Tag: History

Topic: What gives with women’s shoes?

Cindy Thinks

Ally Thinks

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it…but when I watch the commercials for DSW my heart begins to race and I find it a bit difficult to breath.  I don’t know if it’s that jazzy/Latin style music they play, or the flashing of various styles of shoes appearing on my TV screen.  But I truly begin to hyperventilate.

It’s not something I’m proud of.

Maybe I’m sick.

Maybe I’ve developed low blood pressure due to shoe intoxication.

I don’t know…and I don’t care.  I just want to rush out to DSW (or any other store selling shoes) and see what magical shoe wants to jump off the shelf into my arms for that day.

But that is now…and it’s important to know that I wasn’t always so excited about shoes.  When I was much younger, I cared about boys, not shoes (I had no idea at the time how incredibly linked the two were), and…I didn’t do outfits.  I did jeans and T-shirts and usually grabbed whatever shoes were closest to the front of my closet so that I didn’t have to exert much energy to find them when running out the door.

Then I got a job.

And, I began to interact with people who seemed to get up in the morning and put their clothes on in a “meaningful way”…including their shoes.

I was fascinated.

I remember shopping for my first grown-up work clothes in catalogs such as Newport News and Spiegel and they would show brightly colored two piece suits with matching colored high heel “pumps.”*  A turquoise suit with turquoise pumps…a peach suit with peach pumps.  It was a virtual sherbet sundae of working woman clothing…and I couldn’t wait to eat it up.

(For those who are unfamiliar with the classic “pump” style…it is a simple design that has endured over decades, promising to elongate the leg, slim down even the thickest of ankles, and guarantee any number of foot ailments due to years of squeezing five toes into a narrow pointed section of leather at the bottom of a 45 degree angle.)

I quickly learned that shoes came in other styles besides turquoise or peach colored pumps and couldn’t seem to get enough shoes into my life (or into my closet).  I started buying shoes in every combination of shapes, heel heights and colors.  Some worked.  Some didn’t.  But through it all, I began to develop a knack for figuring out which style of shoe would best compliment each piece of clothing in my close and how to build an “outfit” using shoes as the anchor piece.

I was in heaven!  I was struttin’ down the street in classic loafers with rolled up jeans, or wowing business associates with subtle yet classy pumps (no more turquoise for this lady!) or tempting my man to take me out (and back home for a “lovely” night) with a pair of drop dead stilettos that made my legs look like they came out of my shoulders.

Each pair of shoes had a specific purpose that was expressly stated when combined with the appropriate outfit.  As I walked into a room, you would instantly know what I was saying…like,  “take me seriously at work” -or “I may be a mom, but I’m still a sexy momma!” – or – “let’s walk on dirt”…you get the idea.

It was a great system and I loved the challenge of figuring out what shoe would best express the purpose at hand.

And then…I developed bunions.

On both feet.

And had to stop wearing 99% of the shoes in my closet.

I experienced my first ever serious shoe slump.  Following surgery on both feet at the same time, I was relegated to a pair of large, clunky, foam filled, Velcro closing, open toed “bunion boots”…for 6 WEEKS!

As I sunk into a deep shoe withdrawal depression, my doctor explained that at the end of the 6 weeks, I should have at the ready, a pair of …(it’s hard for me to say these words) … “sensible shoes.”

I had no idea what he was talking about.  It took me the full 6 weeks to figure it out.  Finally, I found a pair of shoes I could walk comfortably in for the next year.

And, they were kind of cute.

No…not really.

They were wide, and brown, and flat and boring.  But they didn’t hurt.

It took 12 months, 3 weeks and 4 days before I was able to get my feet into a new cute shoe.

You would think that during this time (including the years of pain leading up to the bunions and resulting surgery) I would have been cured of my serious shoe addiction.  But no.

Instead, it taught me an important lesson…that with both patience and perseverance, I could search out new styles, heel heights and colors that could still be DROP DEAD perfect, but…with a bit of moderation (that would mean no more 4″ heels), they didn’t actually have to cause any more bodily harm.

I WAS FREE AGAIN!  Free to once again start buying cute (and sometimes still comfortable) shoes.  Free to re-embrace the challenge of building great outfits while allowing my shoes to state the purpose of my day as I walked into a room.

And free to let the joy and excitement creep back into my life as a new DSW commercial aired on TV.

I have a love/hate relationship with shoes.

I love cute shoes.  Pretty shoes.  Ridiculous shoes in ridiculous colors with ridiculous pointy toes that cost a ridiculous amount of money.

I love to put them on and look at them on my feet, see how they peek out underneath extra long skinny jeans, make my extra large feet look tiny.

I love to paint my toenails a pretty pink and see how cute they look against my favorite pair of black strappy sandals.

I love shoes with heels that are 3-inches, I love wedges, and I love adorable flats in fun colors and patterns.

The love stops, though, when I actually have to stand up in those ridiculous shoes and, you know, walk somewhere.  Suddenly, those adorable shoes with the pointy toes go from things of beauty to horrible torture devices.

When I was a kid I always thought I’d grow up and be able to walk in heels.  I’d hit a certain age and it would be easy.  It’s in my genes, for god’s sake!  But alas, here I am, 25, an “adult”, and I still look like some disabled duck waddling around when I put heels on. I don’t look like some confident, sexy woman who could strut around New York City with Sarah Jessica Parker.

I blame this on the fact that I outgrew my mom’s shoe size at a very early age.  When I could fit into her size 7 high heels, I had no interest in shoes.  By the time I wanted to practice walking in pretty shoes like my mom wore, I couldn’t cram my size 9 feet into them.  I can only assume that I missed some vital point in my adolescence that has left me lacking in this department of my “womanhood”.

(Though, now that I think about it, it’s not a skill exclusive to women.  Have you seen “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” recently?  Tim Curry dancing in those stilettos puts me – hell, most women – to serious shame.)

I try to be pickier about what shoes I purchase.  (Not having a steady income really helps with that.)  I try really hard not to get shoes that are even slightly uncomfortable when I try them on in the store.

(Sadly, I totally still fail.)

Part of me wants to say “fuck it” to all of the annoying and uncomfortable shoes in my closet.  “Screw you” to the ones that gave me blisters that required me to shell out 4 bucks for 3 Band-Aids at the hotel gift shop while on a trip earlier this year.  “See ya” to the ones that caused me to sit on the side of the bathtub, weeping after an evening out, pouring warm water over my sore feet.

But, alas, I can’t let go.  They sit there, strewn across the floor of my closet, hanging on the back of my bedroom door in one of those organizer things from Target, or underneath my bed.  They stare at me, and I just can’t get rid of them.  Yes, they hurt, but that incredibly irrational voice in my head says “But they’re SO PRETTY!!”.

(Yes, that voice sounds a lot like my mother.)

So I save those shoes until I forget how bad they’ve hurt me.  I save them because at some point I’ll put on some clothes and realize that those devil shoes are required to make the “perfect outfit”.

When all is said and done, it’s tough for me to decide what my philosophy is when it comes to shoes.  Either life is too short to wear shoes that cause you pain, or life is too short to wear ugly shoes.

That voice in my head (Hi mom!) tends to scream the latter at me.

Topic: Do you believe that each of us has a True Love or Soul Mate out there?

Cindy Thinks

Ally Thinks

Yes I believe in True Love!  And, Yes!  I believe that we all have a Soul Mate…or two…or more, out there…somewhere.

Inherent in the idea of A True Love or A Soul Mate however, is the idea that we must be limited to having only one love or mate in our lives.  But I believe if we’re lucky, we can have many different loves over the course of our lifetimes.

I’ve been truly lucky and have fallen in love several times over my 50+ years.  My first was a long term relationship in high school that I was convinced was “it”.  And then we broke up.  Then I found the “man of my dreams” when I was a freshman in college.   And then we broke up.  Then, in my Senior year of college, I met the “man who would become my husband” (Brian).  And yep…we too broke up (I guess they call that a divorce).  And now…I’m in love again (with Matthew).

Each time it’s been True Love.  Each time he’s been my Soul Mate.

And just because none of them lasted forever, doesn’t lessen the love I had/have for each.

Maybe that makes me a slut. (?)

Or just really really lucky.

We live in a society that values monogamy.  We expect that everyone will find their “one true love.”  We strive to find that one person who will “complete us.”  We applaud couples who stay together for their entire adult lives and we want that for ourselves…and for our children.

And I always wanted that for me.  When I was young(er), I believed there was one man out there who had the secret recipe to make me happy.  He would join with me and together, we would become “one.”  One perfect couple.  One True Love.

But then I realized…over time…through these relationships, that no one person could make me happy.  I kinda had to do that for myself.  No one could complete me.  I kinda had to do that for myself.  And nothing, and no one…was the end all.

But that didn’t mean I couldn’t find/have True Love.  And, that didn’t mean that I couldn’t be in a single committed relationship…at a time.  I am loyal and true and committed to each of my men (I sound like a girl scout…or a dog), while I’m in a relationship with them.  But when that relationship ends…I move on.  I know that sounds kind of cold and uncaring…but it isn’t.  I feel nothing but warmth and caring for those I have loved in my life.

When you get married you’re basically telling everyone that you’ve found your “ultimate” True Love.  And when I got married I felt that was true for me.  I fell completely and totally in love with Brian.  He was my Soul Mate.  We had the same values.  We had fun together.  We were…compatible.

And quite frankly, he was the man I chose to make babies with (and women are the ones that make that choice in our species)…so we got married and raised two incredible children together.

And then, twenty five years later…we got divorced.  Did I think I’d ever get divorced?  Hell no!  IT NEVER CROSSED MY MIND.  Until we stopped appreciating each other.   Funny thing is, since we broke off our marriage, we’ve become loving, caring friends again, and quite frankly…more appreciative of each other now, than we were during the last years of our marriage.

I think our marriage just ran its course.  It was time for our relationship to evolve into something more meaningful for the next phase of our lives.   But I realize just how unique we are.  Marriages are supposed to end.  Angrily.  No friendship.  No evolution.  Just end.

But I didn’t believe that was necessary.

I didn’t believe that we could have so much love for each other at one time in our lives, and then have it all go away with nothing left to show for it.  I just figured that our True Love would morph into a new type of love.  A love based on our history, our mutual respect, our friendship and…our children.

And thank goodness Brian’s been open to that evolution.

And thank goodness Matthew is open to it as well.

(Or my life would be MUCH more difficult to pull off!)

But I worry about our children.  I don’t want them to believe that just because their parents got divorced, they won’t be able to find their own True Love.  I don’t want them to think it’s all a lie.  It’s not.

I know Ally has found her True Love (yeah Mike!), and the world of love has spread its arms wide open to A.J. for his whole life to come.

But really…I don’t want them to think I’m a slut.  :)

I just want them to know that True Love does exist…as many times as they can find it, in as many ways as they can embrace it.

I think the first question here is whether or not I believe in “True Love”.

The answer?  Absolutely.

Now if the question is whether or not I believe in “Soul Mates”, then my answer is no, I don’t think that I do.

I believe that two (or more) people can be compatible and pretty perfect for each other.  They can love each other and can spend their entire lives together, and die still in love with each other.  I’ve seen it.

I also believe that sometimes it doesn’t work.  Sometimes love isn’t enough.  I’ve seen this too.

I also believe that two people can spend their whole lives together, even when they’re not happy that way.  Sadly, I’ve seen this many, many times.

I don’t believe that each of us has only one True Love or Soul Mate.  Some people are better suited for each other, and some people are a better “match”.  But I don’t believe that you only have one chance, and if you miss it, you’re done.

I do believe in relationships and I also believe in truly loving someone.

I believe that relationships look different, act different, and are different, but they should all have value.  And if you can’t see the value in your relationship…?

I believe that all relationships are flawed, even the “perfect” ones.  I believe that all relationships take work, and sometimes it’s just a shitty day at the office.  But I think that having to work at a relationship, and taking the time to do so, means you care enough about the other person to fight for it.

I also think that you know when it’s worth the fight, versus when the fighting is just an act to postpone the end.

I thought that my parents were Soul Mates.  Then they broke up.  I remember the night that they told me they were separating, I said (sobbed) “but you guys are my heroes; I want to be just like you.”  What I meant was, “but if you break up, what hope is there for me?”

Now, I’ve come to realize that 25 years together is amazing.  I respect the fact that they saw what had to happen to make our family work, and they did it.  I appreciate that, because things have worked out pretty damn well.

And I appreciate the fact that they’ve taught me to always strive to be happy, even if it’s not easy.

Because even if it’s tough, it can work.

I’ve also managed to move past my fear that if they couldn’t last FOREVER, it doesn’t mean that I can’t.  It’s also taught me that there’s always a chance that my relationship won’t last forever… and that’s OKAY.

I’ll work my ass off to see “forever”, but we can survive if it doesn’t.

I believe that I truly love Mike.  That he and I fit together.  That we work as a couple and as a team.  We’ve changed and grown so much in the many years that we’ve been together, but we’ve changed and grown together.  Is he the only one for me?  Is he my Soul Mate?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

But I do truly love him.

And I know that I choose him, and he chooses me, and that’s what’s really important.

I may be a little cynical, but I do believe in Mike and me… and I will fight for us, because we fit.

Because we work.

Because it’s true love.

Topic: Who Were You in High School? The Mean Girl? Or the Outcast?

Cindy Thinks

Ally Thinks

I try to think back and imagine the girl that I was way back then, but I can’t really recall too much of anything (OY!).  I know that would normally be a sign of someone suppressing a traumatic time in their life, but I had a great childhood, and from what I can remember…a fine time in High School.  For me this is nothing new …my memory just sucks.  I can hardly remember the details of the births of my children let alone the thousands of hours I walked the halls in my high school or the names of the kids I’ve known since the 3rd grade.

So, who was I in High School?

Was I popular?  No.  But I was cute…in an unremarkable kind of way.   I was nice and fun to be with, but not popular.  More like “middle of the road” on a scale of having no friends…………….to being popular.  And, for the first year or so, I wasn’t loyal to (or was it that I really wasn’t a part of?) any one group in particular, but sort of glided around the edges of many.

And then I met…“the boys in the band.”

They called themselves “Oakfield” which combined the names of the two towns the boys lived in.  And they made me feel like I was finally a part of a group.  And I liked the bass player.  And he liked me.

And he had amazing long hair that flowed down to his shoulders and hung in his eyes when he closed them to play the bass guitar, and in High School…that whole musician with the long hair thing was a pretty big deal.

So, for a long time in High School…I was unremarkably cute, with a boyfriend who had amazing long hair, who played in a band.  And, because I was hanging out with boys in a band who DIDN’T EVEN GO TO MY HIGH SCHOOL…it also made me kinda cool.

But I wasn’t popular.   I didn’t do sports.  I didn’t have particularly good or bad grades.  And I didn’t consider myself to be a “joiner.”

In my Senior year however, I decided to join the  “backpacking club,” which was made up of a small group of kids who were into hiking and camping.  As a Jewish kid from the suburbs who had never hiked before (later I found out it was just walking on dirt), or gone camping (I did go to “camp” for 5 years…but it was a high-end Jewish camp where they unpacked your clothes for you before you arrived…so it wouldn’t really qualify as a “camping experience”) it was really a kind of mysterious and almost rebellious thing for me to join.

So imagine my surprise when they nominated me to be their Homecoming Queen candidate.  I hadn’t even gone on any hikes or camping yet!  But I was flattered…and a little confused.  I didn’t really fit the typical mold for a Homecoming Queen.  But as the two boys who organized the club explained to me…that was the point.  They didn’t want a “typical” girl to be nominated for the Homecoming Queen from the backpacking club…they wanted a typical “backpacking girl.”  Aha…that explained it.  I, apparently, had backpacking girl written all over me!

Which I thought was pretty cool.

Unfortunately, my elation at being labeled as a backpacking girl was almost immediately shot down when I was called into the principals’ office after he heard that our “float” for the homecoming parade was a little red wagon…complete with towering cardboard buildings with colored smoke pouring out of their tops depicting the rampant pollution being poured into our atmosphere by Corporate America (which I do credit as the start of my early political career).   He was not happy.  He firmly believed we were trying to make a mockery out of the Homecoming Event and threatened to pull our Club from the whole thing.

OMG…I had NEVER been in trouble in High School before.  I was a pretty good kid.  Some would probably say too good a kid.  I always respected authority and followed the rules, and if I didn’t, I didn’t get caught…except for the time I got caught smoking within 1 foot of the “no smoking” zone and they called my mom, but that time it was really about getting in trouble with my parents, not in school.

I talked my way out of the situation by claiming that we were not in any way making fun of the sanctity and tradition of Homecoming…but rather, we were expressing our views about our love and respect for our environment, which was pretty cool back in 1974!  And he bought it.

So following the big Homecoming football game, we were allowed to roll out our little red wagon with it’s colored smoke pouring out of the top…while I followed behind sitting atop an old Mustang (we tried for a cool jeep, but nobody owned one in suburban Michigan at the time) dressed in matching denim over-alls, flannel shirts, and yes…backpacks, with my date (the boy from the band) feeling and looking pretty damn cool.

I didn’t win as Homecoming Queen.  BUT NOW I was an unremarkably cute member of the Homecoming Queen’s Court… with a boyfriend who had amazing long hair, who played in a band.

Other than that…I didn’t have anything else I was known for, or for that matter, any identifiable talents at all.  I didn’t excel at anything.  But I didn’t fail at anything either.

So I guess at the end of the day, I was…pretty average.

I was an average student, with average looks, an average number of friends, who did an average amount of “stuff”…in High School.

Who was I in high school?  That’s a hard question to answer.  My gut reaction is to say, “fuck if I know”, but that doesn’t really make for a compelling answer, does it?

I spent a lot of high school in my head.  It’s kind of a lonely place, in your head.  I just thought a lot.  I listened to music a lot.  I watched a lot.  I didn’t speak a lot.  As a result, lots of people called me stuck-up and rude (which is really helpful and totally awesome).  Others called me shy.  I was just nervous.  Though “just nervous” doesn’t really cover it.  I worried about everything and anything.  I was nervous about getting bad grades, about writing papers, about what people would think of my clothes.  Turns out I have a pretty severe anxiety disorder that was WAY out of control.  In a sense, I was paralyzed by fear.  My nerves kept me from doing anything.  And the truth is, I just accepted that and decided that I didn’t WANT to do anything.  I didn’t really want friends.  I didn’t really want to have fun.  As a result, I never snuck out to meet a boy, I never took my parent’s car for a joy ride, and I never got drunk in the bathroom at prom (though I can totally name names).  I just kept my head down and my mouth shut.

I was always defined by my relationship to others.  I was “that girl’s friend” or “that guy’s prom date”, or “that really awesome kid’s sister”.  (I’m still “that awesome kid’s sister”, but I’m okay with that).  I was never really “Ally”.  Because of this, it’s hard to say who I was in high school.

This also meant that I didn’t participate in anything.

I never played sports, because competition mixed with physical exertion scared the shit out of me (still does).  I remember going to my counselor my freshmen year and asking to be excused from Freshmen Fitness (HELL ON EARTH).  It was required for all students, but I was so freaked out by it that I went and asked if I could get out of it.  My counselor asked me why this class made me nervous.  I said I didn’t really know.  Then she asked if my parents were divorced.  I said no and she just sort of shrugged and let me take another class instead.  So, I guess the lesson is that your parent’s marital status influences your athleticism?  Or your anxiety around team sports?  I never found out, but my parents are divorced NOW, so who the hell knows what THAT means for my future in physical education.

(Not that I’ve put a lot of hopes and dreams into PE or anything, but now I feel like I don’t even have the OPTION.)

(Just another thing I can blame my parents for.)

I’m not good at art, either.  Most kids like me are able to find a niche in high school by painting or drawing or building sets for the school play.  Not me.  My drawing skills have not improved since I was 4, and the only painting I truly enjoy (or am good at) is the kind you do with your fingers on a table your mom covered in newspaper.

I dropped out of band and color guard (you know, those girls who twirl flags).  See?!  I was so much of an outcast that I didn’t even fit in with the band kids.

I once went to a meeting for the Amnesty International Club, but that was because a cute boy named Mike was going… and he just went for the free pizza, so that didn’t really last.

(But stalking the cute boy TOTALLY PAID OFF.  It’s the best thing I did in high school…)

Needless to say, high school was a bit depressing (except for said cute boy).  Weren’t these supposed to be the “best days of my life”?  Someone once asked one of my favorite teachers that, and he said “hell no… I promise, life gets better than this.”

And I gotta say, that made me feel a whole lot better.

And he was totally right.