Oh, they were stunning. Pale blush silk. Three-inch stiletto heels. A fabulous, flirty bow hugging the back. A work of cobbler artistry. (Are shoemakers still called cobblers, or am I Disney regressing?) Whatever. Add a Manolo red sole and they would have been Carrie Bradshaw shoe closet worthy.
They were heels to die for – or sprain an ankle in.
And that is why they are the shoes I didn’t wear to the wedding.
The ones I wrapped tenderly, regrettably in tissue paper, returning them unscuffed and unsullied to their rightful box.
I bought them to wear to an early autumn wedding, with a rose lace dress. I found a vintage bag and earrings to complete the look. But the foundation – of empires and occasion ensembles – begins, ends and is inspired by – the shoes.
I pulled out my phone often during the weekend affair. “These are the shoes I was going to wear,” I would sigh to those kind enough to listen, as if I could score ‘shoulda-woulda-coulda’ style points.
I showed them to my tween nieces who were doing an admirable job sashaying about in their first pairs of kitten heels, to a couple of bridesmaids at the bar, evidently multiple times to my brother, who finally had enough: “You’ve shown me your shoes three times now. I’m a guy. I’m straight. Find someone else.”
I used to be able to dash about in four-inch, arch- and physics-defying footwear. I could trek from downtown parking to uptown meetings … schlep groceries, tote children, walk the dog – and was still able to bust a move at dance party happy hours. My calves were cords of steel and my metacarpals geisha trained.
Years ago, I was delivering a presentation before a group of clients. During a break, a woman complimented me on my navy pumps. Who doesn’t love a shoe shout-out, right? But then she said the dreaded words that undid all the ‘why thank you!’ feel-goods: “They look so comfortable.”
Comfortable. It sounds stout and sturdy. Boxy and blunt toed. Orthopedic, for heaven’s sake. It didn’t end there, though:
“I have bunions,” she continued. “They look like something I could wear.” We’ve established how I feel about comfortable; but that pales in comparison to my aversion to bunion, which has to be in the running for the most distasteful word in the English language. Dungeon, onion, stun gun — bunion.
She had no idea, I’m sure. No clue that her well-meaning words had instantaneously transformed me (at least the ‘me’ in my mind’s flattering eye) from fashionable to frumpy. From kickass boss lady to Mrs. Doubtfire. In the nanoseconds it took for me to hear, process and lament her off-handed comment, I gained 20 pounds and turned gray, frizzy, drab and hormone-imbalanced.
That, dear reader, is the power of shoes.
A shimmery, right-sized shoe turned Cinderella’s life from pumpkin bumpkin to princess. Dorothy’s ruby red pair rescued her from the clutches of evil monkeys and transported her safely home to Kansas. Brand spanking new back-to-school Keds can make you run faster, jump higher and rule the recess playground.
Shoes can charm or curse. They can elevate or devastate. They can be filled with soul, champagne, lucky pennies or dancing queen dreams. They are what you believe them to be.
So, in some twisted sister way, both the bunion pumps and the unwieldy wedding slippers taught me a lesson.
I vowed I would never wear the blue pumps again, and I didn’t. In fact, I would have gladly taken them off then and there and gifted them to the podiatrically-challenged client.
But never say never. I resorted to comfortable for the wedding. A pair of taupe pumps with nary a bow or flourish, nothing to trip or imperil a hip over. I was able to move, mingle, mazel tov and Cupid Shuffle.
And, like a veteran who’s been through the blisters and foot trenches of war, I nostalgically relived the glory days of the shoes I almost wore.
About the author: Lucinda Trew’s writing has been featured in StorySouth, Medium, The Mighty, Blunt Moms, Little Old Lady Comedy, Boomer Café and other journals. She lives in Charlotte, NC, where she reminisces fondly about footwear and fancy occasions – and will gladly regale you with photos of the pair that got away.