Column: Out of the spotlight

“Do you have these in anything a little less flashy?” I ask my friend, a salesclerk at Varsity Sports. I was standing in a neon purple pair of running shoes. “You’re so funny,” she says, like I was making a joke. “Look around. Every shoe has color now.”

Indeed, the sales floor looks like the Technicolor rainbow of a candy shop. Purple, pink, red, blue. All colors are super saturated in bright hues that would make the Easter Bunny want to pluck them for his basket. I wanted white or gray shoes with a hint of navy. Not a chance.

“What if I want to just blend? I don’t want ‘Look at me’ feet. I want, ‘I’m not fast, but I’m steady. Don’t look at me, don’t notice me. Blend, blend, blend.’ ”

I was instructed that one purchases shoes based on the foot’s needs, not the style. I bought the pair perfect for high arches in shocking turquoise and lime green.

The same thing happened when shopping for my daughter’s clothes. I wanted a few basic, plain T-shirts. Simple, right? I stopped in the Gap and was overwhelmed by the glittery, sequined, boa-laced ensembles that were passing for standard children’s clothes. “Where are the plain shirts?” I was led to a small table with graphic tees decorated with sayings like “C’est la vie” or “Save the planet.” What if I don’t want my daughter to make a statement with her top? What if I need her T-shirts to blend? Another plan thwarted.

Oh, sure, there are times to stand out. A great cocktail dress hits the spot when you’re attending a function. Fun, funky kids clothes are great for a festive occasion. But to salute the fabulous, our society must have the foundation of basics as well. Someone has to don the standard ensemble. Everything can’t be fabulous. Everyone can’t be a rock star. Every day. All the time.

When watching the animated film The Incredibles with my children, I was struck by the villain’s evil plan. It wasn’t mass destruction. Instead, he simply schemed to level the playing field and make everyone in society the same.

“And when I’m old and I’ve had my fun,” says the villain, Syndrome, “I’ll sell my inventions so that everyone can have powers. Everyone can be super! And when everyone’s super … [chuckles evilly] no one will be.”

The funny thing is, we don’t all want to be super. It’s a lot of work. The admirers, the paparazzi. The friends who are only friends because of our superstar status. It’s not authentic. We want to be normal. We want to be real.

And yet, we look down and our shoes are screaming, “I’m fast and sleek enough to win the Boston Marathon. Why are you so slow?”

I blame the clothing industry. It assumes that we all want to be spectacular. Super sensational attire will stand out in any situation. Rock star clothing will give us confidence. Make us look glamorous. Launch us to the next level: stardom.

And yet, even members of the Incredibles family wanted a few standard T-shirts and a little normalcy to balance their days. They wanted to get back to the basics. Blend in.

Mr. Incredible said it best: “Of course I have a secret identity. I don’t know a single superhero who doesn’t. Who wants the pressure of being super all the time?”

Clearly, not me. Unless you mean super fast. It sure would be great to be super fast. Maybe my bright turquoise treads will take me there.