Big Foot’s Got Some Brand New Vans

To me, these vessels are works of art, a masterpiece. I have wanted shoes like this forever. They speak to me of tomboys, denim and badass poets, classic footwear hovering on the verge of preppy. But not quite. Eventually, with worn heels and holes, they will smell of grunge band, fast times and flannel. There is something infinitely satisfying about wearing this symbol on the sidewalks of suburbia.

I have never been in style. Grocery shopping with my mom at our local A & P comes to mind, as I stared at the Dr. Scholl’s display in the same aisle with the hairnets and Legg’s eggs. I was 16 and lusting after those sandals with smooth leather straps (in three different colors!) and a neat center buckle. It seemed like everyone wore them, wooden soles clattering down the high school hallways and clacking nervously under classroom desks. I could only stand by as spectator, fascinated by how the teenage fashionistas kept those clog-like wonders on.

My mother caught me salivating and dismissed my dreams of finally becoming cool despite my bottle-bottom eye glasses and overall nerd status.

“They’ll hurt your feet,” she warned me and that was that. This from a woman whose toes were molded into torpedo points by those hellish heels of the 50s, a style providing countless numbers of foot surgeons with lifelong job security.

“But they are supposed to be good for your feet. They EXERCISE them,” I argued, reading from the box.

“They’re made out of lumber and a tiny piece of leather. You can’t wear those — your feet are too thin.”

And long. Size 10, to be exact. That’s all well and good for a 6’2” runway model, but my 5’8” frame only allowed me to be cast as the family’s personal Bigfoot (a term my father affectionately used for me).

Unfortunately, I possess the trifecta of podiatric woes: narrow, long and flat as a pancake. While my archless-ness might keep me out of a wartime draft, I would gladly endure boot camp than suffer the humiliations of a footwear gauntlet (otherwise known as the shoe store).

Ah yes, the dreaded yearly trip to the small-town shoe shop, where I would gaze sadly at a limited assortment of beautiful styles I could not wear. Right off the bat, my mother ruled out anything remotely cute or trendy, nothing with heels, absolutely no flimsiness or slip-ons allowed.

That left a few sturdy crepe-soled lace ups in geriatric browns and tans. If Velcro shoes had been popular then, I’m sure they would have come in a close second (nothing with flashing lights or wheels in the heels, however). Come to think of it, Velcro would have made the torment go a whole lot faster if not easier, as I sat tensely through the everlasting lacing procedure at the knee of the store owner, who had realized by this point there wasn’t one shoe in the entire store that fit me.

Yes, that’s right. While sitting amongst the piles of tissue paper and lidless cardboard boxes, after countless trips to the back, with me futilely pacing around like a caged animal while my mother pinched my toes, I always heard the inevitable proclamation of my shame:

We’ll just have to “special” order them.

I hate the word special. After what seemed like years, we returned to the scene of the crime for the prize I didn’t want. And the “specially” ordered size 10s wouldn’t fit much better than the store’s one pair of 9 1/2s, except that my toes weren’t as crowded (obviously my mother’s worst nightmare) and I could easily walk out of my new giant boats of leather without untying any laces, thanks to the narrow heels blessed to me by my grandmother.

Now, flash forward to the brand-new Vans, the cool ones here in black and white.

The ones I bought in record time after waltzing into the shoe section of a regular department store, zeroing in on the display model, quickly searching through the well-marked boxes, and finding just the right size (already pre-laced).

I tried them on by myself, no exhausted sales clerk hoping against hope that this trial of patience would soon be over, no mother following me around with her toe-seeking fingers at the ready, and no customer service associate painfully filling out an order form for my mythical pair of perfect shoes.

And the best part? They are a size 9 1/2. Either I have shrunk or American shoe standards have grown large. Oh joyous day, this means there are plenty of other big-footed gals out in the fashion wilderness. I am not alone.

And yes, Mom, I have plenty of room in the toes.

Photo Friday: Making the Cut

Ever wake up to a pillow covered in hair? Your own, that is. Welcome to the deforestation of my head.

It is shedding season around here. I join the cat and dog, contributing to rolling tumbleweeds that roam this house. My poor spouse harvests strands off his laundry. The birds outside are nesting in it.

Bless my maternal grandfather for this. Bald as a cue ball. My spiritual twin growing up, we had more in common than I thought.

Worrying makes it worse. And right now, my hormones are as steady as a feral cat in heat. Or Charlie Sheen.

Since my bangs have grown out, it’s time to visit my hair stylist. I’m ready to go short, I announce. Can’t kid myself any longer.

Never one to do anything halfway, I like to see where I’ve mowed. Before I can regret it, a good pile of mostly brown stuff lays at my feet, thanks to an understanding hairdresser.

With The Who’s “hope I die before I get old” ringing in my ears.

I sit in the salon chair, reminiscing about another rite of hair passage. Twenty-eight years ago, I signaled the end of a bad relationship by leaving my waist-length hippie hair for a stylish bob. An English major’s nod to F. Scott Fitzgerald.*

Which prompted one of my classmates to slide his desk up behind mine in writing class.

“Nice hair,” whispered the voice of my future husband.

*For his jazz-age drama of women’s coiffure in “Bernice Bobs Her Hair.”

Don’t Minimalize Your Bangs

I’ve discovered that less isn’t more in regards to my hair. Recently, I  committed one of the beauticians’ seven deadly sins, something about “thou shalt not cut thine own bangs.” It was New Year’s Eve. I couldn’t get an appointment to the salon in time. There were scissors handy. The rest is history (and in the wastebasket).

Next thing I know, I have full view of my eyebrows and realize that they are starting to go grey. Nobody told me this would happen. Sure, I expected the hair on my head (and other body fur for that matter) to show my age. But I never counted on the bushy valances over my eyes to turn on me. Makes me wonder what additional treats the elderly have been keeping from me.

Since I’m extremely nearsighted, until now I have been blissfully unaware of the natural disaster occurring in the wizard brows I inherited from my father. But there they are — those wild hairs sticking straight out and waving for everyone to see. How can that be good? How can people look me in the eyes when there’s a party going on in the next balcony up?

My bangs were supposed to hide all of that, but the modest fringe covering my brow debauchery has retreated to the penthouse. And while I’m at it, what’s with my forehead? Am I really supposed to have acne when I’m in my 50’s? As a middle-aged bonus, those blemishes are co-mingling with my engaging worry lines and premature wrinkles, for cripes sake, hiding out in the valleys like train robbers while my brow hairs reach towards them in a massive uprising.

Alas, my bangs have left me defenseless. I try to see the butcher job of my trim as alternative or edgy. I imagine myself channeling my inner Cyndi Lauper or Bjork, but only come up with childhood images of Moe from the Three Stooges. I have to admit that I’ve gone too far this time, and will be committed to walking around in public for the near future with a perpetually surprised look on my face.

I’m hoping for a reunion of sorts. Eyebrows, meet your first cousin, Bangs.