On Shoes

On Shoes

So, my sister and I are extremely vain people. We were discussing this recently. Neither of us are vain enough, for, say, getting our nails done on a weekly basis, or shopping at a mall with regularity. Both of us strive to just be fall-out-of-bed beautiful, because all that TRYING? TRYING is very unattractive.

In case you need High School Shorthand, Kristin was the waify 95-lb. girl in a giant rugby shirt and leggings. I was the bedheady mess in Levis and flannel.

As you age, you can no longer pull off that naturally-gorgeous-just-woke-up-no-make-up thing. You sag, you wrinkle, your hair gets gray. Baggy butchy clothes don’t make you look tousled and sexy but just dumpy. Leggings are something the 14-year-old who babysits your kids wears.

To look at either of us, you wouldn’t guess we obsess over our clothing. I spend 99% of my life in jeans and t-shirts and hoodies and Converse. In the summer I wear skirts and and t-shirts and flip-flops. My sister’s the same, except she has to go work for a living in an office and wear Awful Womany Office Wear. On the occasions that I must present myself to the public, I have a lot of consternation. Like, if I’m going to teach a class, I want to look like I know what’s going on, not like I showed up at The Loft to fix a plumbing problem.

My sister can pull off girly quite well. She used to have a pink bedroom. She wore gold jewelry, even. But I cannot tolerate a lot of frippery and girlishness. When you have your father’s goat-herding physique, you must streamline. Therefore my clothing tends to be dull and boring. Not a lot of whimsical prints or trendy styles. I buy a lot of A-line dresses and white t-shirts.

For this reason, shoes are very important to me. I spend a lot of time hunting for them online and in stores. Not just because of comfort. But because when everything I wear is shapeless and blah, the shoes can tell a different story.

Like – look! Swedish clogs! I’m taller, suddenly!
Ooh, platform slip-ons!
Boots that zip up the back!
Little wedgies with bells on the straps!
Beautiful wooden-heeled Frye sandals that some idiot at Savers priced at $12!

What these shoes say:  See, I’m not a boring old momma in a shapeless A-line dress! I’m fancy! I used to be kind of cool! Boys used to like me! See! It’s not over yet! 

A few weeks ago, I was in the car doing the after school drop-off with this set of sisters we know, Ava and Lucy. One day, they were fighting the whole time and when we dropped them off, Matilda, an only child, was marveling at this. I tried to sell my whole idea of how being an only child is better again, by saying that I used to fight with my sister all the time, too, and felt bad because people said she was prettier than me.

“No offense, Mom,” Matilda said. “But neither you or your sister are that attractive. I mean, you both have GRAY HAIR.”


  • Carrie on Feb 10, 2012 Reply

    God, I hope not. Because there ain’t any more water at that well.

    I mostly teach in the summer. Which is a weird time to be professional – and also I teach teenagers, who have different expectations of professional on top of it. Also, I find teaching to be such sweaty work. I’m always moving around and getting chalk on everything, so I have to feel comfortable. But I don’t want to be so comfortable I look like a slob. Also, I want to look cool. But not like I’m TRYING to look cool. Ah, it’s a pain in the ass.

  • Ela on Feb 09, 2012 Reply

    Was that jab from Matilda a hint of envy that she doesn’t have a sibling to fratch with?

    I have to say, one of the best things about teaching a class online–and generally working ‘behind scenes’ is that I don’t have to worry about clothing. This is Homer, so people worry less anyway, but standing up in front of a class–I’m clueless. I love how you make the shoes a focus. Sometimes I’m like that with scarves, but I know you don’t love those…

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