Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m what some people might call severely fashion-challenged. When it comes to discussing clothing, unless the words “Gerard Butler” and “kilt” are brought into the conversation pretty darn quick, you’ve lost me. What does this have to do with shoemakers, you might ask?
Well next week I’m attending the annual meeting of the Romance Writers of America. It’s an opportunity to network with agents and editors, and meet some of my virtual friends in person, finally. It’s also my chance to brush elbows with some of my favorite authors ever. (Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, are you paying attention? I particularly want to fangrl squee over you two. Please?)
But almost the moment I registered for the event, I realized the implications: I could no longer avoid the wardrobe adjustment for which my daughter has been lobbying for years.
Even if she hadn’t been relentless, FaceBook would certainly have made sure I got the message. For weeks now, virtually all I have read about is clothing, mani- and pedicures, eyebrow threading, body shape… Basically, name any topic that affects a woman’s physical appeal, and I can guarantee you that someone going to Nationals waxed eloquent on the subject.
So fine. Why resist, right? I know when I’m beat. I sallied forth to the stores, armed with my Mastercard and perhaps a modicum of excitement. I even had some luck. 🙂
I found a simple black sheath dress, a floaty blue top, some crisp dress pants that could be titled “Remembrance of Waistlines Past”. I even located a purse that was acceptable to the female offspring, although she only grudgingly allowed me my long strap. (That’s so I can sling it across my chest, Rambo-style, and keep both hands simultaneously free.)
Success. Victory. Party time. Until I remembered The Shoes.
For unlike some dainty-footed people of my acquaintance, I hate shoe shopping. Yes, I will state it again for those of you convinced I made a typo: I. Hate. Shoe. Shopping.
You see, I am a woman of a certain shoe size. Eleven, to be precise. And now that I have reached the stage where I can embrace that number — nay, even say it with pride! — I would like the world’s shoe manufacturers to return the favor. What I mean, specifically, is that I’d like to be able to walk into any shoe store and have a reasonable expectation of finding something to buy. I don’t ask for a lot. Just comfort, a style that befits my age, and quality.
Notice I didn’t put price anywhere in that mix? That’s because it will be challenge enough to fulfill my first three criteria. A limited budget would mean certain defeat.
Why is it so hard to fill a reasonable requirement?
Well, I have my theories. I think we’re dealing with an unexorcised ghost of patriarchal cultures, in which tiny feet were successfully equated with both pliability and a woman’s inherent value. That, in turn, permitted certain forms of feminine subjugation. (If you’re not familiar with it, you really need to learn about the repulsive practice of foot binding. It only ended only after 4.5 billion women were transformed into tottering, dependent females. )
If you doubt that paradigm still exists today, then look at the story of Cinderella, where it is the pure and gentle-hearted maiden who captures the heart of the prince evermore. (And with it, lifelong security.) Meanwhile, her demanding bitch of a stepsister is rejected. And what is the symbolic means by which their worth is measured? Shoe size.
I surfed the Internet for some photos of Cinderella stories, and look at these. I assure you, they’re only representative of what you can find on the web. The stepsister is often portrayed as transgendered, if not actually played by a male:
And this one:
I’ll be the first to admit I’m probably blowing this all out of proportion. There’s probably no unconscious scripting going on, no cultural bias against Amazonian women with their strength and self-sufficiency. Shoe manufacturers are simply unaware of their true market because of people like me, who have coped by silently shopping in the men’s section.
But if ignorance be the cause, then let’s change that right now. Listen up, Mr. Shoemaker Man! This is the new Millennium. The people of North America have been consuming a high protein diet for nigh on twenty years. We’re taller, wider, and bigger-footed than your outdated bell-shaped curves imply. So how about removing your head from your posterior and making quality footwear in the pontoon size, ‘kay? And while you’re at it, move my “special” section out of the dingy back corner and into the bright light of day. Big shoes are not porn. They don’t deserve to be treated as such.
Okay. That off my chest, let’s get back to my shopping expeditions and their results. I am happy to report that after six stores and three shopping trips, I finally found two pairs of shoes that both fit and are comfortable. Style? Hahahahaha!
One’s a pair of granny shoes I plan to wear with my pants. I’m not in love with them, but they’re still more feminine than what was available in the men’s section.
I can just see it now. Double RITA-award nominee Joanna Bourne takes to the podium for an acceptance speech. She’s teary, overwhelmed. She unfurls the paper clutched in her hands because she can scarcely remember her agent’s and editor’s names. She takes a sip of water to compose her thoughts and when finally ready, looks out over the crowd. Only to be blinded by the light reflected from my shoes.
Her speech is a rambling mess and everyone knows it’s my fault, so that a security guard approaches me.
“Please keep your snowshoes — uh, shoes– under the table, ma’am, or I’ll have to ask you to leave”. Everyone’s staring, my cheeks are crimson…
You see? That’s why the shoe manufacturers need to get their act together. I don’t want to be a RWA pariah even before I’m published. I want to be like my friend Stephanie at “What a Cool Idea”, where she actually enjoys the process of dressing up her feet, and even saves money in the process.
Is that too much to ask?