My Dear Richard has wide feet. I sympathize as he searches for the right shoe in size 10 EEEE.
Shoe stores have very little for him. He scored once, fourteen years ago in New York City, and once in Canada in 2015. Mostly, he searches the catalogues, but finding handsome tassel loafers in 10EEEE is similar to winning the weekend lottery. Nada.
Sneakers ARE find-able. However, he’s finicky about wearing them to weddings and funerals. Plus, they don’t do a thing for grey flannel slacks and a blazer on a special night out. Just ask his wife.
My lovely friend, Pat, is tall and willowy. I am not. But we do have one physical characteristic in common… we wear the same size shoe. The first night I met her, she was wearing white sandals embellished with aqua trim, the exact color I wore to the party. “If those sandals are missing, check my house,” I kiddingly said to her. She asked my shoe size and we both laughed. As Dear Richard and I were leaving the party later, I was handed a brown lunch bag. Inside were Pat’s sandals – a gift. Of course, I couldn’t keep them. I mean, who gives you the shoes off their feet? But she insisted.
Soon after that, I realized I wasn’t wearing my 3-inch heels any more. Legs too old, heels too high. So, I gave them to Pat. The following year 2-inch heels were too high. A few years later, the 1-inch wedges went out the window. Pat reciprocated with thoughtful, useful gifts in the process of our becoming sole sisters… and soul sisters. Our friendship grew out of a pair of white sandals, graciously given to a stranger.
Nowadays, my current shoe size is easy to find, easy to order. I finally wear a 10 Medium, but it wasn’t always so. For about 30 years, I wore a 9 1/2 Narrow. Fuggedaboudit. MOST manufacturers made only sizes 6-9 + 10. The few that produced my size sold out immediately. Desperate, I always shoe-shopped when I traveled. Shoe salesmen routinely offered, “Oh yes, ma’am, I do have that style in both 9 and 10. You’ll have to try it on.”
I always routinely said, “Sorry, but that won’t work. The 9 will be too small, the 10 too big.”
“But you should try them anyway.” Anyway? Why? I really wanted to say, “Hey, Doofus. Did you hear me ask for a 9 1/2?”
Following decades of this shoe hunt fiasco, I gradually realized my tootsies were being pinched. I decided to try a size 10. I went to an urban department store, hoping for a certain high heel. I picked up the perfect shoe sample and showed it to the salesman. “May I see this in size 10, please.”
He came back about 15 minutes later. “I’m sorry, I don’t have a 10. But I can offer you a 9 1/2. You should try it on.” I almost went for his throat.
I tried it on, and it didn’t fit. Surprise, surprise.
This “shoe thing” has a family history. I love shoes – it’s almost, but not quite, an obsession. Luckily, there is this cruel little deterrent called a fixed income. It keeps me from joining a 12-step program for shoe addiction.
And I have an excuse. I inherited the addiction.
Poor thing, my mother wore a size 12. Actually, back in the day, it was a size 12 AAAAA. L-o-o-o-o-n-g, skinny feet. She suffered through her teens in too-small shoes, but was finally able to buy a pair that fit when she got her first job.
Murray, the young shoe salesman in the tall girls’ shop, sold her shoes that didn’t hurt. When she was able to buy a second pair, she returned to him. Murray taught her about fit while learning what she liked. He was a quick study. She was so desperate for her feet to be pain free it was easy to embrace his comfortable shoes. But he offered pretty ones too, and she was hooked.
A big box of four or five pairs of shoes arrived every fall – for years. When Mom opened the boxes, it was like Christmas with tissue paper flying everywhere and a race to try them all on. Murray sold her shoes for over 50 years until he retired, when they were both in their 70s. She never sent a pair back.
My mother bought dresses to go with her shoes, the opposite of what most women did. Her foot comfort was so critical that even when she was all gussied up, she was always smiling.
Senior observation: whether our footsies are short or long, narrow or wide, high-arched, or flat-footed, our dawgs deserve comfort.
I do still miss those 3-inch heels. All except the walking part.
Marcy O’Brien can be reached at Moby.email@example.com.