My college roommate used to call me Imelda. Yes, that Imelda—the one married to a Filipino dictator and who owned 2700 pairs of shoes.
I don’t have 2700 shoes, but I do have just a little bit of a shoe obsession. I think it comes from growing up shoe poor.
My Chinese parents grew up food poor. Mama couldn’t buy roasted sweet potatoes as a snack when all her classmates could, hence her sweet potato obsession. When 8 year-old Baba asked his father, my Ye-Ye, why they only ate twice a day, Ye-Ye felt so bad he took a demotion and moved the family to Australia so they could have 3 squares. Baba loves tripe because all the Australian boys hated it and gave their portions to him. It was the one meal Baba could eat to his heart’s content.
|The quintessential sandal I had to wear, only mine
never had pretty scalloped edges
We weren’t so poor we couldn’t afford shoes. My feet are just so darn narrow that I can’t fit any shoes. As a young child, the only sandals I wore had a buckled strap around the toes and one around the ankles—and then only fit when the nice Liberty House salesman punched extra holes in the leather.
I hated those sandals. I thought they were the ugliest most unprincess-like footwear on the planet. But Mama made me wear them because frankly, they were the only sandals that stayed on my feet.
As a teenager, I realized I could find narrow shoes in the super sale racks of stores, especially in Hawaii, where a life of wearing flip-flops (what we call slippers) and going barefoot results an extra-wide footed population. Hence I began buying the collection of shoes that resulted in my “Imelda” label.
Then I moved to NYC, where you walk all the time and comfort becomes priority. Spike heels just don’t cut it after a block or 2 on the sidewalks of Manhattan.
|Still love the Dansko clog, even if it’s a
Then I had kids. By #3, I could get their shoes on before walking out the door, but never my own. So I converted to mommy clogs. For years I wore nursing shirts, cut my hair to wash and wear short, and wore Mommy clogs and jeans.
Not a pretty sight.
When I realized several years ago that my kids could get their own shoes on their own feet and I could graduate from my quintessential clogs, a new world opened up. The only problem was that in the 15 years between my move to NYC and newfound freedom for footwear, manufacturers stopped making narrow shoes.
I can finally afford them, get them on my feet in the morning and wear them because I’m not walking everywhere and they’ve ceased to exist.
This past weekend was organization week—a part of the family retreat, only a lot less pleasurable with a lot more shrieking. I dusted the bottom of my closet with its jumble of shoes—a job that hasn’t been done in 7 years—and to my shock realized I own about 40 pairs of shoes/sandals/boots/slippers, some of which I’ve worn once or twice.
Many shoes were purchased during a shoe-poor frenzy. Some because they kind of fit and after trying on a bazillion pairs I desperately had to buy something. Some because they cost $8/pair at Talbots Outlet. Some just because they’re narrow and I had to snatch them up while I could.
I’m not proud of it, but Imelda is back.