I see these shoes all over now. My demographic is big and booming so we drive the market for all kinds of consumer products. And now every women’s store offers “Comfort Shoes.” They are sold through catalogs like, Modern Maturity and All About You, which are supposed to be celebrating your mid-life. But I’m also seeing these shoes at Bloomingdales and dear God, even Saks. There are all kinds of euphemistic names for these shoes like On the Move or Comfort Footwear, but ya know what? These are old lady shoes.
A friend brought a catalog to our lunch date to show me a pair of these comfort shoes that she was considering buying for a special event. “They look so comfortable” she says, “but are they too dowdy?” How do I answer that without hurting her feelings? I look at the shoe and I say to my friend, “Maybe go for something a little more strappy; you don’t have to walk in them.” But what I really want to say is, “Those are shoes for a woman who has forgotten what her vagina is for.”
Yes, I know that these shoes feel comfy but it’s a slippery slope. One day you allow yourself to wear these “comfort shoes” and within a week you are buying a pink jogging suit decorated with gold emblems, and thinking, “Oh, that looks nice.” Or you buy a pair of shoes with these “manmade breathable uppers” and “soft rubbery soles” and soon after you are thinking, “Why pay all that money for someone else to put color on my hair; I could just buy a box of that hair dye that Sarah Jessica Parker uses. She always looks so nice.”
Maybe it really is about chemistry: You buy a pair of comfort shoes in a “nice, practical” navy or worse, in ivory, and after a few wearings the chemicals from the shoes enter your bloodstream and soon you begin to think that pants with an elastic waist make perfect sense. I mean, after all, you gain a little weight now and then so wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t need to buy new pants every time you gain a few pounds?
Or you begin to think that you don’t really need to buy new underwear every year. You could just buy one of those “bra extenders” and get more life out of your old bras. Did you ever really go to the hospital and have someone see your raggedy drawers? No, of course not.
It all begins with the shoes.
Guard yourself and help your friends too. Comfort shoes are a frightening thing. They are the end of sex and the end of independent thought. In comfort shoes you will give up reading new fiction and listening to public radio. You will soon claim that you don’t know who Arianna Huffington is and you will think the red string on Madonna’s wrist is to remind her to buy a birthday card for her mother. When we talk about end of life issues—we are talking about comfort shoes.
So I have this special request: When I am going to be buried or even if I am going to be cremated, please do not put “comfort shoes” on my feet. You can go with gold sandals, even a simple Ferragamo pump if you have to, or rubber thongs. Because wherever I go from here, it’s still about putting my best foot forward.