….although I’m not much like the Sarah Jessica Parker character. While I have always considered myself a “Carrie,” I must acknowledge the chasm between us: I don’t care about shoes, high-end fashion, purses, $20 cocktails. It all gives me anxiety. This means I don’t quite fit in New York. I don’t keep up with trends or have ANY sense of personal style. I stick out by being unexceptional.
But today I want to talk about shoes. Shoes as a metaphor. Though not a pair of shoes Carrie Bradshaw would ever be caught dead in.
I bought them in Payless.
I got them a few years ago. I had broken my basic black sandals and needed a replacement goes-with-everything pair of summery shoes. They were less than $10. I probably bought them to take advantage of a buy-one, get-one-half-off discount. They’re flat (flat flat) scaled-up flip-flops, with a muted brown-on-brown animal print pattern on the thong. Sort of a cloth-vinyl hybrid.
I never really liked them.
But I find myself wearing them a lot. A LOT. I went to Thailand for three weeks last year, and I wore them on multiple-hour walking tours of Bangkok, and all around the beaches of Koh Phi Phi (even though I had flip flops). When packing for the ship, I had to narrow down my shoe selection (I own almost as many shoes as a normal, shoe-obsessed girly girl. I just don’t wear any of them.)I brought six pair (for six months!) but once again, these particular sandals were my go-to, save for the gym and working. Every time I stepped off the ship I wore them.
They’re ugly. Not noticeably ugly, but they’re so nondescript, they don’t register with people. I’ve never gotten a single compliment on them.
I’ve worn them across three continents, for some heavy-duty walking, and they’ve never given me blisters. They don’t look like they offer much support, but they’re sturdy. They do, in fact, go with everything: black or brown, dressy or casual. They have gotten drenched in torrential rains, and caked with beachy sands, but they are indestructible.
I’m beginning to look at these shoes as a metaphor for love.
They’re comfortable, they’re reliable. They aren’t exciting. Sometimes I hate them because they make me feel so out-of-step with the world of fashion, but…they’re unyielding. They take my constant city-walking abuse without complaint.
I have sexy strappy sandals, hot high-heeled boots. These shoes make me feel beautiful, they put an extra swish in my step. For about twenty minutes. Until I want to take them off because they hurt my toes, my soles, my back. Sure, I get a little fluttery when I look at them, when I imagine the attention they’ll get me. But then they cause me nothing but pain.
Kind of like men. (Oh yes, I am all-in on this Carrie Bradshaw crap. Bear with me.)
I don’t want you to think I’m cynical. It’s about re-evaluating goals. If I hated my sandals, I wouldn’t wear them everywhere. Lackluster or not, I must kind of love them. Or appreciate them. Or something. And maybe my fantasies about love are the same. I want my life to be all romantic high heels, sexy walks, butterflies in the stomach. But there are always pinched toes, blistered heels, and broken hearts. Maybe I need to accept that love isn’t about romance. It’s about the one who is comfortable, dependable, and always there. Maybe a little bland. Maybe no butterflies. But also no pain.
My fantasies as a little girl were glorious, melodramatic operas of true love. But I have had no candlelight dinners, no unexpected bouquets of roses, no sunset walks on the beach. Sure, those are unoriginal clichés, and yet…when you’ve never had the cliché, it’s easy to fetishize it, the same way many women fetishize shoes. A boy once held my hand in a cab, and I thought it was the beginning of something wonderful. But then he told me he “didn’t feel poetry” with me. After three days! That hit a nerve. I think I’ve always secretly wanted to BE poetry. But maybe I’m not. I’m not Manolo Blahnik. Maybe I’m just Payless.
I feel the hope, the butterflies, whenever I put on my cutest girly shoes for a night out, when I fall in love with someone I think is amazing. But that feeling ends far too quickly, and the pain sets in for much longer. Maybe I have to re-evaluate what I’m looking for.
So what do you think: comfort or romance, reliability or heart-pounding sexiness? Oh, I’m sure you’ll tell me you can have both. Maybe the key is to stop buying cheap, shitty shoes at Payless. But where do you find a partner who will make you feel beautiful and causes no pain?