You look at the woman, she is full of pain. Who is guilty? Shoes!

There’s a hilarious and fascinating article in this week’s The New Yorker by Burkhard Bilger. It’s about one man’s lifelong quest to create the best shoes ever. I wish the article were online; it’s delightful.

It turns out that I have Egyptian Feet. I always suspected that my feet were less evolved than others’, because my smaller toes weren’t longer than my big toe, the result of my ancestors’ not having worn shoes for very long. I was told this by a boyfriend in college, who–it must be said–had long, tapered second, third, and fourth toes. He declared his feet were the result of centuries of properly-clad ancestral feel. I countered that it was obvious his toes were longer because his ancestors had, up until very recently, been swinging from tree limbs and vines.

It was only at age 20 that I began wearing “grown-up” shoes. Until then, I’d been content with Converse All-Stars, Doc Martens, and (horrible, I know) Timberland all-terrain waterproof sandals. (Not because I was particularly sporty. I was just planning ahead for a punker Trail of Tears scenario.)

At age 20 I was at Macy’s returning some terrible gift and ended up saddled with a credit slip. I found myself in the shoe department looking at a pair of faux-crocodile stack-heel loafers. Something inchoate, my lizard-brain Jacqueline Susann, told me to buy them. I was dubious, seeing as they were the least-comfortable thing I’d ever worn. But Jesus appeared to me on a flaming pie in the reflection in the little foot-mirror and told me that I really needed them.

I wore them the following week to a friend’s graduation. I’d paired them with a pair of blue and white gingham capri pants and a white blouse. I ran into a contentious, heartbreaking exboyfriend who sized up my outfit and said, approvingly, “You’ve been doing your homework.”

It was about that same time that I began shaving my legs and painting my toenails with Chanel Vamp. Funny how things come into your life like that. Up until that point, the priciest things I owned were UK import records.

Over the years I managed to acquire a number of pairs of truly painful shoes. This all came to a (literally) crushing end when I broke my left foot while running, in platform sandals, to catch a train. I confessed my act of hubris to my podiatrist, who replied, “Don’t worry. When I’m finished with you, you’ll be able to wear any shoes you want.”

This was not the reply I wanted. I wanted to be told not to wear foolish footwear ever again.

I continued with my sartorial folly for another seven years until one day I broke my left foot again…and this time I was merely *walking* in heels. I went to a new podiatrist who offered appropriate amounts of opprobrium and said, “We need to fit you for orthotics.”

Is that all?

I decided that I would not consign myself to a life of wearing shoes that look like wet teabags. No more high heels for my plebeian feet, but no orthotics. You know how much orthotics cost? More than my most expensive pair of shoes. More than my most expensive UK import. For the price of a pair of orthotics, I could pay any of the bands in my record collection to come sing to me in my apartment. Almost.

So now I’m reduced to wearing shoes that seem vaguely “arty” (in a lesbian way) or sneakers that seem lesbian-y (in a lesbian way). I did buy a pair of needle-toed stilettos that I’ve worn exactly twice but that’s because they sang “Darling Nikki” to me from their perch on the clearance rack and I had to, I just had to. I’ve worn them twice. I might be able to summon the werewithal for a third outing.

I found myself reading the New Yorker article and thinking, How can I get my hands on a pair of those Stone-Age Ice Man shoes?

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