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"Omigod!" my 23-year-old son's deep voice cracked in a blood-curdling shriek throughout the apartment.
"What happened?" I yelled, dashing in a frenzy of maternal panic in the direction of the danger.
"Ro'i's getting me Crocs for my birthday," he said, flushed with excitement. "Can you believe it?"
"What's a 'crox'?" I asked, ready to murder the grown child I had just run like hell to rescue.
"Crocs, Ma! Crocs!" he said, the disgust in his tone mild in comparison to that in his facial expression. "They're shoes."
"You give me a heart attack like that again," I warned, hitting him with a rolled up newspaper, "And shoes are gonna be the last thing on your mind."
"Actually, they're clogs," he said contemplatively, searching for a more precise characterization as though he were formulating a catalogue entry. "Plastic ones."
"Oh, well, in that case," I responded, my initial anxiety replaced by a deeper realization that he is, in fact, insane. "I can see why you're jumping for joy."
"No, not really," he said. "They're more like rubber than plastic."
"Let me get this straight," I said, now fanning myself with the journal I had used as a weapon. "Plastic-rubber clogs are a gift you couldn't just go out and buy for yourself?"
"I could..." he said, smiling sheepishly. "But they're really expensive."
"They are?" I asked, skeptically. Every summer for many years, I bought the kids shkafkafim (the Hebrew play on the words "see-through" and "clogs") to wear to the beach and - as I recalled - they cost about the same as the bananas on sale in the bin next to them at the shuk.
"Of course," he answered indignantly. "They're orthopedic."
"I see," I said, not really seeing at all. I'd never known my son to pay the slightest bit of attention to issues of podiatric health.
"That's them!" he announced as suddenly as he did dramatically, pointing what looked like an accusatory index finger at me. In fact, he was pointing at my weapon-turned-fan that had come unraveled, revealing a full-page ad.
"What?" I asked. "Where?"
"Here," he said, impatiently, yanking the daily out of my hand and spreading it out for me to feast my eyes on the footwear in question.
"Oh, those ugly things?" I said, remembering my puzzled reaction the day before, when nearly blinded by a pair of glow-in-the-dark martian green feet next to a pair of radioactive orange ones on a couple who had otherwise appeared to hail from this planet. "You're not really going to walk around in public in them, are you?"
"Yes," he said, smiling. "And so will you - you'll see."
"Sure," I nodded. "On my next shuttle ride to Outer Space."
Famous last words in a conversation which took place six months ago.
SINCE THEN, Crocs have cropped up all over the place. Multiplied exponentially. Like the millions upon millions they will have raked in by the time the fad has run its course, and another has taken its place.
Since then, even I have come to view the vogue with a vague sort of admiration. Funny how your eye can get used to anything, when given half a chance. Or half a year. Funny how fashion can fetter you at the drop of the hat you swore you would eat before succumbing to it. Funny how, when you do get swept up in it, you feel the need to explain, justify and defend yourself, as if you were caught committing some kind of crime.
"You've never in your life felt something so heavenly," I heard a woman swear to her husband, as the two stood on line at a booming Croc "booth" at a weekly crafts fair in Jerusalem.
"Yeah," he smirked. "And the emperor is wearing beautiful clothes."
"Just try them on," she coaxed.
"Why?" he challenged. "So I can be chic?"
"So you can be comfortable!" she cried.
The mob that had amassed around the rack of clogs prevented me from finding out whether her powers of persuasion proved fruitful. She certainly had me convinced. Indeed, I would have coughed up my credit card right there and then if the vendor hadn't run out of my size in the color I chose - even if it meant giving my son the satisfaction of all-out victory.
BUT THIS little marital exchange epitomized the crux of the problem with Crocs-consciousness - the "consciousness."
There are three types of Earthlings: those who only wear what's "in"; those who wouldn't be caught dead wearing what's "in"; and those who are attracted to the former, but ashamed to be judged by the latter.
It is the people in the third category for whom the word "comfort" fits like an old shoe - people who shudder at the prospect of being "conventional."
But what all of them - all of us - have in common is the ridiculous regard for what others think. In this respect, we are all members of a sheepish herd. And a narcissistic one, to boot. Indeed, any one of us should be so lucky as to have another human being spend even a split second acknowledging our souls, let alone contemplate the labels on our soles.
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