Someone asked me the other day, as he looked at a pair of boots that I was wearing, “don’t you have any normal boots?”
Hmmm… what did he mean by that?
Rather than get upset or angry, or say something that I might regret later (especially since this guy works where I work and I see him regularly), I thought for a moment and said,
Then I waited. I wanted to see what he might say. Instead, however, he asked another question about something work-related. The topic of boots got dropped, and I let it go.
This situation goes to show many things:
- When I was in my 40s and younger, I would have come back with some retort that would defend my choice of boots. I would have interpreted this guy’s choice of words, “normal boots,” as his opinion that the boots that I was wearing were abnormal, and by extension, so was I. I have matured a bit. I realize that my boots don’t need defending, and replying with a defensive comment would not accomplish anything worthwhile. So what if he thinks my boots are abnormal. Who cares?
- Making a remark about boots being “not normal” does not necessarily mean, by extension, that I am also “not normal.” It takes a lot of time and maturity to separate comments about your choice of clothing and footwear not to be a reflection on the person. You can see from this example, when my colleague asked me a work-related question and respected my answer, he did not think that my choice of boots had anything to do with my knowledge and skill to answer his question.
- This guy’s opinion of “funny” is not the same as my own. Acknowledging a poor attempt at a joke validates the words. Not validating it — by only saying one word — took the wind out of his sails. He had nothing else to say. End-of-unwanted-discussion.
- Boots are in the eye of the beholder. To me, my boots were “normal.” To him, it was probably their color and design that made them appear to be unusual, or “not normal.” Okay, fine. To each his own.
- I am so confident in wearing boots that I never give a second thought to how different a pair of boots may be viewed by others who do not wear boots regularly (or at any time.) I often say on this blog, “pull on your boots, stand tall, smile, and walk confidently.” I forget that there are some men who cannot do that. Oh well, their loss.
Overall, wearing boots to work is usually “no big deal.” Few people notice, and those who do seldom say anything. If they say something, they usually pay a compliment. In the very rare case where someone says something like I described in this post, I recommend stepping back and thinking about the surroundings and context. In my situation, this colleague was trying to be funny and said what he said to open a conversation (“small talk,”) but did not realize what he was saying or that his comment could have been interpreted differently than how he meant it — as a conversational joke, not a comment about me, personally, or my boots.
Life is short: pull on your boots, stand tall, smile, and walk confidently. If someone asks if you have “normal boots,” say, “yep.”