For a long time, I wanted a pair of Doc Martens.
(Let’s just clarify this. They say Dr Martens on the label. Nobody ever calls them that. Personally, I call them DMs. So, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to refer to them by their initials.)
I wanted them because several of my favourite TV characters wore big clumpy boots with dresses and leather jackets, and I wanted them because a book character I liked had a scuffed pair of black DMs, and I wanted them because they looked like they might just hold my ankles together, but mostly I wanted them because they looked hardcore in a way I’ve never quite succeeded in being.
I bought my DMs last year, in late Spring. The idea was that they’d be fully broken in by the time I went on holiday in the summer, so when we were tramping about the Burren in Ireland in August, I’d have a good solid pair of shoes to wear while doing it.
A year and a half later, my DMs aren’t broken in. They still give me blisters whenever I wear them for more than twenty minutes, even if there’s a triple layer of fabric protecting my feet: socks, jeans, ankle supports, the latter only there to provide padding. I can’t really bend my feet in them, although with that one it’s hard to tell whether I’ll ever be able to — having small feet means there’s not a lot of bendable boot actually there.
Why? Because I haven’t worn them enough, because every time they give me blisters I get put off wearing them for weeks on end. I look at them and think, “Huh, I should probably break those in properly,” but I never actually do it.
Brought them with me, though, just in case.
The last two days it poured with rain in Cambridge, and most of my shoes aren’t waterproof. My favourite pair of shoes are just beginning to disintegrate in the tragic yet inevitable way of shoes that I own, and I didn’t want to turn up everywhere with soaking socks. My DMs, on the other hand, are very firmly waterproof in the way that makes you laugh at deep puddles. You splosh through them feeling victorious, and when you get to the other side, you’ve still got dry feet: the ultimate triumph of man over nature.
So, I wore them. Two days running. Despite the blisters. And you know what? I think they’re finally becoming a little bit more comfortable.
In a way, I think that’s kind of what it’s like going somewhere totally new like uni. If I sit here and look at my shoes, they’ll never stop giving me blisters. It will always be a painful experience to wear them, and I’ll never get the benefit of the frankly extortionate amount of money I paid for them.
But if I just get on and do it, despite the blisters and the chafing at the beginning, then it’ll become a comfortable experience.
I wouldn’t say I’m an expert at this whole social life malarkey — I’m still getting the hang of talking to people every day, let alone actually going out to things. Today, I elected to have a quiet day, not going out apart from to lectures, and spent most of it working or procrastinating on the internet. It was nice to have a change.
At the same time, I’ve been trying not to linger on the edge of societies too much. So far I’ve been to the pub three times, and I drank lemonade at all three. One was with my department, one with the ceilidh band, and one with the student activism group Cambridge Defend Education. I hate pubs. I don’t drink, so they’ve always seemed pointless, and I hate the crowded, noisy environment that means you have to shout to have a conversation. But I figured unless I actually put the shoes on, they’d never start fitting me properly.
I went to a ballet social even though it was halfway across town because I figured I should get to know some people outside of a class environment (and because they had free cake). I went to an LGBT+ picnic, even though I don’t always feel comfortable in queer spaces because of how much of the conversation tends to revolve around sex, because I thought it might be a good way to meet people from the whole college and not just my year and subject.
No matter how terrifying it seems to actually go out of my way to talk to people, I know that it’ll make this year a lot easier if I just get straight in with societies and don’t linger on the periphery for months before actually getting involved. If I’m always wondering if I belong, I’ll hate it: better to jump in at the deep end and spend some time floundering than never get the courage to dip in a toe, right?
So I’m putting on the shoes, and I’m walking around town in them. Getting lost. Finding Sainsbury’s. Buying two single pints of milk instead of one two-pint and not even questioning that until I get home. Buying clippers and trimming my own hair in the college bathroom where the light is terrible and the fire alarm goes off halfway through, leading to a somewhat uneven undercut. Accidentally ordering post to my home address, thereby rendering the one-day shipping pointless. Fixing my printer just to print out a poster that says ASEXUAL PIRATES ARE NOT INTERESTED IN YOUR BOOTY. Tramping dirt all over my carpet and having to vacuum it with the worst vacuum cleaner ever.
Settling down, even if the shoelaces feel alternately too loose and too tight and I’m wearing so many socks I can hardly feel my toes and there’s mud caked on the soles and I can’t bend them to get up the stairs and they’re like heavy weights hanging over the edge of the sofa at the meetings I’m in.
Finally breaking in the boots.