Monday, August 20, 2012

A Story About Shoes

I was sure I could fit in, if only I had the Steve Madden brown square stacked heel penny loafers. 

I was 14, and it was my first year at a brand new school in a brand new city. I didn't know a soul. There was a group of girls that hung out together every morning by the lockers. Blond-haired, blue-eyed and beautiful, they stood tall like they owned the school. And lets be honest, their fathers probably did. The blond and blue girls laughed. The boys flocked. 

Every morning I watched them and wondered. I wondered how I could make myself a part of their group. How I could make myself popular like them. I was in eighth grade and miserably alone. How many mornings had to pass, I wondered, until the big, red, "New Girl" badge I wore would finally disappear. 

We all dressed in the same uniform; short khaki skirts and stiff white button down shirts embroidered with a "B". But the blond-haired, blue-eyed and beautiful girls all wore the Steve Madden brown square stacked heel penny loafers. Those shoes were my ticket out of anonymity. My pathway to happiness. I knew it for sure.

So I asked - begged - my parents to take me to the mall to get a pair. The answer was a firm and resounding no. "They are too expensive," said my dad. "You don't need to wear heels to school," said my mom. I tried to explain that these were not just shoes. These were magic. But the answer was still no.

I had never before, nor have I ever since, wanted - needed - a pair of shoes this badly. My days were consumed with longing. I imagined how they would feel on my feet. How they would look. What I would say to the blond-haired, blue-eyed and beautiful girls once I finally had the Steve Madden brown square stacked heel penny loafers. Once I was no longer the new girl. No longer invisible.

It took nearly four long months of waiting and wondering and begging, but finally my parents relented, and the shoes were mine. In my bedroom, I opened the white box slowly. Reverently. Removed the lid with its triumphant black logo. Took out the shoes that I was certain would change everything.

When my alarm rang the next day I proudly put on my Steve Madden brown square stacked heel penny loafers and went to school.

But nothing was different. Not that day, and not for the hundreds of high school days that followed.

But I didn't stop wearing the shoes. Just in case.

The lines of this memory are not blurred and softened by time, as memories often are. Its images are still vivid. The edges sharp as knives. My eyes still fill and my stomach clenches tight as I think about that young girl, scared and alone, wanting deeply to fit in where she very much did not belong. 

A few years ago I found my Steve Madden brown square stacked heel penny loafers all the way in the back of my closet. They were scuffed and scarred with desperation, longing, and loneliness. I almost tossed them in the "throw away" pile. But then I didn't. Couldn't. Wouldn't.

They went through a lot, those shoes of mine. But they are still here.

And so am I.

42 comments:

  1. Heheheh I love the "just in case" line. Because you never know with those things...

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    1. You do never know...And at 14, I kept hoping.

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  2. I remember when those shoes were popular (loved them) and I remember my 8th grade shoes that I HAD to have because the popular girls had them. Mine didn't work either. Very relatable post - it really felt like being back in time.

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    1. Sometimes I can't believe that those clunky shoes were ever popular. I neglected to mention that, at some point that year, I got them in black too. So I had not one, but two pairs of magic shoes. Steve Madden must have made a complete fortune from 14 year old girls trying to fit in. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Adolescence can be so hard. I love how you added the part about how this story still made you feel. I love that you kept the shoes as a totem for just how far you travelled. I love the way you brought it all back in clear relief. Nicely done, Erin

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    1. Thanks Erin! Sometimes we just need a reminder of just how far we have come.

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  4. God, I can relate so much to this. You captured the awkward horribleness of 14 perfectly. My magic shoes didn't work either. I'm glad I'm not the only one.

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    1. I would love to meet a girl for whom magic shoes did work. She must be out there, right? 14 really was the worst, wasn't it?

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  5. In my day it was Bass penny loafers. I never got them. If only - life might have been *so different.*

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    1. Funny that we all have a story about some accessory that would have made all the difference, if only we had it. Thanks for reading!

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  6. ugh this really hit home for me. i was that girl, too. i was the new girl 5 times between 8th grade and graduating high school. SUCKAGE!

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    1. 5 times? I can't even imagine that. It's a wonder any of us survived those high school years, isn't it?

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  7. I'm glad you didn't toss the shoes. They were your friends! Aren't we all glad those days are gone? Such a hard age....This was beautifully written!

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    1. Thanks so much! SO glad those days are gone.

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  8. Aw, I felt your lonliness and desire to fit in, and can totally relate. Funny how we can put so much stock in a pair of shoes. Glad you saved them :)

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    1. I really thought that those shoes would change my world. In fact, I was sure of it. I'm glad I kept the shoes too.

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  9. I bet all of us can relate to this. You conjured well that feeling of wanting to belong. Give me chills even now, remembering those days. Hell, even now, in middle age, I sometimes feel that way. Good story.

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    1. High school is just brutal for everyone, isn't it? But for some reason, when we were there, we felt like we were the only ones.

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  10. I loved your "Just in case" line too. This is a really relatable post. For me it was a certain type of leather bomber jacket and, later, Uggs. Fourteen is not a kind age. Oy.

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    1. I went to high school in Florida, so there it was always shoes. And these were actually not the only pair of "magic shoes" I attempted. I also recall a pair of platform sandals in tenth grade...

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  11. As soon as I read the first line of this post, I knew I would want to marry it. Seriously, I love this. LOVE, and I absolutely had those shoes. Jesus, that was a tough age, wasn't it?

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    1. Thank you so much, and I loved your piece too! Such a tough age, luckily we all survived to tell the tale :)

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  12. Loved reading this. My daughter is in 6th grade this year and starting middle school. We had the conversation recently about the "popular" girls. Now these are girls she's known forever since we are in a small town. "They are your friends right?" She had to agree, but said she wasn't considered "popular." Thank goodness the Lord gifted her with self-esteem I never had. She is very well-liked by a wide group of folks and this seems fine with her. And honestly these days, from what I hear -- you really don't want to have to worry with all that comes with the mantel of "popular" at least from a mom's perspective. Very well done. I felt and remembered that angst.

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    1. I'm so glad that your daughter is happy where she is. That is really a gift that, at least in my high school days, was pretty rare. I always wonder about what "popular" means today, and whether it is as hard to fit in as it used to be.

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  13. Great job describing age 14 and that desperate desire to fit in. In my day (late '70s/early '80s), it was Jordache jeans. I wanted them desperately, but we couldn't afford them. All the beautiful girls with the perfectly feathered hair had them. Sigh.

    As an aside, I loved the repetition of "Steve Madden brown square stacked heel penny loafers." It reminded me of Dylan's "Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat."

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    1. Thank you! The name of the shoes is a bit of a tongue-twister isn't it?

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  14. ::sigh:: We never get it right, do we? We think we have it all figured out - why we don't fit in, why people don't notice us. We have to get it wrong so many times before we realize it wasn't the shoes (or, in my case the, uh...everything), but that maybe we just needed time to find ourselves.

    The shoes are still pretty rad, though.

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    1. Some of us really did need some extra time. And what I have learned since then? A lot of the girls that peaked in high school don't have it so easy right now. It is those of us that had to work a little harder, and had to wait just a little longer to get it right that are the most comfortable with ourselves and our lives as adults. Worth the wait, and the angst? I think so.

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  15. I was so far behind popular that even magical shoes wouldn't have gotten me there... Middle school stinks...

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    1. It really is the worst. Glad we all got through it on one piece!

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  16. That's a great story, I think all of us have been there at some point in our lives. I had those shoes too, but in black, and oh how I LOVED them!! But thankfully my private school had uniform shoes as well, so we really ALL looked the same :)

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    1. Ok, secretly, I may have had them in black too. I REALLY loved those shoes :)

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  17. Lovely post! I can certainly relate to the feeling of wanting to fit in! And I wasn't even the new girl.

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    1. I think fitting in is always a challenge, new girl or not, don't you?

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  18. Having been that girl, I could literally feel your pain. Love the brutal honesty of your story!

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    1. Thank you so much! It was a hard one for me to write, because I generally tend towards the more optimistic and upbeat in my writing, but I am happy with the finished product.

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  19. I remember when I bought me first pair of Nike swoosh shoes. It was the first brand name, new to me item I remember having. You captured the desperation of being 14 and wanting to fit in.

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  20. Such a well told story!
    You brought back all of my own memories while you told me your own tale.
    It was beautifully written. Great job!

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  21. That anxiety can be overwhelming. I remember it well. I found some shirts that I "had to have" a couple years ago when my parents moved from the house I grew up in. Now I wouldn't be caught dead in them.

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  22. Shoes are so important when you are wearing a uniform to school! I get this and you told the story very well.

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  23. Great story! I remember these shoes back in high school too. I know this is several years late, but would you by chance still have these shoes? I'm very much interested in buying them.

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  24. Following up on my last post on August 27, you can email me at realestv84@yahoo.com. I'm still interested in these if you still had them and wanted to sell them.

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