By Megan Robb
The notion that all women go absolutely insane over shoes is something that both annoys and fascinates me. I’d like to pretend that it doesn’t exist, but my TV tells me otherwise. It’s not just Sex and the City. It’s on The People’s Court, where a woman sued her landlord for throwing out the designer shoes she left in a garbage bag in the hallway and it was revealed that she was living in Section 8 housing. It’s on CNBC’s interesting but always unsatisfying reality show Princess, where just once I’d like to see one of the women who live outside their means fail to learn their lesson. (It’s not entertainment without schadenfreude, in my opinion).
It’s in TV commercials as well–and the notion of women enduring pain for their pretty shoes goes way back.
There’s a theory that Cinderella’s glass slippers were the product of a mistranslation of the French; the word for glass is similar to that of a type of fur similar to ermine. Yet no one questioned it for centuries because it was perfectly plausible that a woman would wear undoubtedly painful glass slippers for the sake of magical fashion. In the Grimm version, one of her stepsisters cuts off one of her toes just so she could fit in the glass slipper. Hans Christian Andersen, the man whose fairy tales make the Grimms’ look like Disney’s, wrote the ultimate cautionary tale of loving shoes too much. In The Red Shoes, a little girl loves dancing in her red shoes so much that she wears them everywhere, including in church, which is very improper.
The shoes get possessed by Satan or something and they get permanently bonded to her feet. Her feet start dancing all by themselves, all of the time. She ends up feeling such excruciating pain that she begs an executioner to chop off her feet. Oh, but it doesn’t end there. While the little girl is hobbling back to the church, she notices her disembodied feet following her around. Meanwhile, the church people refuse to let her in because according to them, she hasn’t repented enough. Finally, after years and years of suffering, the no-longer-little girl is brought into the church by an angel–she’s so happy that she dies on the spot. The end.
Even that feel-good fable couldn’t stop the shoe obsession. I would love to say that it has no basis in reality, but last weekend, I bought a new pair of shoes and it really made me happy. The only pair of casual shoes I wore for the past year were the ones I wore while working as a cashier at a store that required black shoes. I wore them every day whether I was at work or not.
They saw me through the holiday rush. While I’m grateful to the store for hiring me at a time when no one else would, I didn’t get a B.A. in Cash Wrap Arts with a minor in Explaining Coupons. So when I finally got a more professional job, the shoes were relegated to weekends. What I lovingly called the Cashier Clodhoppers weren’t worn to pieces, but they stank. When you can smell your shoes from across the room, that’s bad. When you can smell your shoes while sitting at your desk at work and you’re wondering if your co-workers notice, that’s also bad.
It was time to let go. I got some new ones, threw the old ones in a bag, and unceremoniously flung them into the dumpster. It was a relief. The Stink of Post-College Career Failure was gone. I now know the power of new and beautiful shoes. Now I walk proudly and comfortably in my Converse-knockoff sneakers. I could wear them so often that you may have to cut them off me.
Contributing writer Megan Robb is a writer, consultant and editor living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her articles can be found at divot.com, wordhusterink.com, and cracked.com, as well as her personal website, megan-robb-writer.webs.com