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Confessions of a Shoeoholic
In 1890, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in Journal, “The sense of being perfectly well-dressed gives a feeling of inner tranquility which religion is powerless to bestow.” I couldn’t agree more except to add “perfectly well-dressed and wearing a pair of red stilettos.”
There are only two things I collect: books and shoes. My book collection is larger than my shoe collection only because books are more affordable. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d send each of my sisters a big check, donate to my favorite animal rescue organizations, and then I’d head for the nearest city and buy every pair of shoes that caught my eye.
I suspect my shoe obsession had something to do with the need to rebel against my mother, not that she denied me footwear. But I do remember my mother commenting once on one of her friends having owned sixteen pairs of shoes, and “who did she think she was?” I also remember my mother ogling a pair of red shoes, but not buying them because she already owned a pair on red shoes and “what would people think?” Because of my mother’s beliefs and her reluctance to live wild, I swore I’d never own less than sixteen pairs of shoes and I’d buy as many red ones as I could afford. Right now, I have six pair.
And guess what else? I saw a news flash the other morning announcing that women who wear high heels well into their seventies are less likely to experience life-threatening falls. Seems that high heels improves one’s balance.
My love of shoes found its way into my Sydney Lockhart mysteries. Being a private detective, and having to dress in disguise on occasion, Sydney’s usual footwear are saddle shoes (the series is set in the 1950s), and cowboy boots (Sydney’s from Texas). But when she’s not chasing bad guys, Sydney dresses up in snug sweaters, pencil shirts, and high heels. There’s also a bit of rebel in Sydney too. Much to her mother’s annoyance, Sydney refers to her high heels as her tart shoes. And her sidekick cousin, Ruth Echland, wouldn’t be caught dead in anything but the latest Ferragamos.
Check out my latest Sydney Lockhart mystery, Murder at the Driskill.
Kathleen Kaska writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mysteries set in the 1950s. Her first two books Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queens Book Group, the largest book group in the country.
The third book in the series, Murder at the Galvez, is set at the Galvez Hotel in Galveston. Kaska also writes the Classic Triviography Mystery Series, which includes The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book, The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book. The Alfred Hitchcock and the Sherlock Holmes trivia books are finalists for the 2013 EPIC award in nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press of Florida), was published in 2012. http://www.kathleenkaska.com, http://www.kathleenkaskawrites.blogspot.com/
First, let me make it clear that I’m no Imelda.
I’m not even a distant second.
But I do have plenty of shoes—athletic shoes in various colors, waterproof pairs because the weather in Washington State is mostly NOT dry and sunny, winter boots, loafers, two or three pairs of sandals, black and brown low heels, and a pair of higher heels covered in sequins. (I’m pretty sure I bought those at a thrift store for a costume party and wore them just once, but the question is: Why do I keep them around?)
I tell myself I have my “addiction” under control. I no longer need the “fix” of shoe shopping at least once a month and the “high” of shoe buying in spring and fall. At least, I don’t need it the way I did in my 20s and 30s.
Compared to the cravings of many of my friends, my addiction was mild. Yes, shoe-buying accounted for too much of my budget, but I didn’t go into debt. Instead I compensated by bringing a lunch to work and turning down the heat at home. (The lower temperature also provided a reason to wear those knee-high boots on into the spring.)
I wish I could tell a dramatic story about friends holding an intervention and forcing me to join a support group to curb my shoe craving.
But what happened was:
I got older
And less willing to sacrifice and suffer for fashion
And in touch with what the impulse shoes of my youth were all about
Getting older meant I had to “pay” for the way I’d treated my feet. I developed tendon issues that require custom-made metal and plastic insoles. They feel as if I’m standing on a lead pipe and they don’t work with heels or most sandals.
- Getting wiser meant I took stock of the shoe space in my closet (about 6 square feet or enough to hold one rack for nine shoes with a little space on the side) and the spare cash in the budget. I realized I was less willing to scrimp on groceries and heat, to sacrifice for fashion.
Getting to the next stage—being less willing to suffer—allowed me to toss out shoes that looked more like stilts, those that didn’t quite fit but were okay as long as standing and walking weren’t required, the ones that needed special cleaning or polishing, and any that went with outfits long departed.
And getting in touch with the symbolism of shoes meant I understood that, no matter what happened to that that chick with the glass slipper, odds were that would never happen to me. Shoes wouldn’t change my life. The majorette boots I got for my birthdays when I was five, six, and seven, never gave me any musical talent. I can’t even clap on the beat. The spiky heels I wore during the disco era (or is that the error?) never made me a decent dancer. The hiking boots I bought never caused me to tackle challenging ascents or lengthy treks.
Beyond that, I realized that the shoes I found seductive—the shoes I HAD to have—weren’t necessarily good for me. In fact, those shoes were often metaphors for the romantic relationships I wandered into while wearing them.
My love affairs with those shoes and those men were often painful, but they made me stronger, and gave me more insight into the workings of the heart andmind—my own and those of others, including my fictional characters.
I’m not saying I no longer gaze into display windows, detour through the shoe sections of department stores, or notice what my friends are wearing. I’m not saying that I don’t sometimes conjure up images of those navy blue sandals or black suede boots I once owned.
But there’s no magic pill, no quick cure for the shoe flu. I expect I’ll have relapses as long as I’m able to get my shoes on without assistance—and maybe even after that.
How about you?
Did you have a love affair with shoes? Are you still involved? Or have you broken it off? If so, how did you do it?
Stop by and tell us about your experiences and you could win a copy of my suspense novel, Sea of Regret. The sequel to An Uncertain Refuge, it’s set at a wildlife rehabilitation center on the Oregon Coast—a site a ruthless developer will stop at nothing to acquire. The protagonist, Kate Dalton, wears sneakers and sandals and flip-flops.
Carolyn J. Rose is the author of several novels, including Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, An Uncertain Refuge, A Place of Forgetting, and No Substitute for Murder. She penned two humorous cozy mysteries, The Big Grabowski and Sometimes a Great Commotion, with her husband, Mike Nettleton.
She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers and is an active supporter of her local bookstore, Cover to Cover. Her interests are reading, gardening, and not cooking.
Visit Carolyn’s website www.deadlyduomysteries.com
“Sea of Regret” on Amazon
I must have some sort of mutant gene, shoes have never been important to me and unlike Maggie–and I’d venture to guess, most other women–I don’t really remember what kind of shoes I wore at what point in my life. I do know that nowadays I’d rather not wear shoes at all, especially in the summer when I spend most days in sandals or flip-flops. And I know I’ve always had at least one pair of tennis shoes, usually two or even three. I’ve tried all the major brands over the years, Reebok, Adidas, even Keds when I was younger, but Nike is my preferred brand so I always have a pair of Nikes, preferably, Nike Airs.
But as for my telling my life story through shoes, I can’t do it. A total blank. I do remember getting my first pair of heels but more because my dad took me to get them than anything else. I’m not sure how he ended up with that job, but it was one of the few days in my youth when I had him all to myself, without my mom or any of my brothers and sisters around.
When I saw that pair of heels in the shoe store, I knew I had to have them. My dad wasn’t so sure, and he wasn’t going to let me get them. He said I was way too young to wear heels and guided me to a pair of flats. I shook my head at those, said they were too babyish and he pointed to a pair of low-heeled pumps. I pouted, cajoled, and finally talked him into the ones I wanted even though he thought the heels were way too high for a girl my age.
In a scene that now reminds me of Atticus and Scout in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, regarding Scout not ever going back to school, my dad and I reached a compromise. He bought them but only on the condition we take them to a shoe repair place and have the heels cut down to a more appropriate–in my dad’s eyes–inch and a half.
I don’t remember how old I was, probably around fourteen, and I can’t even remember what they looked like except that they were white. Bright and shiny and perfect for Easter. Back then it was pretty much a cardinal sin to wear white shoes before Easter so I had to wait a couple of weeks before I could wear them. It seemed to take forever for those two short weeks to pass and I finally wore them for the first time–out in public, that is, I’d been putting them on and traipsing around my bedroom from the moment I got them–on Easter Sunday.
They looked good, at least to me, but strangely enough, they didn’t make me feel any more grown-up or sophisticated, or whatever it was I was looking for at the time. I was still the same old tom-boy me, only with fancier shoes.
Maybe I should’ve gotten a hat instead.
*Picture courtesy of momtogirls79 on PhotoBucket
Although I know flip flops aren’t the best footwear for our feet (but they’re so comfortable!), I was curious about the history of this shoe, and here’s a brief summary of what I learned. Thong sandals (flip flops) are the oldest form of footwear and have been around at least six thousand years, as evidenced by Egyptian murals dating from 4,000 B.C. The placement of the toe strap varied among ancient civilizations; the Romans used the second toe, the Greeks the big toe, and the Mesapotanians the third toe.
Flip flops didn’t appear in America until after World War II when soldiers brought the Japanese zori back as souvenirs. They became more popular after the Korean War, when soldiers again brought them back as souvenirs. At that time, flip flops signified an informal lifestyle, more specifically that of the “surf culture”. But as styles have changed, so has the status of the flip flop. Once representing a working class lifestyle because they were so inexpensive, they are now showing up on model catwalks and have been spotted at such pretentious affairs as the Cannes Film Festival and at the White House to meet the president.
The term “flip flop” became popular in the ‘60s and is a trademark protected brand-name owned by flip*flop GmbH and the Bernd Hummel Group in Germany. The basic design of the flip flop has remained the same throughout time, although flip flops are now made from rubber, wood, plastic, leather or bamboo, and come in a variety of colors and styles, some with platforms. Currently the US market for flip flops is estimated at 2 billion dollars, with the majority of this footwear priced under $50 per pair.
My favorite pair of flip flops: black and neon pink, purchased at Wal-Mart for under $10.
To see this blog and more info about flip-flops, go to: Kellie Caldwell’s Burgers, Beaches & Bars™: www.http://burgersbeachesbars.com/2012/03/19/be-a-flip-flopper/
Did you ever think of your own history in terms of the shoes you’ve chosen? I decided to have fun with the idea and came up with this unusual memoir.
1951, age 2, San Antonio, Texas, barefoot; white buckle, smooth soled shoes with white ankle socks; black lace-up shoes with white ankle socks. (Hair kept long.)
1955, age 6, Hemmingford Abbotts, England, lace-up shoes for Scottish dance lessons in first grade; rubber boots; black lace-up shoes with white ankle socks (wore skirts).
1956, age 7, Ramersdorf, Germany, black lace-up shoes with white socks.
1958, age 9, Sedalia, Missouri, barefoot for Judo and swimming lessons; tap and ballet shoes; white buckle shoes with white socks.
1963, age 14, Tokyo, Japan, learned to walk in heels at Patricia Charm school.
1964, age 15, Goldsboro, North Carolina, barefoot; flip flops; cheerleading tennis shoes.
1966, age 17, Burns Flat, Oklahoma, barefoot; kitten heels at Junior/Senior dance.
1968, age 18, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, flip flops; brown slip-ons (changed from skirts to jeans at Slay Dorm).
1970, age 21, Goldsboro, NC, low heels. (Ran out of college funds; worked in suits– back to skirts)
1973, age 24, Jacksonville, NC, low heels; boots “these boots are made for walking”
1974, age 25, back at ECU, Greenville, NC, flip flops; barefoot (jeans); jazz shoes for class.
1980, age 31, Spartanburg, South Carolina, hiking boots (for five day backpacking trip on Appalachian Trail)
1986, age 37, York, Pennsylvania, riding boots (Honeymoon at Dude Ranch), heels and flats (still in suits for work).
1994, age 45, Boone, North Carolina, barefoot; ski boots (Ski patrol at Sugar Mountain); hiking boots
2000, age 51, Boone, NC, tennis shoes (work as Census taker), flip flops (earned first cruise)
2009, age 60, Boone, NC, barefoot (author working at computer); kitten heels (to writer group meetings); hiking boots; high heels (on cruise); flip flops.
That was a fun visit to my past. What is your history in shoes?