When did the transition happen from my gorgeous, stylish, incredibly ‘blingy’ shoes to the safe, comfortable, ‘almost’ grandmotherly types? So slowly did this change occur, over a period of years, that I never saw it coming. One day, I opened my closet and the beauties had disappeared. In their places were boxes of black, comfortable, safe walking shoes with various points of entry (slip ons, slide-intos, Velcro closings, and pull-ons)—all providing levels of maximum comfort and all quietly uninteresting, borderline boring. At one time, I was known as the Imelda Marcos of my family and friends (Philippine First Lady 1986-1991 who was supposedly known for having about 3,000 pairs of shoes). “Where is Barbara today?” someone would ask? Jokingly (but not really), and they would respond, “Oh, she must be shoe shopping.”
My shoes once reflected my moods, from bright purples to deep reds, to maroons and grays—all very unusual in style and shiny colors with sequence, buttons, and jewels. They were exciting to put on and I readily sacrificed beauty for comfort for decades. Today, though, I quickly push my size 8 1/2 foot into a respectable safe shoe, not quite what 80-year olds wear, but never again what 20, 30, 40-year-olds choose either. I am in between Easy Spirit, Naturalizer, and SAS, marking the passing of time through my two feet. At times, I look down and see both my mother and mother-in-law’s shoes on my feet. Sigh.
I am just vain enough that I used to buy beautifully one-of-a-kind shoes to make a fashion statement, but not too lost in reality to deny my bunions and deformed baby toes. Still, I sure loved my shoes. I managed to pull off wedges and small heels and still looked like I could ‘pass’ with shoe fashion sense. One day, I realized that even a 2-inch heel made me feel as if I were going to fall off a cliff, with my wobbly ankles and a foot that would collapse on itself every once in a while, always while crossing the street in front of laughing motorists. My wardrobe, thus, is currently filled with British, Swedish, and German names, all purporting comfort. They try to sell ‘modern elegance,’ but I know and the salesmen know (and so do most of the customers who are not in denial) that they are just expensive versions of what grannies wear (without the support hose). I am resigned to the fact that I will never again look great from the ankles down and I am really OK with this—mostly.
I have outfits accessorized with ‘safe’ flat shoes and I acknowledge that my clothes would look even better with two to three more includes beneath my feet. It’s a fleeting thought and, in acceptance, I go on with my day. I love the 5-inch heels worn by 20 and 30-somethings, knowing that even if I were younger, I could not wear them—ever. I have a few friends my age who still wear these amazing high heels and actually find them comfortable. They work, play and even walk across the street in these contraptions. I admire my friends and their feet, knowing I am closer to wearing slippers to the market than wearing these shoes. I have learned to let the longing for such delicious foot fashion go. Actually, I never could wear them, so it’s not as if this part of my life is over. This phase really never started, so it’s is easier to accept what never was.
One exciting fashion trend that I have been able to buy into (literally) is the flip flop craze (I used to call them thongs, but I realize this term is now relegated to a type of undies that I also never wore nor will I). I have ‘fit flops’ (helping me to stand up straight and walk better); flip flops made from a yoga mat (very comfortable); Swedish flip flops, Spanish, and British ones, too. They even make these beach shoes (even worn at fancy parties) with rhinestones. After adjusting to the piece of material, plastic, or leather between my two toes (and dealing with the blisters), these FF’s are about the only trendy shoes that I can partake in and still look like I know I’m alive and walking in 2017.
My reflections on the shoes in my life have helped me to understand that I don’t really care so much for making such a statement anymore or for such shoes, probably because it’s not so exciting to buy another pair of black orthotics (sour grapes, as they say). I have sadly buried my longing to wear heels along with my desire to wear bell-bottom pants and my ability to wear hot pants. Even more important is my gratitude for my feet and my ability to walk. Besides, I can now focus on purses.