Column: She'll raise a stink if you touch her shoes

By JASON RECKER

My daughter has these shoes.

Nobody should have to smell them, but you should anyway. It would be like one of those challenges to measure toughness, the kind where you eat worms or take a punch to the groin just to see how big a boy you really are. Take a whiff. Bet you dry heave. They’re overpowering like garlic, nauseating like road kill and awkward like elegant cheese. Left foot, right foot, both emit such a morning-after-hot-wings raunchiness that we stuff them with dryer sheets and ship them to the garage for overnight storage.

My daughter does not care.

She has been informed basically every day that her shoes — the sparkling black and silver leopard-print slip-ons — smell like the inside of a sow’s stomach. But they’re her favorites. She senses nothing amiss, like when a person who passes gas sniffs his own emissions and thinks it’s quite pleasant.

“They do not stink,” she insists. “You are the meanest dad ever. You stink.”

The kid has sass seeping from her pores.

Merely suggesting she choose sandals or slippers or boots detonates a wild sequence in which, because she can’t wear her beloved stinkers, she cannot eat breakfast or zip her backpack or wear pants. Tennis shoes are dead to her. Sometimes, she seeks permission to don the smellers, sheepishly asking as if she’s requesting to kiss a boy or eat seven packs of M&M’s.

Rain. Snow. Sleet. Sub-zero wind chills. None shake her adoration for these flats, which are rancid yet evidently mighty comfortable.

Anatomically speaking, her feet are fine. They’re not Yankee-candle quality, but they normally smell just fine.

The problem, outside of her olfactory indifference, is that with these shoes, she often does not wear socks. This is a concept I do not understand. Other than flip-flops, I have never chosen footwear for which socks are not required, or at least suggested. I am not fashionably adept. I do not do Sperrys. Bare feet are for weird people and the beach.

But women do it all the time. Surely, not all of their shoes crawl with the aroma of month-old mop water. My wife has a wall of shoes in the closet, 17 pairs shoved into spaces for 12. More have been relegated to the purgatory of the floor or the hell behind rows of clothes. Yet our closet is not putrid.

Disgusting as this sounds, I do not mind some mild wafting of bodily odor. Sweaty workout clothes, of which my wife and children complain, emit the stench of determination. The sweet stink of a locker room actually intoxicates me. Champions don’t smell like flowers and candy. They reek like armpits.

But my daughter doesn’t exercise in these shoes, unless you count running from the living room to the car at 6:30 a.m. in an effort to escape a father insisting she wear Nikes. The shoes are forbidden at least one day each week. They need a break. They’re tired, I tell her. She begrudgingly accepts while again reminding me that, a.) her shoes do not stink, and, b.) I am the meanest dad ever.

It’s not evil. It’s about her future. I wonder what the teachers think. Do her friends on the preschool playground notice? What about the woman driving the car pool?

What will happen if she never recognizes the powerful pungency of her shoes? Sooner or later, play dates will be canceled. Boys will scatter when she turns the corner. College roommates will move out.

Trust me, this is not entirely about a parent being worrisome and hyperbolic.

During horseplay, I feign being knocked unconscious by her wriggling toes of torture. But when she peels the shoes after school, our living room really is overcome with the fog of feet.

To override the acidity, we have coated them with baby powder and body powder and medicated foot powder. Next we’ll try gun powder. Sooner or later, they’ll land in a trash can and later a landfill where everything smells like a soiled diaper stuck in a solar panel in July. Time is on my side.

Children’s feet grow quicker than a Chia Pet, and though we have recycled shoes despite the possibility that varying walking patterns will make the second-hand owners move with a sideways limp, there is no chance these shoes will get a second life.

Of course, that only means she’ll need more.

This is the second pair gone smelly. It’s a sure thing she’ll want something just like the first two. Maybe she can be enticed with something entirely different.  

I won’t hold my breath. I’ll just hold my nose.

Jason Recker is the news editor at The Herald. He likes Gold Bond Medicated Foot Powder. His email is jrecker@dcherald.com.




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