Saturday, February 26, 2011


And now for something completely different. This will be a rather girlie post in which I attempt to explain my fascination/obsession with shoes.

“Hi, my name is Cantabridgienne and I have a shoe problem.” The problem is that there are all these sets of shoes out there and I can’t possibly own them all. I was surprised to discover I had a lust for shoes. I mean, I am not unacquainted with obsessions, and there are many things I covet—but I don’t covet them the way I covet shoes (all the shoes!) For example, of course I want a new Mac, but I only need one Mac (and maybe an iPad.) I don’t need an Air and a MacBook Pro and something from Dell to run Windows 7 on and a server to try out Windows new server environment….well actually now that I mention it.. Anyways, the point is whatever I would want in terms of hardware I wouldn’t need a Mac, a Dell, an Acer and something from HP. That’s not how it works with shoes.

I realize that many women have similar problems with shoes. However, I am not like other women in this. My obsession with shoes is a bit like a fairy curse—I love items that are expensive, but of no practical use for me.

I’m tall and clumsy and so high heels are entirely out of the question. Furthermore, although I love beautiful ballet flats (green leather! leopard print! shiny buckles!) but I don’t really have much use for them. My work dress tends to vary between plain and frumpy. Ballet flats with glitter on the toes look ridiculous when paired with khakis and a polo shirt. My social life is conducted entirely in jeans, so the sparkly-toed thingies would not be much use to me there. Also, I don’t have a car and so I need to be able to run for the T or walk a mile or two on occasion.

As a practical matter looking at the shoes I can actually wear on occasion the scope is pretty narrow. By the time you’ve ruled out shoes that don’t look weird with business casual attire and shoes that are no good for walking, you’re left with “sensible shoes” most of which are not particularly attractive. The matter is not yet entirely hopeless—Keen makes a lot of shoes that are pretty enough to wear for a business school presentation and practical enough to allow one to run for the Red Line after class (even if it is snowing) but one cannot just wear Keens. Keen doesn’t make shiny tortoise shell flats.

In addition to all these complications, I really don’t like wearing shoes. My feet prefer Birkenstock sandals. By the time it’s warm enough to wear most of what is on offer for women’s footgear outside of the house it’s also warm enough to wear sandals or flip flops (if you don’t mind a few funny looks).

So where does this leave me? Well better than the usual person afflicted with a fairy joke—at least I am not a queen in love with a weaver with the head of a donkey. I started thinking about this post—an explanation of my love of shoes—while out and about today. My statistics professor afflicted us with two chapters to read and do problems in this week and so I’d been doing Stats all day. I was bitching to myself that the “study break treat” I had to offer myself this afternoon was an opportunity to go pick up my dry cleaning. But to get to the dry cleaners I had to pass Mint, which has a lovely selection of shoes. To cheer myself up I went in and looked at the variety of beautiful, impractical footwear on offer. Yes they still had the lovely lime green ballet flats with the gold buckle. No, I still wasn’t going to buy them because they’re impractical and cost $110 (used!) Ooh! Brown suede driving moccasins. Beautiful, but I’ve already got the brown-hued-shoes thing covered in both the casual and the fancy areas. I didn’t buy anything, but it did cheer me up.

As I mentioned above I was surprised to discover that I had shoe-lust. This sort of thing usually afflicts fashionable females and I don’t even wear makeup. This is either a profound success of some marketing department or some kind of deeply rooted expression of femininity*.

I incline to the latter point of view. My best friend (who is much more butch than I am) has a handbag problem, but understands my love of shoes in the same way I understand her handbag problem. She likes looking at shoes, but is fixated on handbags. I like looking at handbags, but am fixated by shoes. My sister has admitted that she gets her sparkly shoe fix out of buying shoes for her three year old daughter (my niece has a pair of blue glitter mary janes that I covet.) My mother (who is admittedly much more fashionable than either of her daughters) has a lovely collection of shoes. One of the butchest girls I know showed up at a party with a lovely pair of distressed ox blood Frye boots. “Yeah, I was feeling bummed because my girlfriend was out of town, so I indulged in some retail therapy.”

I’m writing this up because I don’t actually mind admitting that I have a shoe problem. I didn’t acknowledge my love of shoes for a long time because that was so…feminine. Ick! Gross! To be feminine is to be weak! I won’t try to explain this point of view in its entirety, but suffice to say that it is embarrassing to discover that I have the same weakness (shoes!) as the young ladies who work in my office who read gossip mags for fun. I have a very thin skin, so admitting any weakness and leaving myself open for ridicule is hard for me to do** But my although friends laugh and suggest that I might need a corrective shoe collar, I don’t retreat to my basement apartment and refuse to talk to anybody for a week. I laugh as well, and then suggest we check out the Birkenstocks at that place in Gloucester (don’t you need a new pair, Herr Baron?)

I suppose, that once MBA school turns me into a ruthless capitalist I could get the kind of well-paying job that will allow me to no longer live in a one-room basement apartment. Then I can have room devoted to shoes. It will be full of beautiful confections that I’ll never actually wear. When I’m feeling low I can just stare at my collection of fanciful footgear and sigh.

*now there’s a word I hate.

** In my Cambridge life I live with my (now ex) boyfriend and a friend of ours who was an artist. The boy and I were going to see my favorite band Bishop Allen at the Middle East. They were opening for somebody else. When the roommate asked if we were staying for the next show my boy apparently responded something like “Eh. I don’t care and I don’t think she would want to see anyone follow Bishop Allen unless the Kinks showed up.” I got home from a bad day at work to discover that my roommate had drawn a cartoon of me in Hannibal Lector restraints wearing a Bishop Allen T shirt and a beer hat. I was so mortified I spent the next half hour on the porch feeling ashamed of my exuberance over the band I liked.

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