My shoes are usually empty...a lonely pair orphaned on the tile floor or locked away in the closet. In the Summer, I am wearing a pair of Birkenstocks with the cork worn wafer-thin. In the Winter, I'll find another pair of serviceable slides and live there, or in snow boots, until the trees bloom and the air is warm again. A few dress shoes gather dust until another wedding or funeral rolls around. I am ambivalent about shoes...I don't go shopping for them or lust after a perfect pair of Manolo Blahniks. These price tags make me blanch and calculate how many books I could have bought with that money--the laptop--the folk art painting--the long weekend away with M. in a bed and breakfast with a cloak of comfortable silence.
Once, M.'s eagle-eyed, design-gifted sister said,
"You can tell a person's whole life from the shoes they wear."
I glanced at her feet and saw her cute, dark, retro-heels and suddenly wanted to plunge mine beneath a tablecloth as I was nine months pregnant and in a borrowed pair of scuffed flats--swollen and aching and completely unlike myself. Considering that idea and the whole culture of shoe fetishism all around me--I now wonder about my utter disregard for footwear fashion. Does that mean I don't have a personality? Does it mean I'm missing some genetic code programmed into other women? If you can tell a life based on a pair of shoes--what does it say about me that I'd rather not wear them?
My footsoles are worn smooth and dark with the miles tread over floors, the pavement, and the tall, cool grass in my bare feet. Walking in my front door, you would trip over a pile of shoes immediately flung off by the occupants of our house the second they were safely inside. Perhaps this genetic anomaly is a dominant one, canceling out any shoe-loving ancestors on our family tree.
Shoes, to me, are tools to be worn only when walking where broken shards of glass glitter like so many dappled asphalt constellations...or when the streets are melting or slick with ice...when a function will not admit me unless I'm strapped into the requisite black pumps. I take them off when I am driving--when I'm sitting in a theatre or restaurant with my legs tucked demurely beneath me. My foot nakedness is unpredictable and inappropriate--like a college co-ed's on spring break. I shed shoes like others shed laws and rules--refusing to be tied down to one artificially imposed construct.
I am one of a tribe of bare-footed women...my mother who declares,
"When I go, dress me up however you want--but, you better damn-well make sure I'm not wearing any shoes on my feet."
An aunt who regards hers as "grape squashers"--wide as they are--and attributes this to her half-Italian ancestry.
"Shoes hurt," she explains, hostessing a cookout with a row of vibrantly painted toenails as the sole adornments on her feet. My sister has a wide collection of lovely shoes in defiance of this trend--but, you'll catch her without them as often as not...watering the flowerbeds, talking with neighbors, getting the mail: bare-bare-bare. My children hate shoes--would rather face splinters, thorns, and bee stings than a pair of sneakers.
My shoes cannot seem to forgive me for my abandonment. They long to boldly express their creativity, form, and function. If you can tell a whole life from a person's shoes...I guess I just resist that quick definition. I want you to see the tattoo, the toe rings, the bike accident scars from my childhood wreck. I want to show off the high arch that confounded my "grape squasher" footed mother and required special inserts in my Catholic schoolgirl uniform loafers. I remember the Summer when I attended university lectures in Greek Mythology with my sandals tucked into my batik backpack, so as not to interrupt the flow of those ancient stories from the soil to my trembling heart. When we meet up...I want to be bare...to be open...to let my foolish vulnerability and exposed strength speak for itself. My battered old shoes will be dangling from my fingertips, wishing they were yours.
Sunday Scribblings: My Shoes