Friday, May 19, 2006

The Importance of Being Well Shod

I've been thinking much about shoes lately because I've just returned from a trip to Spain -- for which I packed only one pair of stylish, closed-toe, all purpose, all terrain shoes -- to a closet full of little pieces of my life, impractical things called heels on which I tread through many successes, failures and a some kind of wonderful mundane in between.

manola's shoe closet

I own forty-something pairs of shoes, most of them high heels, the quantity approaching my age, although I still have a few years of experience left before the number of shoes in my closet matches the years I mark in this life.

I know women who pay no mind to shoes, dear friends of mine who call me Imelda Marcos on a good day, women who mark their lives by other means -- husbands, children, lovers and jobs -- who are perfectly content with a pair of flip flops to get them through life.

And that's commendable; to each her own. But I've dispensed with husbands, children, lovers and jobs -- only to find myself recalling the past by pairs of shoes.

Shoes are works of art. Sometimes better to look at than to wear and in the wearing, like Cinderella's slipper, but not some magical hocus-pocus transformation. Oh no, you have to earn the pumpkin-turned-limo. Becoming something other than the dim reality of your body, transforming yourself into, stepping into a work of art called your life. The grand architecture of self, the very core, pillar and foundation of being an ambulatory creature, much more durable than rags, and more important besides. The only means of putting yourself together and moving -- moving on, moving forward, putting it all behind -- taking that big step into the unknown when you had no ambition other than staying in bed, ailing a broken spirit.

Walking in a pair of heels and walking well is something most take for granted. Those of us who choose vanity over comfort know the challenge: if you notice I'm wearing heels, you've noticed too much. Even the most statuesque Vogue cover model will fall to pieces if she can't manage the walk. Heels brings grace, eloquence and elegance to the mundane schlepping, trekking and hauling of everyday life. I might have hips, but I've also got heels -- oh and the balls, do I ever -- to walk as silky smooth as my skin. I'll traipse right by you and you'll wonder what flower just bloomed.

Walking well in a pair of heels is not only an art, but the most comforting and empowering affirmation that each step is girl -- not interrupted -- but flourishing. I am woman through and through. I am me from head to toe and from flank to shank, specifically. Talking the talk, walking the walk, writing the words, speaking my truth -- but always, always well shod. Always gliding, slick and smooth, riding out the turbulence of life in a favorite pair of heels. This aint your skinny scare-crow cat walk model walk, baby. This is Charlotte Bronte and Virginia Wolf giving up the saint, ok? This is your real woman living the grind managing to catch your eye because she's pirouetted gracefully across the room, against all odds. She's caught your eye precisely because she flitted by unnoticed. The heels lend confidence. If I can walk this way, I'll live this way and give me a kiss, if I'll let you. I'll drink that cosmo straight on and cross my legs on the bar stool knowing exactly who I am because my heels are faithful companions.

I cannot imagine a life without heels. Somewhere in the struggle, shoes tell me it's time to get up and move on, in style, arch lifted and chin high and proud.

manola's closet

•The shoes I wore to my nephew's wedding, which always remind me of how Mr. Thinks He's Huge broke my heart, but damn it, as I live and breathe, I will wear those beautiful cyan heels again and with pride, walking hand in hand with a man truly worthy of my love.

•The shoes I didn't wear when, years ago, just after my high school sweetheart, who was then a gourmet chef in training, had just rented his first apartment. "Maria, hand me the thyme," he requested. "It's the lid marked with a T." But I couldn't see it, because at six-foot-one, he had failed to note that at five-foot-three, I wouldn't be able to see the top of the jar unless I was wearing heels. A love long lost still brings a smile to my lips and the scent of olive oil and onions to life.

•The pair of flats I wore to my first trip to Spain, just slightly ragged at the edges from walking on cobblestones, still bearing scuff marks from the dry terrain of the land where Don Quixote fought imaginary windmills. My feet shook after September 11 - - witnessed from a TV screen in Segovia, where Queen Isabela and King Ferdinand bade farewell to Columbus.

cute baby shoes

•And most importantly, the pair of pink baby shoes I brought at a thrift shop for two dollars, because I thought that if ever I had a daughter, she'd appreciate and be proud of stepping forth in style against all adversity, just like her mother. These little somethings send a message to a daughter I might never know:

". . . if only at the time you'd know all the steps you're going to have to take, all the shoes you're going to have to fill, the least thing, those little problems called life, men, careers, children, life ... little girl, at least do it beautifully, well shod and with grace. Your life, your shoes -- make it all a work of art. Tread light and proud ... put your foot down when you need to ... and know that you will inherit the earth, as well as a closet full of gorgeous size 8 heels."


N said...

I have no idea why I'm crying now!

Wonderful post, Manola... and it's reminded me of how much I loved my velvet platform heels that I wore for my first teenage disco... *sighs* I needed that. :)

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a story I heard once.....

Women can never be as romantic as men. I shall explain why.

When Men meet Woman you will here Men say things like:

'I have met a woman and she has blown me away.'

'My life isn't worth anything if I can't be with her.'

'I have a house, a car, a job it all means nothing without her'

Now this is how women feel about shoes.............

Maria de los Angeles said...

But Stevie, just wait until I fall in love someday and see how I'll write about my man! :-)

Late Bloomer said...

Watch Out! Manola "Marcos" is only a shoe store salesman away. LOL. I came to you through my bloglines account == "girlontech" mentioned you with hotlink. Just wanted you to know.

Tere said...

Awesome. Love your shoes! I'm a total shoe whore, tempered lately only by the tough decision to get a on a strict budget and pay everything off. Ugh.

"Walking in a pair of heels and walking well is something most take for granted." - So true. I can admit I have no grace on heels, but damnit, I'll wear them anyway. But not to run errands. I've almost broken my ankles too many times that way.

Maria de los Angeles said...

Tere, I am so happy to have found a compaƱera shoe ho! Woman, if you like 'em, wear 'em!

Wide Lawns said...

I too, have a shoe addiction, and have had long time, unrequited crushes on Renee Caovilla and Giusseppe Zanotti. I feel a bit more validated now. Thank you Manola. And wow, you have some really cute readers!

Anonymous said...


My comment is funnier when you say it rather than write it - I shall remember tat before I comment in future.

I look forward to reading about your love interest - everyone deserves it and especially people like you x


Tere said...

I just remembered that the first game we played at my bridal shower was "guess how many pairs of shoes Tere owns," which my mother came up with because she thought it was both funny and sick. She had counted about 52 pairs, but didn't realize I had like another 10 under the bed.

Anonymous said...

I'm a guy -- even have papers -- and at one point I owned about 50 pair of shoes, including two pair of Keds high-cut sneakers (size 12), one red the other purple, still virgin in their boxes from when I was in high school last century.

The ironic thing here is I hate wearing shoes, and go about barefoot all the time even when mowing the lawn, driving, and often at work.

Women's shoes have an entirely different function than men's. Only thing they have in common is they're both worn on feet. I'm not sure most men understand this, and in my entire life, I don't recall a single conversation among men regarding shoes like this one. Tennis racquets, cars, beer, sure. But shoes? Next question.