It’s a stereotype that women love shoes, and like so many stereotypes, there’s a kernel of truth in there somewhere. It isn’t just Imelda Marcos. We’ve all seen those episodes of House Hunters, where she either has a room dedicated to shoes. Or she need a room in which to put her collection of shoes. There’s usually a smiling, indulgent-looking man in the mix somewhere. When a box of shoes arrives in the mail for me at my house my husband gets that look too. “More shoes?” They’re not Manolo Blahniks. No Jimmy Choos in my closet. I have a tendency to twist my ankle when walking, even in bare feet. I don’t have any clothes that go with that sort of shoe. I sure don’t have the body to wear them naked anymore. But if you love Christian Louboutin, if that’s your shoe groove, all the more power to you. They’re works of art, those shoes. So beautiful. Just not on my feet. Yes, I am the girl of the sensible shoes. I started out in Buster Browns. Once when I was 13, I traded a family heirloom for a second-hand pair of red platform shoes, like something out of Aladdin Sane. (Weirdly, the other shoes I remember from the closet of my early adolescence were Earth shoes, blue Adidas court shoes and riding boots.) Mostly my shoes are solid. Save one pair of kitten heels for grown-up occasions, I could sprint after a dog in every pair of shoes I own. Physical therapists like my shoes. Now, don’t go away thinking my shoes are boring. In my closet, at one time or another, you could find flocked floral black and white Dr. Martens. Pale-pink leather lace-up paddock boots. Black Mary Janes with purple flowers. Yellow clogs with ladybugs. Cobalt blue Beatle boots. At least six pairs of Dr. Marten’s combat boots– and I still want the ones with the Union Jack toe. Not a fan of running shoes, (or running) though I did get a pair of Merrells the last time I went on a fitness thing. I loved them. They were black, modern, sleek, almost elegant. They were designed for “natural running.” They nearly ruined my feet and left me with a year-long misery of plantar fasciitis. Right now as I sit at my desk in my jammies, my feet are toasty and warm in Stegmann boiled wool clogs. Sexy? Ooo-whee, let me tell you. One afternoon I went into a shoe store in Santa Cruz with my friend, Christy. Christy is not just my wonderful friend, she’s my astral twin, my sister from another mother. We walked into this shoe store and our mouths dropped. We clutched each other’s arms. “Look at those shoes!” she whispered. It was a whole store full of our favorite sort of shoe: fun, sensible, playful, comfortable, zany shoes. Cute shoes you could wear running after a dog. Thank God they weren’t having a sale. The right shoe makes you feel like anything is possible. You can slay dragons, talk people off ledges, catch the thief, land the contract, get the guy, get the girl, grab the brass ring. (And this is true whether the right shoe is a five-inch stiletto or a Bass Weejun.) The wrong shoe is as bad as the wrong foot. Best not to even start. I get a new pair of shoes and I fall in love. I hate to wear anything else. I wear those shoes until the seams are falling apart. (Like that last pair of crimson red Naots. God those were great shoes.) Then I’m heartbroken and I have to go shoe shopping again. But shoe shopping for me is a bit complicated– they just don’t have my shoes at Payless or Shoebilee, or Shoe Carnival. My shoes make themselves the object of a quest. And when they arrive, finally, at last, generally through the mail, all is bliss at our house for awhile. This is my perfect shoe. I really appreciate a good black Mary Jane (named after Buster Brown’s sister, did you know that?) and I’ve had lots and I hope I have many more pairs of comfortable, sturdy, sensible black Mary Janes in my life ahead. But a red Mary Jane. That is something else altogether. Hans Christian Andersen’s grim tale notwithstanding, that is the shoe that speaks to me. I never had red Mary Janes as a child. My mother was sensible and bought me the brown ones. I’m making up for that now.
Oh I used to be disgusted And now I try to be amused. But since their wings have got rusted, You know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes. But when they told me ’bout their side of the bargain, That’s when I knew that I could not refuse. And I won’t get any older, now the angels wanna wear my red shoes.