It’s the delicate balance between pleasure and pain, torture and beauty, function and art. No, not sadomasochistic sex or Fifty Shades of Grey . A much more important topic: SHOES!
I spent a sick day at home this week, moping and sneezing. I could have caught up on library books, visited online dating sites to find just my size in mature singles, watched kitten videos, Ken Burn documentaries, YouTube tutorials on how to prime, spackle and grout. But the siren song of fifty-two screens of sale shoes at my favorite shoe website* drew me irresistibly like a magnet. As if hypnotized by Svengali, I was mesmerized.
As a mature single, I care about the statement I make to the world with the clothes and accessories I choose. A certain degree of informed interest in footgear makes sense–shoes are where the rubber meets the road. They’re the interface between our feet and ground, our foundation as biped mammals. Our shoes’ comfort and functionality make all the difference between sprinting through the day or limping, tripping lightly like a zephyr or trudging like a clodhopper. Shoes make a statement about our tastes and moods, change the curve and angle of our stance, literally give us a lift with heel height (no small thing when you’re 4’11” like me).
Shoes can be a form of art: check out Artful Shoes by collage artist Corinne Friedman—in book form and on YouTube—and the permanent shoe collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
But art appreciation fails to explain the irrational, all-consuming lust that I and many other women feel for their footwear, (or the fascination that many men have for certain kinds of footwear on women).
After a broken ankle and two operations on my feet, there are a host of spiky, strappy, and elevated styles that I can no longer wear. This didn’t stop me from drooling over the display of shoes, seduced by each curve, buckle and subtle styling detail. Each style called out to me that I am Imelda Marcos’ sole/soul sister–(the wife of the former dictator of the Philippines owned from 1,200-7,500 pairs of shoes)–and that each and every tantalizing type belonged in my closet and on my feet.**
Tamara Mellon, cofounder of Jimmy Choo Shoes, published her memoir, In My Shoes. Her life follows the plot of any Danielle Steele telenovela—plucky heroine beset by enemies who triumphs in the end—except that this telenovela is for real. Throughout her travails, Mellon’s attention to shoe styling and construction details is as intense as Leonardo’s to the Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s to sculpting the statue of David. Shoes matter.
Walk a mile in my shoes. These boots were made for walkin’. Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes . In Her Shoes, the bestseller by Jennifer Weiner. The Jimmy Choo theme running through Sex and the City which helped to make the actual brand so successful. Or the risqué song, In These Shoes by Kristy MacColl . Shoes are a theme that runs through women’s lives.
“So what makes a shoe sexy?,” Mellon asks on page 63 of her memoir. “I’m told that the nerve endings for the genitals and the foot are adjacent in the brain, which is why a little cell migration is capable of giving people all too great a passion for feet and for shoes.” Well, that certainly explains it. And why I was approached in my youth by a photographer who wanted to take pictures of my petite feet in high heels and fondle my footwear. (His day job was photographing corpses and crime scenes for the local police. I passed).
Mature single women, keep up your Yoga practice so you can always touch your toes, as well as keep on your toes. According to one study, you can identify the personality type of every new romantic prospect just by looking at his shoes.
Your coffee date may wonder why you’re making his acquaintance by performing downward facing dog, a position that lifts your derriere into the air. This could lead to misunderstandings. But you’ll have his measure as soon as you study his footwear. Think of all the time it will save—once you assign each romantic prospect to his proper category based on shoe science, you don’t have to memorize his profile, engage in conversation, or gaze at his incipient potbelly. It’s a form of speed dating for the fleet of foot.
But will my own feet fascinate him if he’s checking out my footwear in return? Now that I’m a woman of a certain age, I can’t comfortably wear stiletto heels like lethal weapons for La Femme Nikita and other female assassins. S & M footwear styles are a thing of the past. Is it all over for me—high heels, dating, sexual attraction? Am I fated to show up at the ball like Cinderella, but in Birkenstocks instead of glass slippers? Am I now a Goody Two Shoes? My daughter, who is prone to yanking up my décolletage, once forbade me to leave the house wearing therapeutic SAS shoes. At a recent shoe sale, a friend gazed unhappily at comfortable shoes that I found oddly attractive. “So orthopedic-looking,” she sighed.
I continued to muse on these issues as I studied each new pair of shoes that appeared with more attention to detail than I give my tax returns. My feet have seen a lot of mileage, I thought. It’s been a long and winding road. I may still dream about being swept off my feet, but aren’t I old enough to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground?
Then a radical idea occurred to me. I’ve fallen in love with men and twisted myself into a pretzel to fit into their lifestyle and match their expectations—their goals, tastes, style. Now it’s time to find a partner who fits me—a relationship I can slip into that’s just my size, that won’t rub blisters on my soul and leave me bruised with more calluses on my heart. If the shoe fits, wear it.
* My favorite shoe site is www.footwearetc.com. (I’m not being paid for this endorsement, sadly).
** On your next sick day, check out this witty article on Fashion Institute’s Shoe Obsession
exhibit in Psychology Today and the photographs of surreal shoes—a cross between shoe art and shoe porn.