Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Faithful Fighters


A few weeks ago, I had to say goodbye to two dear friends. We may never see each other again. And that decision is entirely in my hands.

ah ... ah... WAHHHHH!!!!!!!
See, I was in the throes of law school finals, and was heading out for a little study break. I had slipped into my faithful black pumps. They were a little worse for last summer, in which I wore them mercilessly because—out of all my shoes—they are one of three pairs with a sensible heel that could handle eight hours of retail. I was adding the finishing baubles to my outfit, and turned to leave my room, when there was an odd shift in my left leg. After the initial panicked-toddler-reaction (where I wait to see if anyone else is crying or if anything is suddenly pierced with pain, and absent either result, continue on my way), I looked at the bottom of my shoe. And the entire rubber tip, and the nail that attaches it to the shoe, was on the floor. And the shoe was in my hand.

Oh tragedy. I needed those shoes. I didn't just need them for that night, and I didn't just need them for their sensible heel, and I didn't just need them because I'm a girl, and they are a pair of patent black pointed-toe pumps. I needed them because those shoes were part of my life.

It's not like I have horseshoes.
The rubber tip I now distressingly saw in all its raw glory was probably a sixth generation tip, thanks to New York City's rough sidewalks, my unyielding frugality, and the happy proximity of a cobbler. I had had those shoes reheeled (and re-soled) more times than I cared to count. They were good shoes - worth keeping around.

Those shoes carried me all over Manhattan. To and from class, and work, and brunch, and Broadway shows in the rain, and church hallways, and birthday parties, and subway steps, and a hundred places in between.

This summer, those shoes got cushion inserts, and they carried me to the suit store, and they held me through hours 1-4, and then I sat down and flexed my feet, and then they carried me through hours 5-8, and some days they carried me to my desk job before all that. And they wore out around the edges.

The leather around the joint, was cracked on the outside corner from the motion of my foot bending with each step. The leather near my toes was wrinkling. Inside, the gel inserts had stripped the finish off, leaving the lining discolored. My heels had rubbed through layers of inner lining, leaving the back of my shoes exposed, like the striated rock formations of the southwest.

It's bad when your shoes look like
the feet on lotion commercials.
These pumps were walking lessons in shoe anatomy (you could see all layers in all places, like a transparent biology diagram of bones and muscles and blood cells and organs and skin). The impropriety overcame me. After all, I sold menswear. I wrote a business casual blog. I was an expert in not wearing crappy shoes, and these shoes were getting worn. I finished my time in retail, and vowed I would not wear those shoes ever again.

A few months passed, and my student budgets of time and money didn't allow for the hours required to replace a staple wardrobe item - classic, discreetly fashionable, walkable heel. As my stubborn refusal to wear the shoes limited my outfit choices and relegated me to higher heels on increasingly uneven cobblestone, I caved. I wore the pumps again. Once became twice, twice became occasionally, occasionally became once a week. But only when I was desperate, and only when I was pretty sure the light wouldn't show the cracks in the leather.

And then, that fateful night. The turn that severed new tip from old shoe. Luckily, it happened before I walked out the door, so I was able to change shoes, but still.

My pumps are now sitting in my closet, awaiting my decision of whether I will re-heel them once again, or begin the long and miserable process of finding a replacement pair, which will inevitably involve a significant amount of time for which I am without black pumps.

If re-heeled ...
If my shoes are re-heeled, it is because they have a fighting spirit. They will not yield to creative destruction, and they see that the only way to die with dignity is to literally fall apart. If they are reheeled, it is because they're no quitters, and no one ever really noticed the cracked leather, and the cost of repair cannot compete with their value to me.

And if my shoes are replaced, it is because they have already fought. It is because they fell apart. It is because they pushed through to the final breath, when they died on the threshold of my bedroom door.

If replaced ... 
See, shoes are like people. And it's dangerous to replace them too soon under the guise of letting them die with dignity. People are fighters—as is evident by the thousands of entrepreneurs who face horrific odds, and pour themselves into new businesses anyway. And as long as there is half of a fighting chance, we ought not let the cracks in the leather abandon us to the trash heap or back corner of the closet. We face the rough pavement, the uneven streets, the parties and interviews and commutes and services. And we carry on.

Happy New Year—let's roll.

I ended up wearing:
Dark wash skinny jeans, blue and black button-up, black hoops with rhinestone beads, black and clear bead necklace, and black over-the-knee boots.