as a food staple on a social security income, I’d better change my current diet. No matter how much they soothed my psyche, gallons of caramel macchiatos and fistfuls of plastic-flavor Twizzler bits weren’t likely to carry my moving parts far into the next decade.

I could have switched to colorful vegetables and weighty legumes, but in a world full of supplements nothing that drastic seemed necessary, and getting started was simple. Four gummi Flintstone vitamins a day was a snap; almost as delicious as licorice and loaded with folic acid, should I ever decide to try to give birth at fifty-nine.

“Whew. I feel better now,” I said to my husband.

“You’re not done,” he replied. “A sleeve of Fig Newtons is not a fruit.”

True, I’d be white trash in California. I can eat a mixing bowl full of melon, oranges, and apples and still be looking for a loaf of bread to trigger the “you can stop eating now” signal that my brain is supposed to send to my stomach. Then again, I seemed to be suffering from a “touch me and I’ll bruise” condition, spider veins, and mysterious ankle swelling. Although veinal sonograms and a blood test for diabetes seemed a sound next step, such prudence would require plenty of waiting room downtime. Alternative remedies for me have nothing to do with holistic and everything to do with immediacy.

Factory Girl’s Sienna Miller claims that if there is a lamppost within thirty feet, she will find a way to walk into it. She’s lucky. I get bruises from the breeze. Usually a bag of frozen peas immediately tied tourniquet-tight to the damaged spot helps, but if I’m out of the house or out of veggies, a bruise becomes a spot of forever-after broken surface capillaries that clash with my Blahniks. “Maybe you suffer from purpura senilis. Your capillaries are just fragile,” someone offered. “Cool, a diagnosis,” I thought, and, too senile to pick up on the Latin, I looked it up and saw a page full of elderly.

I’m used to old. It gives me a sense of power. But elderly hit me as a different category altogether, beyond great-great-grandmother, and rather than wrestle with semantics, I altered my Google search terms and found Restoral. “Bromelain has long been used in the wrestling industry to accelerate the healing of bruises,” the website read. “Yeah, I’m way more like a wrestler,” I told myself, and added pineapple in a pill to my daily intake list.

I considered eyesight vitamins, until I found a sale on bifocal contact lenses. Then I explored my options on being Roger Clemens’ wife, only without the human growth hormone connection and an upcoming spread in Sports Illustrated to fully motivate and compensate me. My options for trying to boost my testosterone levels to slim my waist and increase my energy levels seemed to be pills loaded with Tibetan mushrooms, Himalayan roots, and ginseng from Siberia, India, and Malaysia. But when I learned that the FDA has the lawyer for this product developer on speed dial because of over-promises on another supplement, I felt like I was slipping into infomercial desperation land. I decided to get retro, back to Vitamin D and cod liver oil. D has always seemed to me like a cool vitamin, but then it got confusing—were we women supposed to drink milk as we got older, or might it end up hurting us another way? I can’t remember the debate, but it seemed that at some point the whole country switched to Pepsi or Vodka. Then one day I overheard people from Roswell talk about the Big D’s cancer-fighting properties, and before the sun set I put the third daily regimen bottle on my shelf, along with a canister of Ghiradelli cocoa for skim milk hot chocolate.

B-12 shots in the glutes seemed to be all the rage, but without Madonna regularly available to dose me, I’m not even sure how that all works. I think I’d have to get to a doctor’s office regularly, which ironically would lead back to blood tests and fasting, as if not eating were even possible. Fish oil seems the equivalent of obsessive crosswording for brain function. Only we need to call it Omega-3 now, with good reason. In the past, whenever I felt the need to consider healthy as an alternative to my lifestyle, I would pick up a bottle of fish oil. I would stick with it for about two days, before deciding that I would rather slowly slip into dementia than burp cod liver for the rest of my life. There’s a Nordic version—because even toddlers eat herring up there near the Arctic Circle, so they must know—and a kosher variety. But for me, Sunkist had the solution, with a soft-chew Omega-3 in “creamy orange.” It’s tough to say what that flavor really is; it obviously takes more than a team of scientists backed by a major corporation to mask fish liver, but I got used to them.

“I think I’m done now,” I said to my husband. “I’m going to live forever.”

“At least until your teeth fall out.”

Cats follow “Faith” at parties.


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