(Uncool) Shoe Stories

As you all know, I have a passion for shoes. ALL kinds of shoes (okay, minus sneakers and boring flats). Got quite a decent collection. However, not a collection in the sense that I place them on crystal shelves, dust and worship them. I wear every single pair as much as possible. I’m a very practical collector – if you can’t use it, lose it.

But bloopers, gaffes and uncool stories I got plenty.

Still remember my first pair with a bit of a heel, like two inches.

Portici, Italy, I was about thirteen years old, relentlessly begging my parents to allow me to wear heels, since ALL of my friends already did (some since they were ten). Not good for your posture, your feet are still forming, etc, etc. Valid reasons, I know now as a parent, but totally insane when you want to look like a sophisticated, sexy woman when you are barely a teen.

Finally they succumbed, purchasing for me a pair of beige sandals with a strap and that much coveted heel, though a block heel that barely raised me to grown-up height.   Good enough for me, anyway, felt like a million dollars. Till I bumped into my cousin, who was a whole year younger than me, and was showing off a higher heel (probably a three) and much prettier sandals, white strappies with colorful flower appliqués, if I remember right.

Get it? She was a year younger than me (so, twelve) and her heels were higher than mine.   Yeah, I was bummed.

But still, I adored my new summer sandals. I kept a sharp eye on the heel, and as soon as they looked slightly worn, I ran to the neighborhood shoemaker and begged him to fix them ASAP and, please, can you make them a little higher? I probably hit his shop six times that summer!

As the years passed, my heels became higher, thick and thin, summer and winter shoes. Short skirts, serious heels, negotiating the cobble-stone streets of my town, the deep, sudden holes, and the omnipresent dog droppings (no curb your dog in those days, and many strays around). Walking down Via Diaz, one of the main roads in town, sharply downhill in some spots, coming back from school, my hefty books tied together with a cinghia (book strap), feeling pretty and sexy, my long hair enjoying the gentle sea breeze. Approaching the usual group of boys lounging on the muretto  (low wall), before the newsstand where I bought my Nancy Drew mysteries once a month. You know, the usual Italian stuff, boys whistling, calling out- bella, che gambe, fermati, dammi un bacio! Ignoring them of course, as I was taught, nose in the air, proud and superior, oblivious to all the racket.

Till I twist my ankle.   Sharp pain, foot at an odd angle, shoe heel broken. Burning red with embarrassment, I lean over to pick up the detached heel, then limp away slowly, nose still up in the air, but tears of humiliation demanding to escape.

Yeah, not cool at all.

Fast forward some years.   My first visit to the US!  Staying in the NYC suburbs, at a far-removed relative’s house.   Super-excited to take the train to the city, all sorts of emotions bubbling in my heart, so much to see and experience!

In heels of course.   Steep black leather mules, quite comfortable (Yes, ladies who doubt, you can be comfortable in heels), running down the stairs to get breakfast. Or rather, sliding down the stairs, mostly on my bottom, as I slip on the thick carpeting I was not used to.  Screams of alarm from the relatives, sure they would have to rush this newly arrived Italian young cousin to the hospital, with something broken somewhere.  Hey, nothing broke!  The resilience of youth perhaps? But that flight down the stairs is not something that I will easily forget. Terrifying!

A bit clumsy. Yes, I admit it, I was then, and sometimes still today. Though I’m much more aware of my steps these days, since that famous resilience is long gone, and I cherish a good sturdy hand rail.

Fast forward once again.   About to get married.  Living in the US, staying with a relative. A patient young woman who suddenly found herself in charge of organizing my wedding.  We toured the malls, running in and out of stores, shopping for winter clothes, since I had left in Italy most of my wardrobe, for travel reasons.   A hip shop (don’t remember where), music blasting, fabulous outfits on the mannequins. A second floor. Up the sleek spiral staircase we go, I bursting with excitement – look at that dress, oh the leather coat, wow that red skirt!  Touching, coveting, pricing with fingers crossed (didn’t have a credit card then).  Back downstairs.  Yep, on my derrière.  Skidding down the spiral with hardly any grace, another heel bouncing off ahead of me, to meet me at the bottom.  My cousin nowhere to be seen.  Actually, hiding behind clothes racks, mortified.   You ok? Let’s get out of here please, ushering me out, searching for the broken heel, You must get some sensible shoes…

Well, I didn’t get sensible, but a pair of well-built wedges, with no possibility of breaking anything.

It has been quite a while since I’ve plummeted down staircases (thank you God, not something I would recover from easily these days), but my days spent with teeth clenched from shoes that are a little too tight, too steep, slightly wobbly (and a slew of Band-Aids) continue.

Oh yes, so worth it, people.

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