Monday, November 7, 2011

My Lifelong Love of Shoes

There are two kinds of women in the world: those who do and those who don't. I do, passionately. It's the way my mother raised me. But there you have it. I love shoes, love them. I can chart my life by my footwear. Many formative moments feature gorgeous high heels. Though honestly, had you seen them, most constituted at best a passing glance in practicality's direction. Sometimes it's just worth it to stand in utter agony in order to look good. And sometimes it's okay to wear sky high heels when you are running into the shop to get milk - after all you never know what cute guy might be standing behind you in the queue...

The first pair of heels were a pair of kitten heels that I managed to wear to my matric dance (prom), rather ugly too I must admit but as my confidence in heels grew, so did their height. There were the over-the-knee boots that I bought in college (varsity) that were the beginning of my "grown up look". And the gorgeous Guess wedges that I bought in Croatia. My first pay cheque was also spent on shoes...More than one pair...
There have been many since. At last count I had 85 pairs of shoes and 15 pairs of boots. I realise that some will disapprove. How excessive, they will say. Perhaps that's why so many women lie: apparently our "favourite" lie is to downplay the cost of shoes. Well, that's what most have claimed, so let's just go with it. I certainly have. I've peeled off price tags. I've flattened down shoe boxes or left that bulky proof of purchase at the shop. I've hidden new shoes and held off wearing them until a friend's tetchy inquiry, "New shoes?" can be met with a negative that's not, strictly speaking, a lie.
I've bought shoes I know do not fit. I have bought shoes that I know I will probably never wear and I have bought shoes that hurt from the minute I tried them on. The most expensive (and no, I'm not telling) were a pair of pinkish lace and jewelled heels I bought in Istanbul. I saw them and was smitten. So I did what I did throughout much of my childhood when shopping for shoes with my mother. I lied. I said that they fitted though they were a size too big. I knew that for one night a half-insole would push my foot back just enough to hold the heel in place. I wore them one night, with new dark skinny jeans and some of the dye from my new jeans rubbed off on them.. Later I tucked them up in their fabric bag knowing I would probably never wear them again. I still love them. They may have given me only one night, but they never hurt (too much) or let me down.
Unlike those first wedges I bought. They did both: on the way to work, I fell...while walking along the main road in peak hour traffic; I just toppled forward, took the skin off my knee and bruised my ego very, very badly. My confidence took a big knock too... I wobbled a few times after that before I got to work.. I have never worn those again either....
There's a kindred spirit among women who "get" shoes. I knew a recent interview would be good when the first thing the lady said as I stepped in was: "I love your shoes." I got the job...
Sometimes I wonder where it all began. The first shoes I coveted were my mother's. I was four. They were hot pink chunky heels with beaded flowers across the foot. A decade and a half later, the first pair I suffered for were a pair of floral and cork high heels. They were unreasonably high but oh-so-stunning.. I broke them in and from there on in they tried to break me right back. But what I recall most is the beauty of the line they gave: lengthening the leg, slimming the ankle. That felt good.
Maybe that's what it comes down to: how it feels. Certainly it has never been about the label. I have felt like a million bucks and received compliments for my "designer" shoes that were really cheapies from a local fashion outlet. Let's face it, love - life - makes fools of us all and the right pair of shoes can make a wrong situation more bearable. Because when enduring an awkward, staring-at-your-shoes kind of moment it helps if you can at least enjoy the view.

-Adapted from Laura Collins-

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