This was originally written in September of 2003. I think it's worth reposting.
Okay, let me say right now, that this essay will deal with women and generalities. While I know that it is impossible for ALL women to love shoes, it is a common idea that MOST women love shoes. It is on that platform that some of my remarks today will be made.
I am one of those women who love shoes. I especially love black shoes. I think I am safe in saying that most women have more than one black pair of shoes and really couldn’t part with any of them. At this time, I own over seven pairs of black shoes; each has their own special place and purpose in my closet. If you could love shoes like children, then sometimes I do.
Speaking of children, my nearly-nine-year-old daughter is discovering shoes. Her feet are on the brink of fitting into Women’s sizes. She is finding out what her shoe personality is, as the shoes in her size go from decidedly little girl sandals and mary janes to shoes with heels (to get the proper emphasis, you should say the word “heels” in hushed and reverent tones…as she does). This new stage of her life is fun for me; we are bonding over shoes. We were shopping in Goodwill the other day (my favorite place to find shoes, as I almost always walk away from the store with a new pair of $80 shoes for about six bucks) when I asked her to point out what kind of shoes she liked. Oh the response I got! She started pulling a pair of shoes off of the rack. The first pair was a little strappy sandal, more girly than grown-up, with a chunky 1-inch heel. “These are nice” she said, but I could tell she was still in what she felt was safe territory—answering mom with what she thought I wanted to hear. “Yes,” I answered, “but they are your size right now, and you don’t really need them.” She took this statement for what it was—permission to find what she liked, not what I wanted her to like. Immediately she began grabbing shoes—a high-heeled wedge here, a colorful spiky heel there, the occasional purple mule, and landed finally on a two-strap platform slide—black chunky heels, leopard print straps. These shoes were somewhere between trendy and trampy. “Oh!” she exclaimed, “I love these!” Wouldn’t you know that they fit perfectly? She wore them around the store, and all I could do was smile at her, knowing that she was too young to know that high heels hurt after awhile. Even though I didn’t really like her choice of shoes, I couldn’t help but enjoy her youthful enthusiasm about growing up.
That’s when I realized that shoes have become a female ritual in our modern non-ritualistic society. Gone are the days when you knew a girl was becoming a woman because she could now wear her hair up. Gone are the debutante balls, the cotillions, and the change from pedal pushers to shirt dresses. Instead, girls today get their first pair of heels. Heels are grown-up shoes for grown-up girls. They are a tangible proof of maturity, an unmistakable sign of adulthood.
I eventually talked my daughter into a different pair of shoes. We bought shoes that were appropriate for a girl nearly nine—a girl who is somewhere between little girl and grown-up. A pair of Doc Martins (remember, $80 shoes for six bucks…)—a great pair of shoes with a chunky, platform-like heel and mary jane straps. Shoes that were tough, yet feminine. Of course they were black.
And that’s the other side.