Stroller Dad Shoes
I caught myself jogging this afternoon.
At first I thought I was running, but then I realized I wasn’t even late for anything. Definitely jogging.
It must have started on the big hill I push the double stroller up twice a day (see also Stroller Guns) — once to take my oldest daughter to school, once to bring her home — as I leaned into the slope and picked up my knees to keep the momentum going. Next thing I knew I was dripping with sweat over by the neighbourhood high school. It must have been the shoes.
I haven’t jogged in years. Not since I worked the night shift at the supervised injection site in the summer of 2007. I used to get home around 4 a.m. and jog off the night’s tragedies and triumphs in the pre-dawn coolness.
I started jogging then because, as a childless man of 30, my life lacked seriousness. I’d been watching Six Feet Under and was intrigued at the way Peter Krause’s character Nate Fisher, that paragon of manly gravitas, jogged away his stress through the streets of Los Angeles. There was something both meditative and defiant about it, and I wanted some of that.
So I geared up. I bought a pair of white Saucony running shoes. They were the antithesis of every other pair of shoes I’d ever owned as an adult. I’ve never been much of a clotheshorse, but I’ve always believed that you’re only as cool as your shoes. I had a closet full of One Stars, All Stars and Gazelles.
Those big white Sauconys stood out like a minivan at a Vespa rally.
My career as jogger ended later that year, dampened first by the fall rains, then extinguished when we decided to try for a baby — we read that jogging can lower sperm count. The Sauconys were retired permanently to the back of the closet. As I grew into my new lifestyle as a father, I graduated to a higher class of hipster kicks: Clarks, Keens, Simples, even a pair of New Balance sneakers. I didn’t give them a second thought until two weeks ago when I noticed both my Keens and my New Balances were falling apart.
In the title essay of Autumn Rhythm: Musings on Time, Tide, Aging, Dying, and Such Biz the great rock critic and occasional punk singer Richard Meltzer suggests the reason old people tend to have ridiculous clothes is not that they lose taste as they age but because, over the course of their lifetime they have worn all their nice clothes, “leaving the geezer ultimately with his or her most undesirable garments, the threads they themselves cared for least and now … hideous dregs is all they got left.”
These Sauconys are like something you’d see on a Seinfeld rerun. But they’re still in great shape and they’re all I’ve got left. Who knows, I think as I lace them up for the first time since becoming a father, maybe they’ll feel good.
And they do feel good. What do I care if people stare? Let them stare. I’m cruising around East Vancouver with a pair of two-year-olds. Nobody is looking at me anyway. Might as well jog. Might as well keep jogging. Pushing the stroller up the hill used to make me feel like Sisyphus with his rock, but now I feel like Elsa climbing the mountain, growing stronger with each step to the sounds of a Nietzchean power ballad. “No right, no wrong, no rules for me … I’m free!” Indeed.
Just Elsa lets go of her fears and embraces her powers, so too do I let go of caring about even being cool at all. “Your unsightly outfits are part of your karma,” Meltzer says — and these shoes are most def unsightly.
But so are most parts of parenting three kids. So is the face I make while jogging. Maybe more unsightly than the shoes.
Last month, Steve Edwards wrote a wonderful, moving essay about fatherhood for The Rumpus. “I no longer feel superior to clichés,” he says, and this line rings in my head as I realize fatherhood has transformed me into some kind of stroller-jogging he-man in hideous shoes. Someone I never intended to become, but someone I must embrace.
Emmet Matheson is a stay-home dad to three kids five & under, master of none. He lives in Vancouver.