Dear Boots: January 2023

By Anna Mitchael

Dear Boots

Questions From Deep in the Heart of Texas

Dear Boots,
The only thing that stresses me out more than Black Friday are New Year’s resolutions. Why must we muck up perfectly good holidays with things to do?
-Stressed Before It’s Even Started

Take comfort that you aren’t alone — most of the world agrees that Americans can’t do holidays. Did you know our friends in France get 30 days off a year? To get that much paid leave from an office job in America, you would have to glue your backside to a seat and sell a small quadrant of your soul. But if the whole of us were to receive such a large chunk of time, I daresay, it would be a bigger problem than not getting it: We wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves. Lest you think I’m being harsher than a guajillo chili on a July day, I’ll make a case for it.

Piece of evidence #1 in Boots vs. the American Public’s Inability to Chill Out: beach phones. Last summer, I was lucky enough to visit some American beaches with Mr. Boots, but I couldn’t begin to describe the other people there. I never got a good look at their faces — they were all looking at phones. Now, I realize phones can be relaxing things. I have as many unused meditation apps on my device as the next person. But even if you’re reading or watching something calm, if you do it for enough hours, eventually you’re going to be interrupted by something that gives you stress. Email. Text messages. Notification about a water bill.

You know what never sends you an app notification? A beat-up paperback. Know what else? A Mai Tai. Know what else? The backs of your eyelids. And if you really want to untie the brain knots everyday life can make, conversation about nothing with the stranger under the umbrella next to you. Finding out why the Des Moines High School junior varsity quarterback might grow up to be the best the state has ever seen is just the kind of conversation you must embrace if you are really going to learn to let go of the maximizing, agenda-forward, productivity-focused mindset. If not forever, then at least for the length of a vacation.

To prove me wrong is actually quite simple. It only requires a decision by a few beachgoers to not be phone zombies. This is also remarkably similar to how I advise you to beat the holiday stress of New Year’s resolutions — don’t do them.

This year before Black Friday, I attempted to get off every single email list I was on. My plan was simple. Instead of getting pulled onto the information superhighway for a day of bumper-to-bumper traffic and anxiety, I would spend the day doing what the day after Thanksgiving was really made for: eating turkey sandwiches. Even though I spent weeks unsubscribing, the emails still came. Come the morn’ of the biggest shopping day of the year, I had a decision to make. Turkey or twenty percent off. Turkey or discounted blender. Turkey or fear of missing out on what might be behind the next click. In the end I went to the fridge. I think it was the best early Christmas present I could have given to myself.

This same thing can be done with New Year’s resolutions. When people start talking about juice cleanses and goal lists, shut down your mental inbox. Choose to leave the device in the beach bag and turn to the metaphorical Iowan next to you. The world wants nothing more than to keep us moving at top speed. The easiest solution is to make like the French and peace out.


Dear Boots,
We know you have opinions about boots, so what footwear do you recommend for winter?
-An Inquiring Mind

I came to college in Texas from the winter-stricken state of Montana, and I will never forget the December afternoon when I crossed campus for my first final. I noted my toes visible in flip-flops and couldn’t help but think of the people back home who were already living in a two-foot foundation of snow that likely would not budge until spring. “Even if you bomb this exam,” I said to myself, faint chords of “Eye of the Tiger” building in my mind, “You’re winning,”

Of course, it isn’t always flip-flop weather in Texas. Even at the time of this writing, we’ve already had a few bouts of temperatures cold enough to call for closed toe. Regardless of what the weather actually brings, there is fun to be had in dressing for the season.

Back on the sixth day of Christmas, I decided the geese were old enough to handle egg-laying duties unsupervised and went shopping for presents in Dallas. Not once, not twice, but three times that day I came across a woman in the shopping mall wearing a full-length fur coat with a matching hat. You might call it overkill, but I felt only admiration for her.

She had these grand brown braids running down her back and wore bright red lipstick. Every time I saw her, it seemed she had added another extra-large shopping bag to the collection she was toting around. She might have been steamy under all that fur, but she wasn’t the kind of person who would let you see her sweat. As she walked, all passersby were privy to seeing her footwear — two sleek black cowboy boots that peeked out with each step.

With this in mind, when considering your footwear, I do recommend you first consider the season. If it’s snowing and you’re going to be strolling around, show your feet the same love they give you when they move you through your day. Every day. But if the elements won’t be a consideration, go in the direction that makes your heart sing. Maybe that’s strolling around in sandals. Or maybe that’s sliding on a pair of boots that make a mall trip more difficult, but oh so worth it. Strangers you don’t think twice about might take your outfit to heart and write stories about it. Strangers who read those stories might realize sometimes it’s less about the shoes and more how you walk through the world in them and take that to heart. Oh, Inquiring Mind, I do hope so.