Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Wednesday, 25 January 2006 - A confession about shoes

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for a confession about shoes.

As I mentioned in a previous entry, I am fasting shoes for a few months (maybe the entire year). My shopping habits must change if I am to shed the "very materialistic person" label tatooed on the foreheads of most Americans. I know that confession is good for the soul. So, here is my story - a sort of lighthearted confession with serious undertones.

I attribute the genesis of my addiction for good shoes to my parents (I take full responsibility for my spending habits). Although they did not have a lot of money to spend on our school wardrobes, my parents always bought my sisters and me expensive, name-brand, high quality shoes for school. My mother told me to buy the best shoes I could afford and to make sure they fit well. She warned that when your feet hurt, your entire body suffers (and she was right).

I didn't always own a lot of shoes. During elementary school, my parents bought me exactly two pairs of shoes each year: in the fall, sturdy oxford-style or saddle shoes made by Stride-Rite or Buster Brown and, in the spring, Keds cotton canvas sneakers (in the early 1960s, no Nike or Reebok or Adidas shoes existed for the common consumer).

I also wore rubber thongs (flip-flops) or, much to my father's chagrin, went barefoot, even in winter (Southern California winters were quite mild). In contrast to his five daughters, Dad always wore shoes with socks no matter the season. As a result, he suffered from chronic and severe athlete's foot. One year, we finally persuaded him to wear sandals during the summer and, voila, no more athlete's foot.

During my undergraduate and graduate years at UCLA, I bought a new pair of Famolare sandals (the ones with the wavy soles) at the beginning of the fall quarter and wore that pair every day. At the end of the summer, I tossed them in the trash (the soles had worn down completely) and bought a new pair for the next year.

My shoe troubles really began when I started working and wanted to wear a designer-look business wardrobe despite my meager salary. So, to save money, I sewed all of my suits, blouses and dresses and bought Ferragamo pumps on sale at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills.

Nearly three decades later, I'm sitting in my Colorado studio - a work-at-home person who now prefers comfort to fashion (note the layers of Capilene and fleece separates, wool socks and Teva boots) while writing on her laptop computer.

But, I'm still a diehard shoe snob. And, you don't have to look far for the evidence:

1. The closet
My closet is brimming with beautiful Italian-made shoes and boots and a few pairs from France and Spain - most in classic styles with a modern twist like pointed or rounded toes or sculpted heels.

2. The rules
First, I buy designer brands at next to nothing prices at consignment stores or on Ebay, so my budget doesn't suffer too much. Second, I set an upper limit on my spending - e.g., $20 for the Cole Haan sandals or $50 for the Jil Sanders mules. Third, I always buy shoes in my size. One acquaintance buys shoes just for the designer label and then tries to make them fit her. What a waste of time and resources. Why buy the shoes if they won't fit me????

3. The tasteless remark
I once made this insensitive remark to a colleague about a pair of shoes I saw in a department store: They were only $69.00 (the tone of my voice implied that the shoes were cheaply made). I now realize that $69 was and still is a lot of money for most people to pay for a pair of shoes. That's why people buy shoes at Goodwill, Target, Payless and KMart. I, on the other hand, will pay $69 for a pair of shoes only if they're Italian-made and the original price was over $250. What a snob!

4. High maintenance
I take really good care of my shoes, even if I never wear them. After purchasing a used pair of designer shoes, I clean them inside and out and polish them carefully so they look and feel new. Then, I take them to Wes, my favorite shoe repairman, for new rubber heels (he only charges $3.00 a pair) and other minor repairs. After the shoes are finally in ready-to-wear condition, I find them a place in my crowded closet where they'll sit until I have a chance to wear them. If I don't wear them within the next year or so, I donate them to my favorite charity thrift store and claim the tax deduction. Since I don't work outside the home and our social activities are usually outdoors-related, I rarely get to wear the stylish pumps and dress boots that I love to buy. That's why I'm fasting shoes for the next few months if not the full year.

5. The husband.
My husband never complains about my shoe collection, although he once called me, Imelda. For the record, I own dozens not thousands of pairs of shoes. I have never owned a pair of shoes made by Manolo Blahnik or Jimmy Choo (although I always look at their new designs). Plus, mine are not made from exotic leathers and fabrics and do not sport real gemstones. And, I never ever pay full retail price.

I do, however, have the potential to rival Imelda given a generous budget, plenty of shopping time and adequate storage space to display the shoes. If that should ever happen, then heaven help us all!

For this blessing, I am grateful.


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