by Cathy Allie
If I didn't know any better, I'd say I heard them calling my name, like a Siren song, wooing the ancient Greek sailor. I stood quietly, trying to focus, willing myself not to move toward them.
They were beautiful, unlike anything I had ever seen before, and when I finally reached out to grab them, the initial contact was electrifying. Before you label me as a weirdo, let me assure you this has happened to many a woman, some right there that day in the same place as me. And while we may be just a little ashamed or embarrassed, we cannot help ourselves. We are shoe addicts.
Let me say up front, if you have never bought a pair of shoes and then built an outfit around them, please quit reading right now and skip to the weekly police report, ’cause Sister, you won’t be able to relate. However, if you don’t count flip flops or boots when your husband asks how many pairs of shoes you have because they are not really shoes, then stay with me! We are kindred spirits.
Truthfully, I don’t have an accurate count of my shoes, but I can tell you it is too many. When I go to line up the browns, and I have four different shades, I probably have too many. When I can create actual categories besides just flats, heels, and tennis shoes, I probably have too many. When I am looking for a pair of shoes to wear, and I pull out a pair I don’t even remember buying, I for sure have too many.
I scoffed at an article that popped up online the other day. Ladies should only own 12 pair of shoes, it said, one pair each of: classic white tennis shoes, ballet flats, summer espadrilles, classic black loafers, neutral evening heels, over the knee boots, something whimsical or with personality, flat sandals, office appropriate pumps, a pop of color, walkable heels, and classic black ankle booties.
Clearly, the disillusioned blogger forgot multiple other categories: fuzzy boots with which you may or may not wear socks, ones that match something your daughter owns, just in a bigger size, something with such a high heel that you only wear them when sitting down, and rain boots in multiple colors, to name a few.
The good news about being a shoe addict is that I know I am not alone. I once helped move a friend whose shoes numbered over 100 pair. And when we got her all settled, we celebrated by visiting – you guessed it—a shoe store.
I imagine meetings for those of us with a problem might start like this: “Hi, I’m Cathy and I am an addict.” “Hi, Cathy,” my fellow shoe junkies would say.
“This week I found myself in a new city on a business trip, and I just happened to find a shoe boutique,” I blurt out. My friends comfort me and applaud me for going home with just one pair.
I also know it is a problem because there are shoe memes, like the one that says “I make shoe contact before I make eye contact” and “There’s no shame in my shoe game.”
And there are too many famous idioms and quotes about shoes, also. ‘If the shoe fits, wear it (or in my case buy it)’, ‘Mama needs a new pair of shoes’, ‘Give a girl a new pair of shoes and she can conquer the world’, or ‘Change your shoes, change your life’. And maybe my favorite, ‘Life isn’t a fairy tale. If you lose a shoe at a party, you probably have another pair almost exactly like it in your closet’.
I have drawn the line at shoes that cause my feet too much pain. I have seen the pictures of supermodels’ gnarled feet, caused by wearing sky high heels 2 sizes too small for their runway walks. I have, however, purchased a pair of shoes with the promise to myself that they will stretch a little bit, and a couple of Bandaids later realized that maybe they won’t.
I have had one serious shoe injury, that happened when I was in high school, but I still remember it well, and have a little scar to help me. I wish this was the story of a beautiful shoe I wore to prom, and I was running to make curfew after one last kiss with my date when the heel snapped off. But the real story is not nearly as cool.
Adidas tennis shoes, made of real leather, with stitched on stripes were the rage when I was about 14. I just had to have a pair, and I finally talked my mother into letting me add some babysitting money to her contribution to have enough money to get them.
A friend and I bought matching Adidas, with dark red, almost maroon stripes, ones that closely matched our school colors. We were headed to band camp with our new kicks, sure to impress some fresh-faced sophomore percussionist.
Day one at camp we learned a marching high step, which required us to drag our feet up the inside calf of the opposite leg. The stripes on the Adidas worked nearly as well as a razor, scraping away our flesh with each step.
By about mid-day, I could no longer drag my leg over the open wounds anymore. Neither of us brought another pair of shoes to camp, so we marched in sock feet on 100 degree pavement. Not even a sophomore percussionist would be impressed by that. The scars on my right leg are hardly noticeable anymore, but the memory is pretty fresh.
Look, shoes are about the only thing in our wardrobe that doesn’t have to be sensible, that lets us rebel against the old Buster Brown oxford school shoes, and truthfully, when your clothing size is not as small as you would like it to be, shoes still fit.
My theory is this: When life gives you lemons, sell them, and buy shoes.
Cathy is a retired public school English teacher and Public Information Officer.