Saturday, September 27, 2008

Shoes for Walking Out of the Woods

Women and shoes. Not every woman has the “shoe thing” but many do. We like them; we own more pairs than the average man. There are lots of reasons why women buy and love shoes. They are an easy reward, a prize, or a drug. Even when you have bad hair or a bloated waistline you can try on shoes. You don’t have to look at your face or hair or wrinkles or changing body when you try on shoes. And there’s a practical piece: new shoes can quickly update an outfit. The silhouette of your shoes can take you from shabby to chic and from dowdy to a doll. Yep, lots of reasons women love shoes.

But what do shoes have to do with recovery? What kind of footwear do we need to trudge the road of happy destiny?

Shoe story number one: Red High Heels: At 50 I began to think practical flats and low heels but I also longed for and lusted after some high-heeled, pointy toed shoes that would still mark me as a women with libido. That’s what certain shoes signal: “this is a woman who still likes sex”. So I bought red suede pointy toed and high-heeled mules. They had roses on the toe as well. These are shoes that say “I still like being a woman.” Later I gave them away. Now I’m looking at red shoes again.

Shoe story number two: Papagallo flats. This is a lesson that I learned from my husband’s therapist. While we know that nothing can fill a hole in us that exists in the past, and that no lover today can replace the love that our father didn’t give us and we are sure that no woman now can make right the hurt our mother caused, still, given that we know all that we often chase those very fixes throughout our adult lives.

We learn in AA and with outside help how to begin to heal some of those old wounds and we stop trying to recreate now what we really needed then. But the therapist, Dr. Bob, said to Peter one day, “Sometimes you can save time and money by just going out and buying the thing you longed for so long. He said, “If as an adult you can afford it and the longing is there, then go ahead and buy the 71 Camaro or the basketball hoop for the yard.”

When I heard this I knew what I needed to buy. I remembered the longing of my 9th grade year: that summer I sat in algebra class next to a girl wearing navy blue soft leather flats with lime green piping on the edges and a tiny bow on the vamp. I longed with all my heart for shoes like that and those shoes—I later learned they were Papagallo flats—became a symbol for all that hurt: the social class wounds and family dysfunction and not being able to ask for what I wanted. Girls from nicer neighborhoods and better schools wore Papagallo shoes. Those shoes became loaded with meaning.

How many years did I shop for shoes and how many other pairs of shoes did I buy to fill that ache for navy and green Papaagallos? Why not just go buy them. I could do and needed to do all the therapy and inventories and write letters to my parents to read on their graves all to exorcise the pain of the girl who didn’t think she was good enough for nice shoes. I did all those things and then one day I bought very expensive, glove leather navy flats and I thought, “Now, at age 50, I rule the 9th grade in my heart”.
Sometimes if the shoe fits you should just go buy it.

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