Family is an institution that has evolved over time. I have met and dealt with all types of families in my life: from the traditional nuclear biparental households, with different number of children (biological / adopted / born through surrogacy) to a couple (married or not) with no children at all (with o without dog / cat / aquarium).
I have also known single-parent families, with just a man or a woman (either widowed or divorced), with or without children.
And in more recent times I have had the opportunity to keep in contact with same-sex families formed by “he” plus “he” or “she” plus “she”, with offspring or childless.
Last Saturday I met a type of family completely new to me: a woman and her shoes. She was a client of the estate agent who is selling my flat. She came alone, with just a pair of shoes, the ones she was wearing. Of the three visitors who came that afternoon she was, by far, who needed most the professional advice of this triad: a dietitian, a personal trainer and a hairdresser.
She kissed me on both cheeks the moment she saw me, greeting me ostentatiously. That’s what strangers usually do to seem nice: they behave as if they’ve known you a long time. I watched her comb every room over and over, narrowing her ferret-like tiny black eyes and smiling foolishly as she measured the length and the width with an IKEA measuring tape that she produced from one of the pockets of her XXL parka coat. She was lashing it in the air like a dead snake. So intent was she upon this activity that she excited my curiosity. Although my flat is spacious she found everything small and clearly not enough for “her needs”.
How many people would live here?- I asked. -Just me- she answered.-But I need 3 rooms for my shoes, in addition to the box room, of course, where I would keep my last season’s shoes – she added quickly.
Ah – the only word I could utter- I was too tired to be witty. Besides, I don’t give a damn what person, animal or thing will live in my property after the transaction is over, as long as they pay the price I’m asking for.
In that case – I dared to suggest you could occupy the master bedroom, with the full bathroom inside, and your shoes could be comfortably installed in the three adjacent bedrooms- I spoke to her with the icy civility I use when I can’t stand the other person, trying to keep my distance.
I took it for granted that the lifeless occupants wouldn’t need the toilet that my flat also has. I also presumed that the fact that one of the rooms receives no direct light would’t matter either. Then I realized that the darker the room, the better for leather care, assuming that all her shoes were made of leather.
-How many pairs are we talking about?- I felt bold and determined to get to the bottom of the matter.
– Several hundreds- the “mustela putorius furo” blurted out, stone-faced. I buy them in fours. When I find a design I like I buy the same shoes in different colors. Shoes are fundamental – she said. -And so are handbags – she added immediately.
Then I knew she would never buy my flat. If her shoes were supposed to occupy those three bedrooms and the main room was for her…where the hell would she keep her handbags?
The estate agent looked at me and I looked back. Then I looked at the shoe collector and she looked at my comfy furry slippers. If my slippers would have had eyes, they would have looked up at the estate agent, closing the circle. The interchange of glances put an end to the visit. The flat was shown. Nothing left to say.
Just as there are men and women who strongly dislike the idea of abortion and other people (or the same ones) who think that abandon an animal is an abominable crime, there are also other individuals, like the woman who came to my flat last Saturday, who go beyond those bonds of affection that link a person to another person and people to animals, remaining hopelessly tied by the “collateral affection” of the compulsive buying, and far from leaving their progeny footless, their pioneering behavior enriches the purpose, structure and historical evolution of outstanding social institutions like family.
If only Alberto Closas would rise from the dead!