Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stuff You Don't Talk About

"I've been there," I pointed to the television. The process of learning about your sweetie is an ever-unfolding comedy for my husband and me. "There's stuff in Illinois you just don't talk about."

The TV ad pictured a hale and hearty man standing in his living room, gold streaming through his sunlit picture window, swinging a scythe to harvest the wheat growing there indoors.

OK, maybe it wasn't quite like that when I lived in Illinois. There was a lot of bad shag carpet. I remember that clearly. They used to sell shag carpet rakes too, to untangle your shags presumably, since no one apparently wanted dreadlock carpet. Fashion has its intangibles.

I'll always remember fondly that summer on Crab Orchard Lake when I somehow felt confident enough to wear a bikini. I'm not sure I would recognize that person now. The bikinis are a faint memory: There was a killer chocolate brown one and then there was one with blue and turquoise pattern. I would wear them, but I would put a beach wrap over them. My fantasies of luxurious beachwear were always trumped by my self-consciousness. Fashion is not easy, especially for the faint of heart. With my history of swimwear letdowns, no way was I going on that inner tube behind the boat, nope. I was happy to keep my wrap on and let my hair bleach out in the wind.
Besides the fear of failure of the structural kind, there's also the panache part of it. This was a time when stack heels were mandatory. Even professional models were reported to have injured themselves on the runway in those extra-high heels with a misstep. Imagine the possibilities with someone who has fallen down stairs all over the United States? And yet I wore them, even with my swimming gear. I figured I could take advantage of my natural shortness and wear those heels as high as I liked. I liked the leather and cork wedge heels. I was lucky that my ankles were flexible enough to take the abuse of turning them, falling on the side of my foot and landing suddenly and without warning. What do you do when that happens? You get up, smile, brush yourself off and continue with that "I meant to do that" look on your face.

Or that's what I did. No, I didn't mean to do it. I'm strictly a Birkenstocks girl now. I think I used up all my ankle credits in my 20's and 30's. My chiropractor has enough work to do with what I have going on now without my tempting fate. I do have one pair of high-heeled sandals. I look at them every once in a while. I don't talk about wearing them. It makes my feet hurt just thinking about it.

Ah, but the good old days! The only reason they made so much fun about Imelda Marcos and her hoard of shoes was that they knew about it. Other people had lots of shoes. We just didn't talk about them. We wore them, admired them, bought them, agonized over materials, straps, the perfect hosiery to wear with them. But some guilty pleasures are best kept mum.
Tea Tarot
(c) Copyright 2011 Marcia McCord

I mourned the loss of my hippie hand crafted boots, sandals and overstitched Mary Janes when their time had come. Letting go can be so hard. I even embraced my fashion failures and utility wear as long as they remained intact for at least one wearing. Flip-flop blowout was irritating, but consider the loss if you bought seven pairs and realized there was a manufacturing flaw and your other six pairs were doomed. It's stuff you don't talk about.

Years after those summer days on the lake, right about the time when my once-frightening mortgage on the haunted Victorian plus the car payment got to be momentarily easy to pay, especially when I was a computer programmer by day and teaching a (now "antique") programming language in the evenings, a shoe wonderland opened in town. Warehouse stores weren't common then so when the Shoe Circus or whatever it was called opened up on the east side of town with acres of inventory runoff of "name" shoes, all of us little moths traveled to the flame.

It started to seem like a good thing to have a huge Victorian house all to myself with such a shoe thing as I had. Not that my co-workers were comfortable with the idea that a re-"singled" woman with a "man's" job lived in a large house by herself.

"What do you do in that great big house all by yourself?" they wanted to know. If this had been said with a flirtatious tone it could have been either funny or offensive, depending on delivery. But the guys I worked with were programmers. They were sincere. They were sincerely mystified. They did not get why it would be cool.

"I stretch my arms out and don't touch anything," I teased them. "I make rug angels in the carpet in the turret room." In retrospect, maybe it would have been better to leave them with an enigmatic smile rather than a quip. Extravert, what can I say? But no girl I knew talked about her closets and the intensity with which they were maintained and fed.

My first venture into the Shoe Circus was electric with possibilities. It could have been static electricity too, a common wintertime hazard of indoor Illinois. No matter, I was thrilled to be there, guilty and thrilled. I held back. My circumspect five, merely five, pairs of shoes and I slipped into the checkout line. I looked up from my cart to the customer ahead of me. I was amazed. I was validated.

The woman at the checkout ahead of me had at least a dozen pairs of shoes and I immediately figured out why. She was an Amazon, a giantess, Jeri Ryan times about 1.5 times the expected in height, perfectly proportioned. She was, in short (well, pun must be intended since I am), the most intimidating woman I had ever seen. Her legs really were up to here, meaning my shoulder. And I realized, with a sympathy that surprised me, just over five feet tall and a mere mortal that I am, that this poor dear had a shoe thing too and worse yet had a lifetime of difficulty finding sexy shoes in Amazon size.

The rollercoaster of unspoken emotion was almost too much for me when, after Ultra-Jeri left with her score, the checkout clerk showed obvious signs of melting into laughter. I smiled and bought my shoes without saying a word, suddenly glad for my common bond to Ultra-Jeri and also for my comfortable ordinariness. I pulled my own 2 of Swords to hold back on expressing my thoughts.

I adored that one pair of 9 Wests in soft tomato red with the daring toe-cleavage I bought that day. No one ever knew what I really thought when I wore those shoes. Sometimes, there's just stuff you don't talk about.

Best wishes!

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Goon's Week 4 Picks are up. Read 'em and weep!