We went out for breakfast the other Saturday at downtown Manna Java. My French toast was delicious, but I had trouble focusing. I kept getting distracted by this woman across the room. She had on the cutest shoes. I’ve never gone up to a stranger and asked, “Excuse me, where did you get your shoes?” but boy, was I tempted. I knew, it was pointless, because I’ll never be able to find shoes like that to fit me.
Some women love shoe shopping. High heels, ballet flats, wedges, mules, they try them on and take them home. Their only problem is finding room for yet another pair of black patent leathers in the closet or under the bed. They’ve got shoes to wear to work, shoes to wear to the opera, shoes to wear for creek stomping, shoes to – well, you get the idea.
Me, I’m painfully close to being Shoeless Jo. I’ve got skinny feet, and normal shoes don’t fit me. Evidently the average foot of the American woman, like the size of so many other things, has been supersized, leaving me and my unshod feet behind.
Comfort, unfortunately, is what I’m after. I know many women don’t care, or pretend not to care, what their feet feel like. I note with great interest the complaints of movie stars who say their Jimmy Choos are cleverly designed torture chambers, but they’re resigned to wearing them because the public is watching. My public must be deeply disappointed.
All I need is one pair in brown, one in black, and one in navy, for summer and winter. Plus some walking shoes. And some sandals. That’s it, plus some boots. Right now, I’m in desperate need of some blue shoes. Half my wardrobe hangs unworn, because I don’t have shoes to match. My navy shoes are cute, but they really, really hurt by the end of the day. I thought I was suffering from clinical depression until I realized how quickly my mood lifted if I slipped them off at 3 p.m.
The actor Daniel Day Lewis spent a year or two in Italy some years ago apprenticing to a master shoemaker. I’m sure he was able to find shoes that fit with little trouble, and devoted himself to the craft simply because it was something he wanted to learn. But it’s something I’ve certainly thought about. Not learning to make shoes myself, but finding a shoemaker. (Or, even better, befriending Daniel Day Lewis.) Wouldn’t that be great? To have shoes fitted just to your own two feet, even if one of them is bigger than the other, even if you’ve got hammertoes (which, I hasten add, I do not) or heels so narrow the staff of Famous Footwear snickers when you cross their threshold? I even find myself longing for the days when shoe stores used x-ray machines to measure the fit of their shoes. Sure, they were dangerous, but who cares?
One my favorite movies is “Gypsy Caravan,” a joyous documentary about colorful bands from __ countries traveling around on tour. One of my favorite acts is a Romanian flamenco dancer – a beautiful man in noisy shoes – and his aunt, a hefty yet graceful woman who sits in a chair and sings while her beloved nephew dances. At one point in the film, while performing before a mostly English speaking audience, she changes the words to her song. Instead of singing of love and loss, she bemoans the trials and tribulations she’d endured that afternoon . . . shopping for a new pair of shoes. Oh, how her feet hurt, she wails. Oh, how hard it was to find the perfect pair. The Romanians on stage and in the audience convulsed with laughter.
My only hope, I’ve decided, is Zappos. Zappos, as you probably know, if you’re a woman, and might be wondering, if you’re a man, is a fabulous online company that carries hundreds – no, thousands, of shoes in every color and size and width imaginable. Even double As. Even quadruple As. The best thing is, the shipping is free both ways, and as long as you don’t wear them outside, they give you 365 days to make up your mind about whether they fit, and if not, you can send them back free of charge. Is this a miracle, or what?
So I ordered a pair of cute Naturalizers in navy, and they arrived on my porch last week. They’re close, but not quite perfect, so I ordered them in a half size smaller, too. When those get here, I’ll try them on and cross my fingers, and all ten of my problematic toes, that I’ll finally have a pair that fits. Unlike Cinderella, I don’t want a prince. I just want the shoes that fit like a glove.
This may all seem silly, or vain, until you try walking around in ill-fitting shoes, or without shoes at all. My dear friend Margo told me about something that happened when she and her daughter were out driving one day: “We saw a woman who had a piece of paper tied to the bottom of each foot. I had to do something, so I turned around and pulled over, got out of the car and asked her if I could take her across the street and buy her a pair of shoes. She said no, she didn’t need any, she had shoes, and she pointed to the paper tied to her feet. I asked her if I could give her some money to buy some food, or a ride somewhere, but she said she wasn’t hungry and she was where she wanted to be. Finally I took my shoes off and made her try them on. She did that, they fit, I said goodbye, and walked back to the car and drove away.”
Just shoes? Not important? I don’t think so.