It has dawned on me before today, but this morning while vacuuming my bedroom I began to count the pairs of shoes and boots and sandals my wife owns. Without conducting an exhaustive inventory I quickly counted 40 pairs. It’s always wondered me why women seem to need so many shoes. When we were first married, I was shocked at the abundance of female footwear. All my life I had owned three or four pairs of shoes– one casual pair, maybe a dress pair, sports shoes, and another casual pair, if that. I grew up with three brothers. None of us had a shoe obsession. We could not afford such a luxury. So when I first encountered all my bride’s shoes at once in one place, I was horrified. And that was long ago when she had maybe a dozen pairs. Now it feels like Imelda Marcos has immigrated to Pennsylvania.
The truth is that I was simply ignorant. It took years and years and three daughters to educate me. I did not know that a girl/woman buys a pair of cute shoes for a particular outfit, like a pair just for New Year’s Eve. Maybe a pair just for one wedding dress/event or an Easter outfit or a prom. Then there are seasonal adjustments, the ever higher boots as weather gets colder. And who does not like sexy boots? The open toes of spring and summer give way to enclosed shoes in fall. Not to mention fads and fashions. Let’s face it, girls, 40 pairs of shoes is barely covering the bases. I mean, there are flats, kitten heels, pumps, platforms, low heels, and of course high heels in a range of materials and colors. This before considering that sports shoes can be dressy or functional and have to match most zingy outfits. It’s the law.
Meanwhile a man thinks he has winter boots. Check. A pair of athletic shoes. Check. A pair of casuals. Check. A pair of sandals. Check. And a pair of black dress shoes. Check. Beyond that level of coverage is like having 200 television channels, 195 of which you don’t ever watch. To me it feels indulgent to have two pairs of dress black shoes and a pair of brown ones to boot. Three or four pairs of casuals. Good running shoes. Keen sandals for the desert. Hiking boots. Loafers. And more. However, whoa, wait!! come to think of it, my wife has purchased most of these for me. What does this mean? It means that I could have effectively ended the first sentence of this paragraph at “meanwhile a man thinks”. That’s always a mistake.If you think too much, you’ll wind up naked and alone in a park watching pretty women strut by in pretty shoes.
Here’s what’s really weird: Over time I have begun to notice women’s shoes and how they fit a certain look and communicate authority, playfulness, confidence, etc. It still feels unnatural for me to compliment a woman on her cute shoes, but I must admit it’s getting easier. “Oh those are fun!” “How cute!” “OOOhh, stilettos. Dangerous.” These are my semi-gay man words now. What’s happening to me? Perhaps estrogen levels are rising in me with my advanced age. I’ve heard that men become more feminine with age, like cheese we ferment and crumble. Young men are like cheap, oil drenched, stringy mozzarella sticks, but older dudes are dessicated hard Parmesan, strong and fragrant and expensive. Old guys can concede that women’s shoes are wonderful and necessary accessories. They have outlived pretense.
Man does not live by bread or cheese or loafers alone, but on the words of the women in his life. There is something communal and intimate that I see occurring among my daughters and wife and grand daughter when it comes to clothes. It’s a female thing. I rarely discuss clothing choices with my guy friends. Occasionally a guy will tell me he likes my shirt or a tie that is interesting. That’s about it. We don’t go into details about where we bought our accessories or how much we paid. These fashion taboos are guardrails that protect us from crashing over the cliffs of androgynous exposure. I get a bit squeamish when I hear my guy friends say too much about their clothes or offer me fashion pointers. “Thanks, Steve, but I don’t know what to do with that advice.” But women!!! Oohs and ahhs erupt as skirts and blouses and sundresses are swished about for scrutiny and, more likely, approval. “Oh, I love it!! It’s your color, and the fabric is so feminine and delightful!! It feels like heaven.”
I’m sorry. I can’t tell another man how awesome his tweed jacket feels or the spell his burgundy cardigan casts on me. I can’t. It feels like petting sharks at an unregulated Sea World exhibit. Blood will spill and no one will be held accountable. I don’t want to die that way.
On the other hand I believe I could die watching a pair of high heels slip down the sidewalk, listening to the clickety clack, as I stopped to check my heartbeat. Aye Carumba! She is here, stepping out in a catwalk on the concrete. It’s not a fetish; it’s an acquired taste. Yes, it took decades for me to get here, but I made it, Jimmy Choo.