A friend mentioned last night that she hates shoes.
She might as well have said she hates diamonds or pearls, the creamy comfort of mac and cheese or the bracing sip of fresh-squeezed lemonade, lazy summer afternoons or visits from Santa Claus.
What woman HATES shoes? (Especially one sporting the black suede flats she was wearing; their gold circular buckles were divine.)
Her comments came just days after a gaggle of Jazzercisers were whiling away the time before class talking about the shoes they’ve loved. One woman recounted the amazing footwear of a recent bride — and how they were SOOOOOO terrific that even on the altar the blushing one extended her legs just so, so everyone in church could admire them.
My own nuptial footwear was a thing of beauty — ivory satin pumps decorated with delicate sprays of silk flowers, their centers dotted with pearls.
Those wedding pumps were just two in a long line of milestone pairs of happy feet.
I’ve loved shoes since I could play dress-up in my mothers pumps, having been taken with a storybook character who cherished a pair of red dress-up shoes. Of course, Cinderella’s glass slipper sealed the deal.
Slingbacks, peeptoes, pumps, slides, boots, mules, kitten heels and stilettos — I love them all.
In fact, when I stop to think about it, I can map my life’s high points by the shoes I wore.
School days in lace-up, suede Buster Browns, complete with gum soles that wouldn’t scuff the gymnasium floor, natch.
Church-going Sundays in black patent leather mary janes, the soles of which I’d scuffed on the driveway.
Easter Sunday in strappy white sandals.
Summer in Ked’s — red or blue, but thanks to Mom, almost never white ones.
I can remember my first “big girl” slip-ons, and how my mother worried that without a strap to hold them on, I’d walk out of them. (I don’t remember doing so, but you can bet that if I had, I kept that information to myself.)
The natural canvas wedges I wore for sixth-grade graduation were the perfect way to show off the dress Mom sewed for me.
Middle school brought wooden clogs; a terrific pair of dark leather, peep-toe sandals with wooden heels that I wish I had; and navy sandals that completed my “Dolly Parton” costume in the ninth-grade spring musical (best if you don’t ask).
In high school, I was overjoyed to own my first pair of Candie’s — beige and worn until the heel was a nub. They were a nice foil to the black lace-up shoes I had to spit-shine weekly for marching band performances.
You can imagine the shoe-envy I had upon seeing my friend, Jacquie’s, closet in college. She had shoes in EVERY color ever manufactured, including mint-green. And in the way we all did in the 1980s, she matched each pair perfectly to whatever else she was wearing.
But I didn’t know true shoe envy until I worked for several years with Camilla. She owns an incredible wardrobe of shoes, one pair more terrific than the next. I couldn’t wait each morning to see what she’d be wearing. And she who finally freed me from the old, tired ’80s matchy-matchy rut I’d fallen into.
Now I go not just for cool styles, but fun colors, and I’m not afraid to top an all-black ensemble with a shock of pink.
It’s no easy task. I wear a size 5, which makes shoe-shopping something of a treasure hunt. So when I find a pair that makes me do a happy dance, I snap them up.
And although I spend a lot of time rockin’ clogs or other casual footwear these days, my shoe collection remains front and center in the closet. Unless Catherine is trying to borrow them — we wear the same size and I now justify shoe purchases for her partly based on whether I can share them.
My favorites are the 3-inch pink slides with their frilly shock of pink and white decorations on the toe.
The 3.5-inch black suede Joan and David booties.
The brown suede booties with a stacked wooden heel ($7 at the Bass outlet!).
And the wine-colored patent leather peeptoes whose ankle straps are fastened with antiqued nickel buckles.
Can’t leave out the 4-inch gray herringbone pumps with their black satin bows.