I am not sure, but I think a significant milestone on the way to adulthood is the day you start untying your shoes when you take them off so the next time you put them on you are not just trying to jam your foot into an already tied shoe.
I can't remember when it happened but sometime after college I started untying my shoes before I took them off. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that I was wearing dress shoes to work and trying to slide your foot out of a tied dress shoe is the equivalent to trying to remove your pants by jumping up and down.
For a large portion of my life, unless I had some kind of sporting event, I never untied my shoes. I might have rationalized this by explaining that I was lazy.
Which in hindsight, doesn't seem to make sense since it takes less time and physical exertion to untie and tie a shoe as opposed to hopping around doing a shuffle step trying to beat the system.
This might have made sense had I not known how to tie my shoes. Like those guys who don't know how to tie a tie and just loosen their tie at the end of the day and slide it over their head without taking apart the knot so they can just slide it back over their head the next day.
But this is not the case for me because, and I am not trying to brag here, but I can tie both my shoes and a tie.
However back when I was a summer camp counselor for six and seven year old
boys, there was one boy in my group who did not know how to tie his shoes.
His name was Eddie. He was the tallest in my group of 15 kids. He was also the roundest. He wasn't extremely athletic or coordinated, but he got along fine with the others. He was the type that, if you asked him a question he didn't know the answer to, would just stare off into the distance and make an uncomfortable type of smile that let you know you could stare at him forever.... He wasn't coming up with an answer.
Eddie usually wore Velcro shoes, which was really best for all of us. But he did have a pair of lace-ups which he would wear occasionally, quite possibly when his mother thought we should have a more challenging day. They would regularly come untied and I, or my co counselor, would inevitably have to tie them for him.
This always frustrated me, as I dropped to one knee to fix Eddie’s shoe while he looked around the galaxy completely uninterested in the very simple, very basic, mechanical process I was now engaging in.
Finally I got tired of tying Eddie’s shoes for him and decided to teach him. I believed my role as an industrious camper, a self sufficient one, somebody with skills and abilities.
This is why I would teach my campers things like:
How to gel their own hair
The refrain to Bon Jovi's "Cowboy"
And how to dance "The Freddy" from Troop Beverly Hills
I was going to teach Eddie how to tie his shoes.
However, teaching Eddie how to tie his shoes proved to be more challenging than teaching him to dance, and just slightly less challenging than teaching him to speak Japanese.
He not only seemed to have no concept of shoe tying, but also, no concept of how to learn something either.
It was like I was teaching somebody how to drive and the minute it was their turn to get behind the wheel, they immediately tried to put the keys in the gas tank.
No no no.
At first I was extremely patient, thinking maybe he just hadn't seen what I had done, missed my demo as it were.
But as we went along me demoing, him attempting but failing miserably, I got less and less patient.
I would clearly and slowly explain the three steps so he could see. And then he would take over the laces just kind of flying them around each other like he was trying to perform some kind of magic trick. Which maybe he thought he was.
Unfortunately he was the worst magician ever.
There are basically two schools of thought on shoe tying, the loop swoop and pull, and the bunny ears. I myself have always been a loop swoop guy. And I remembered being in elementary school and judging anybody who used the bunny ears method. Like it was some sub par shoe tying philosophy.
But as I struggled with Eddie I even attempted to teach him that method thinking, maybe this method might work for him.
Of course it didn’t. His less than nimble fingers just fumbled and succeeded at nothing.
What bothered me even more was his seemingly complete lack of interest in learning this skill. Like he was completely content to have people bow before him for the rest of his life to fix his shoes.
My mind started racing as my frustration rose. I had imaginary conversations with this seven year old in my head:
Damn it Eddie come on! What are you doing here? Do you even WANT to learn to tie your shoes? Because it sure doesn’t seem like it. This is just the beginning. You NEED to learn this. Because you will never get anywhere in this life if you can't learn to tie your shoes! Don’t’ you want to be successful? Don’t you want to have friends? Don't you want to grow up and get married and have a family and a comfortable lifestyle?! Well... Then learn to tie your fucking shoe!
But all I could actually say was “Ok… well Let’s. Try. Again.”
Eventually I just gave up and continued tying his shoes for him. That was ten years ago and I never saw him again after that summer. But I’m pretty sure there’s a good chance he’s still wearing Velcro shoes.