The First Argument

Erni Rukminar


 A pair of worn-out shoes causes a rift in a new marriage. Luckily, a new pair brings the newlyweds closer together.


I had only been married for two months when one afternoon, while visiting my brother-in-law’s home, his wife showed me a pair of shoes and asked me in her thick Afghan accent if I liked them. I was confused by her sudden question until she said that I could have them if I wanted. 

I didn’t know what to answer. They were white running shoes with neon pink stripes, colourful details– actually, children’s shoes, but the size was bigger than mine. I bet to myself that the shoes belonged to her 11-year-old daughter. They were nice and looked new, but they were absolutely not my style. So, I politely refused, saying they were too big. 

I was a bit concerned that my refusal would hurt her feelings, so I talked to my husband about it later. Another sister-in-law had introduced us six months earlier and, although we’d phoned and texted, we’d only met once in person before we decided to get married because we lived too far from each other. There hadn’t been much time to adjust to his family.

He explained that his brother and sister-in-law were worried. They’d seen the holes in my shoes and wanted to help. I felt myself blush, overwhelmed by their generous intention but also embarrassed. Then I just laughed, not at them, but to myself.

My white Converse shoes had holes for years before that day. I was very proud of the holes because young people in Indonesia believed the more worn the shoes, the cooler you are. When I explained this, my husband’s thick eyebrows rose. Then the first argument since we were together began.

“Why don’t you buy new shoes?” my husband asked.

“I don’t need new shoes. I can still wear the ones I have,” I answered.

“But they might think that I don’t take care of you,” he continued.

“But that’s not true. People shouldn’t judge someone based on what they wear.”

“But they’re not just people. They’re my family.”

“But I love these shoes. I came to Canada alone with these shoes. I went through a lot of things wearing them. They mean a lot to me.”



The ‘buts’ kept going until we agreed to disagree. But that didn’t last long.

One day while we were shopping, he found a pair of shoes on sale and excitedly said, “Look! Why don’t you buy a pair?” I shook my head right away. They were black canvas Keds. I did not like the style. But he kept saying, “They’re less than 20 bucks. Even if you just wear them once, I’ll be happy.” Afraid to disappoint my husband and not wanting another argument, I ended up going home with a new pair of shoes.

Weeks went by. Surprisingly, I started liking the new shoes more and more. They were very comfortable, simple, and I could just slip them on whenever I was in a rush. I let my husband know that I loved the shoes he bought me and decided to throw my super-old Converses away. I knew that it was the time to take new steps in new shoes, in a new country, with my new little family.

Now, after four years, my black Keds have worn out and have holes too. I haven’t thrown them away. And my husband hasn’t said anything either as he did with my white Converses. My black Keds are, for me, a symbol of compromise, witness to my transition from a stubborn single young woman to an understanding wife.

ERNI RUKMINAR came to Canada in 2012 with no intention of staying long, but marriage made her call Canada her second home. She is planning to go back to school and pursue her dream of working with children.

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