shoes #2: if the red shoe fits

So, for those of you who read the first installment and then wandered off to do healthy things like, oh, I don't know, living your lives or getting stinking drunk on New Year's…the short and sweet version is that I discovered the cult of Nordstrom.

I did my errands, and bought my tea, and on the way back, I let the solid, I-paid-good-money-for-these tapping noises of my new shoes lead me over to the sale rack. I'd always wondered what 'designer' shoes would look like; they just weren't a part of my world. I thought oh, I'd look, and probably giggle, and drive on.

But see, there's back story. There's always back story, because that's what life is, a continuing series of ever-embellished back stories.

* * * * *

The truth is that there was a first pair of red shoes. As part of my pre-Nordstrom attempt to find shoes that fit, I had gone to Parisian and nosed around in the sale racks. Most were ugly, but I found one shoe—one well-made, classic loafer in a deep cherry red—that fit my right foot. I didn't have time to try on the left shoe that day, because doing so meant requesting the second shoe be brought from the back, so I made a point to return the next day.

I was excited, thinking that perhaps I had finally found a pair of classy dress shoes that would fit me. After all, if they fit my right foot, they'd likely fit my left as well. Imagine my disappointment when the sales assistant brought the shoe back to me, and I looked down at it only to realize that the entire interior of the sole was missing.

I showed him both shoes and said, "Do you really think these are in salable condition?" He shook his head no, and took the shoes away.

I was sad—sadder than I had an explanation for. I realized sometime during the night of anticipation that I wanted the red shoes, wanted something a little snazzier, a little classier, than the plain Birkenstocks and special-ordered sneakers that my unusually-sized feet had all but doomed me to.

A comforting voice on the other end of the phone said, "Keep looking, kitty. If there's one, there will be another."

* * * *

A few days later, I found myself staring at rows of some of what could only be described as 'frivolous' shoes. I am not Puritanical when it comes to clothing (as this entry attests) but there is a certain degree of silliness that I just can't understand. How much disposable income must one have to drop over two hundred dollars for a pair of high-heeled feathered pink mules? They screamed 'conspicuous consumption,' and I would have been ashamed to wear them.

Then, nestled in the middle of the "size 6.5 and below" rack, I saw it.

Oh, it was a breathtaking little thing. Some tiny part of my genetic code, heretofore unknown but inherited from my shoe-loving mother, flared to life.

I will confess that I have spent most of my life in cheaper shoe stores, and professed to not truly understand the differences between cheap shoes and good shoes. I picked up this shoe, turned it over, and began to understand. A good-quality sole. Clean, precise stitching, and the materials, oh, the materials. I had no idea what this shoe was made of, but its shine had this amazing, liquid quality.

…and it was red. Breathtakingly red. Not classy, wear-with-dignity red, but fire engine, blatant, little-black-dress-and-strut red. Stuart Weitzman, a name that even I knew. I reassured myself that there was no possible way that I could wear a shoe like this, so I did the only sane thing: I took off my right shoe and slipped the little red one on, and --

-- oh, dear.

I looked at the price tag and blanched. Admittedly, I'm the queen of cheap airfare, but I could buy a one-way cross-country trip for the amount those shoes cost, even at 50% off.

I put the shoe back. I didn't dare ask if the other one fit, because right then, I knew with unwavering certainty, if that shoe fit I would buy it, no matter the cost. I put it back knowing I would never see its like again.

I went back to Brian and Suzan's. That night, I talked to every person I could find and asked for opinions, advice, help. I asked the question I couldn't answer: even though I had so much trouble finding shoes I could wear, was it right to spend this much on a pair? Could such an expense ever be justified? I was surprised by the response—I expected sanity, sensibility, but instead I was all but ordered, in no uncertain terms, to at least go back and try on the other shoe. Silly domesticat, they said.

Of course the other shoe fit. Of course it did, because that's just how my life works.

But life comes with choices, and I hadn't budgeted for this one, and I realized that I could do one of two things. The only money I had to buy these shoes with was my money that I had earmarked for my flight out west in the spring. I could have airfare or the shoes.

I wonder if the shoe salesmen at Nordstrom wondered at me, sitting there in the cozy chair, holding a pair of Stuart Weitzmans (shoes they probably sold every day). If they could have seen inside my head, they would have seen me picturing clear air and a mountain skyline, and asking myself if I could put off my trip, all for a pair of shoes.

I hoped I'd be forgiven, and I handed the shoes to the salesman. I had to overcome the lump in my throat before I was able to say, "I'll take them."

* * * * *

I can tell you this. The friends in question forgave me—indeed, they'll see the shoes at PHE next weekend. They are spectacular shoes. Once-in-a-lifetime shoes. The kind of shoes you wear all black with and pretend that, oh yes, you just threw them on and oh, aren't they just so deliciously casual?

I lost a part of my personality that day. The part of my personality, so long held and so deeply cherished, that could honestly claim to be indifferent to fashion. Or, as I say to anyone who sees my driver's license these days: lose fifty pounds, cut off most of your hair, get contact lenses and learn how to use makeup—you'd look totally different, too.

The truth is that somewhere along the way, I learned to care. I do have a personal style. When I'm casual, I'm goofy and silly, as anyone who knows my penchant for outrageous socks (or the famous technicolor cat pants) can attest. But I know what I look good in. For dressy casual it's dark blue jeans, button-down silk or cotton shirts, and loafers. For winter, a single-color skirt and an excellent sweater. For dressier occasions, it's one of my single-color sheath dresses.

These fit, and not only were they beautiful, they suited me. That alone is worth almost any price.

Well, that, and having a friend look at them while we were having nachos and and saying, "Those are the kind of shoes that just scream, 'I have kinky sex but don't look like it.'"

Now that's a shoe. (I nearly spewed my fajita, too.)

(In case you wondered, they are Stuart Weitzman's "Mocellent" loafers in 'fire.' My guess is that their production time is over, because they are becoming increasingly more difficult to find.)

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I'm never going to shop at Nordstrom because I never want to spend that much on a pair of shoes - ever. After reading these entries I've decided that Nordstrom is evil... Of course I'm likely to drool over those loafers when I see them in person this weekend... Who can resist drooling over a pair of loafers in "fire" color???

*snicker* Addict.

I have these out-of-my-price-range shoes too. Now that IS a shoe indeed!