I’ve been thinking a lot about shoes recently and it’s doing my head in.
“Meh”, you think,. “Not a bad thing to think about”. And, to a certain extent, I agree.
I like shoes. I like the way you can buy them whatever size the rest of you feels. And I love the way a new pair of shoes can make you feel on top of the world. In fact I’m a sucker for the lure of new footwear; I buy naughtily-expensive, high-heeled shoes and boots that I imagine I’ll live in – and then they languish in boxes under my bed, shunned in favour of the flat boots and ballet flats I feel make me more invisible. Now, I bring out the heels when the mask needs them, on occasions where look-at-me heels distract from my size and being able to stride along rather than teetering is much admired*.
So back to the point.
The shoes that are haunting me are shoes from the past. Not it a ‘wooooo’, ghostly way, you understand. In an uncomfortable memory-stirring sort of way. Shoes of my childhood. Shoes for feet far bigger than they should be. Shoes, or small boats, more like.
I was a tall child and was pretty much my current adult height by the age of eleven. And I had the feet to match. Not even delicately slim feet. Big, broad podgers of feet that were hard to contain both in terms of length and breadth. Feet that didn’t go unnoticed.
These days children are taller than I remember and it’s all much more normal. But in the 70s and 80s a really tall child was a bit of a freak – and that freak was me. I remember shoe shopping as trailing from one store to another before ending up with the (usually only) pair that fitted. I didn’t choose shoes; shoes chose me. They were never flattering and I had no pride in them.
Here’s what hurt. My feet were the talk of the town. Oh, all right, I exaggerate. But they were the talk of my mother and she talked all over town. It was made abundantly clear to me that I was abnormal and I was made to feel ashamed of their size. It’s taken me many years to realise that that was wrong. That, inadvertently, I was wronged and damaged.
I’m doing my very best not to repeat these mistakes with my girls. My eldest was the same as me – tall young with the feet to match. And yet I scoured the internet for a pair of Barbie clippy-cloppy shoes that were all she wanted for Christmas when she was three and I’ve always paid whatever was necessary to get the shoes she felt good in. She’s a size eight now, aged 16, and totally comfortable with her feet. I think I’ve got that much right.
My heart still hankers for the girly, dainty shoes everyone else had. The pretty sandals. The Clarks ‘in’ shoe of the season. The patent shininess that you just never got in the adult ranges.
And yet the weird thing is, my feet are size six.
Maybe not huge now, but massive in my memory.
*While we’re talking shoes, we’ve a rule in our house (a house full of girls) that heels can only be worn if you can walk in them properly. So it’s a rite of passage: first, low heels are chosen with care and then the lessons begin (and must be mastered to my satisfaction) before they can be worn out in public. I will not have any of my girls being teeterers. In case you’re wondering, it’s all about leaning back a bit and pushing your hips forward. You’re welcome.