Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Meditation on the purpose of Slippers

One of the more fascinating elements of life in China is the wild discrepancy between Eastern and Western ideas of comfort. I've already complained at some length about the ridiculously hard mattress we sleep on here. Chinese people consider hard mattresses to be healthier (which they very well might be, as they force you to sleep on your back which I've heard makes you live longer blah blah blah. I'm a belly sleeper and will be till the day I die.)

In most Chinese homes it is customary to remove your shoes at the door. Your polite host will then provide you with a pair of open toe terry cloth house shoes. A.K.A: slippers. To me, slippers are meant to be comfortable, warm, relaxing. Something your faithful dog brings you to slip on after a long hard day while you prop your feet up by the fire drinking a nice big glass of red wine.

But, apparently the Chinese disagree. The "slippers" above (dare I call these rock covered implements of torture by that name?) seem to have taken on a certain medicinal aspect. "Here," the slippers call, "At last, footwear that will build character! Foot binding may be be illegal, but you can still "float like a lotus blossom" with each agonizing step!"

My Chinese friends defend this sort of thing in the name of health. But to me, the very healthy and practial purpose of footwear is to cushion and protect protect the vulnerable fleshy undersides of my feet from rocks, not visa versa.

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