Today I went shoe shopping.
I am not a woman who collects shoes. I do not have a closet jammed full. I have a coupla pairs of nifty sandals, a generic pair of Black Shoes, my trusty Birkenstocks and a pair of steel-toed hiking boots for tromping around after birds. And that is all. (Most the sandals I only possess because of Carlota’s dire influence.)
My tendency to charge out after birds regardless of footgear doesn’t help. Some part of my brain does not believe that shoes can actually be damaged by wading through muck. I regret nothing–I mean, there were blue-winged teals! c’mon! and solitary sandpipers–but man, that’s hard on a nice sandal.
“Mmm,” I thought at some point today. “It’s cold out. I should wear something that isn’t a sandal.”
And there my brain stopped, because I realized that other than the hiking boots–which are sturdy, serviceable, and also look exactly like a pair of sturdy boots that have logged several zillion miles, tromped through mud, gotten soaked, stepped in unmentionable things and been cleaned with the hose–I had nuthin’.
Now, I like the fluffy-sock Birkenstock combo, of course, but occasionally one wishes for something a little less actively funky.
I set out to buy a boot. A fairly low black leather boot with a chunky heel. Yes, the stiletto heels are dead sexy, but casts aren’t, except to a certain miniscule percentage of the population, and any attempt on my part to wear such a heel would result in broken limbs and a rapid education in the relationship between surface area and pressure.
There are approximately ten million shoes in this variety. The majority of them are uncomfortable. Some of them are ugly. Most of them are boring. The tiny remainder did not come in my size.
Three hours andsix shoe stores later, I had started to see why some women go nuts over shoes. It is so damn hard to find a perfect shoe that it’s like finding a unicorn. If you trip over a unicorn, you do not go “Oh, well, I don’t need a unicorn right now,” you whip out the Virgin-O-Matic 5000 because eventually you WILL need a unicorn and you won’t be able to find one for love or money. Likewise the perfect shoe. I wonder how many perfect boots my eyes have passed over in the last few years? Curses!
(Did Doc Marten go out of business? I’m willing to be goth. I’m most of the way there already, as far as wardrobe is concerned. Why can I find no Doc Martens? Was that just a west coast thing?)
Eventually it becomes a kind of deranged hunt. I am no longer shopping for a pair of shoes, I am a shoe predator, stalking a wily prey beast through the vast consumer jungle, ignoring the lesser members of the herd, the distractions of chattering store clerks, the whooping cackles of the Mall Hyenas. The food court cannot distract me. The mall Santa waiting to be photographed does not stop me, and I will generally bolt in the opposite direction when confronted with mall Santas.* I have attained zanshin, the state of perfect no-thought with which to dispatch the foe. My old iaido sensei would be proud. (Actually he’d stare at me, shake his head slowly, gaze briefly upwards as if praying for strength, and mutter something about how his granddaughter’s the same way, and then probably make a fashion suggestion that would be astonishingly helpful for having come from a straight, elderly veteran.)
At last, success! Hidden behind the knee-length black boots (tempting, sorely tempting, particularly the ones with all the metal rings and straps, they’re like bondage boots, they look positively industrial, but seriously, when would I ever wear them?) I finally found a pair. They were not quite perfect, but they were much more interesting than most of the alternatives, having some decoration and a heel as wide as my fist. They were not terribly cheap, even on sale, but in addition to bras, bacon, towels, sheets and men, life is too short for cheap shoes.
*Look, I don’t care if I’m thirty. Those buggers still scare me.