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So shoe me

According to Helen Berkun, “Shoes are the one accessory women can never have enough of.”

I absolutely agree, as do most of the women I know. But despite my soft spot for shoes, getting a new pair is not something that I rush headlong into, because I believe that shoes speak louder than words. I know a lot of people who make “shoe contact” before “eye contact” when meeting others for the first time. As Forrest Gump said, “There’s an awful lot you can tell about a person by their shoes.”

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Perhaps my penchant for shoes started when I was a pre-teen and needed a new pair for a school event. My mother took me shopping and, quite unexpectedly, let me choose what I liked. I finally settled on what I thought was the prettiest pair of white shoes I ever saw.

It had an embossed crosshatch pattern, cut-out sides with daintily braided borders, and most of all, half-inch heels, which made me feel rather grown-up because I didn’t have to wear bobby socks with them. I wore those shoes to church and dress-up occasions until they became the worse for wear.

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Over the years, I witnessed shoe trends come, go and come again. I had become a certified shoe lover, but certainly not a blind one, so I did not let the craze of the moment define me. I chose my shoes sensibly, making sure the style was appropriate for my age, personality, occupation and, of course, my budget.

My great favorites were sling backs and pumps of various styles, which I liked to wear to work and special events. Some of my shoes were gifts, but most were bought with hard-earned money. Then as now, I never invested in expensive shoes, and whatever pricey-looking ones I had were from sales and bargains.

Back then, I did not own a single pair of flats. Flat footwear, no matter how au courant, embellished or bejeweled, made me feel underdressed and dowdy. Even when I was heavily pregnant with my babies, I refused to wear flats, to my mother’s consternation. To placate her, I wore shoes with one-inch heels, the flattest I could go.

So in the perennial debate between the “comfort of flats” and the “confidence of heels,” I went with the latter. As a full-grown adult standing at five-feet nothing, I’ve worn all sorts of high heels to boost my height by a few inches or so.

But being deficient in height was not the only reason I loved clicking along in high heels, despite the risk of pain and injuries. It was the feminine grace and confidence that I felt and exuded while wearing them.

Now that I am in my 60s, my passion for shoes hasn’t waned, but my preferences have definitely changed. Maybe it’s part of the wisdom that comes with age and the realization that they’re actually safer, more sensible and more comfortable, but now I find myself favoring flats over heels. My present collection includes a few pairs of sneakers for my keeping-fit walks, and ballet flats, flat sandals, and loafers for practically everything else!

When I retired, I gave away most of my high heels, but kept a few that I was not ready to part with just yet. Sometimes, I put them on and sashay before the mirror like a flippant schoolgirl.

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But, the truth is, it won’t be long before I will have to release my attachment to these relics from my past. Then, maybe, I will acquire a new pair or two to remind myself that I am living in the here and now, where life is happening, and not in the illusions of days long gone, which are over and will never return.

Delia T. Combista, 66, is a retired college professor.

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TAGS: Berkun, shoes, shopping
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