Thursday, January 16, 2014

These Boots Were Made for ... Something

I made a comment recently about having my Woman Card revoked because I have no particular love for shoes. Yeah, yeah, gender stereotyping and all that. Sorry, I was raised in a girls and boys are different generation and some of that stuff is ingrained. I know some guys who live for shoes and some other women who wouldn't bother with shoes if it weren't a societal/weather requirement... but if men can joke about having their Man Card revoked, then by equal rights standards, I can run the risk of losing my Woman Card.

Yeah. Let's go with that.

Anyway... shoes.

There was a time, many years ago, when I had close to a dozen pair... most of them shoes I wore only a couple of times a year. After awhile, I realized I didn't enjoy trying on and buying the things so settled on a few dress pair, sneakers, loafers and sandals. I'm comforted in this lack of typical girl thing by the knowledge Krys and Rachel are pretty much the same about shoes. (We won't go into Becka's unhealthy fascination with plaid canvas) It's enough to know I'm not alone.

It's simply never made sense... the idea of wearing shoes that are uncomfortable from the start for the sake of fashion. (In South Carolina, I can get away with wearing sandals 8-10 months of the year if I want and usually do) If my feet are pinched, everything is off balance. If I'm tottering around on 4 inch heels to look taller than my stumpy 5' 2" height, I run the risk of looking like an elephant on skates or worse, completely falling on my butt in public. Also, there are these enormous lumps on my legs (some people call them muscles) left over from my years as a gymnast and Badass Mommy. I've been teased for them and even asked if they were tumors, so wearing shoes that enhance those muscles seems like an invitation for practicing self-control in the face of people who need to be throttled. Practice may make perfection but we've never been in a position that posting bail wouldn't be a hardship. Simply avoiding the problem seemed easier.

I gave up entirely on anything more than a 1" heel a few years ago when I tore my right calf muscle during praise and worship at church. I'd been getting into the music, dancing and jumping around... then took an actual step and *pop*, the muscle sheared from the bone with what I can only describe as a feeling of being electrocuted.

Weeks of an air-cast, crutches and later, a cane, cured me of caring about feeling taller. A women's health article about how extreme high heels can cause the calf muscles to shorten, creating potential for injury only strengthened my resolve. ( I KNEW IT)

So here I am, a woman in a society which seems to have taken on the challenge of convincing women it's in the best interest of their self-esteem to wear shoes forcing them to walk tiptoe, and I couldn't give two shits about shoes.

I couldn't name a designer if my life depended on it. Okay, that's not entirely true. I know sketchers, Nike, Reebok, Birkenstock... and... um... Vitton? That last one is probably spelled wrong because I've only ever heard it mentioned on TV, where the shoes a woman is wearing comes up even in the grittiest of crime dramas. (Careful not to get blood on your Vera Wangs there, Detective) With the exception of my Sketchers sandals (and I promise you, they are anything but dainty shoes) I couldn't tell you who made any of my shoes.

The only reason I bring this up is because something slightly unsettling has happened.

Several years ago, I found an incredible pair of vintage leather boots at the local Goodwill. They fit beautifully, they were comfortable despite a bit of a heel. They had hooks and eyes and they reminded me of the granny boots I wore in the 80's when Charlie and I got married. That first pair of granny boots were so old-fashioned looking, when I met Charlie's parents the first time, Daddy took him aside to ask if I was in orthopedic shoes.

I wore these new-old boots constantly. They were spared only from yard work (Second hand sneakers and no name croc-offs were good enough for that) and were my go to pair. I could even wear them with most of my church clothes. Gradually, the few other pair I had collected dust.

Not long before we moved in February of last year, I slipped on my boots and noticed a tear in the leather right where it met the sole.

Yes, I cried. I wailed and covered myself in sack cloth and ashes.
Despite knowing I could take them to a local cobbler, money is tight and I couldn't justify it at the time. They've since been stored in a unit that has mold. I might have to start a boot restoration crowd funding page.

I dealt with my grief and moved on. Sort of.

By this time, we were working on the family property and a few bruised toes suggested I needed a pair of steel toed boots for the work. After pricing new ones, I gave up and went to the Goodwill Outlet.

Yes, a Goodwill Outlet store. What doesn't sell in a specific period of time is sent to this store where it is then sold by the pound. It's a very popular place for the resale crowd. People hunt through book bins for their Amazon stores, others fill their Ebay and Etsy shops from their purchases. It's so popular, there's a line at the door when it opens, every single day. It's where I get clothes for deconstructing, books and all kinds of other super cheap things for re-purposing.

It was there I struck gold. Well, maybe not gold... more like weathered aluminum... but I came away with a pair of steel-toed boots each for myself and both boys for less than I'd have paid for a pair of Walmart sneakers. Cool.

For the last year, they have been my go-to boots. I rarely wear them away from home or home improvement stores. For the kind of work we have to do on this land to make it remotely livable, they are ideal. So much so, they have become a part of my identity.

My preferred profile picture everywhere

That's me. Obviously it's me in the picture but what I mean is, that picture sums up how I see myself. Someone unafraid of hard, dirty work who knows when to sit back and kick up her feet. The brush pile in the background and tidy yard are testament to the work. The El Camino is an homage to the salvage yard history of the property. The plastic table and chairs show my ability to restore an old, crusty outside toy.  The slide speaks to my identity as Mom and Grandma. Even the small pile of pennies speak to my thrift and, for those in the gardening know, my knowledge of pennies as cheap slug repellant.

All in all, the picture suits me.

So do the boots.

But those boots have a problem. They're kinda crappy, clunky and not really suited to regular, daily wear. I certainly couldn't wear those under a skirt... unless it's a trip to Walmart.

At some point in the last few months, I have found myself drooling over combat boots and knee-high knock off Chucks, both of which can be found in abundance at our enormous local flea market. As we buy our vegetables from a vendor there, the flea market is a regular Saturday morning thing. As it turns out, yearning for these specific shoes has become a part of my personal Saturday routine.

In November, I went into a Burke's Outlet. Don't know if they're local but the store is much like Marshall's or TJ Maxx. Name brands. Nice stuff. The occasional seconds. Lower prices.

I had a mission. With the exception of undergarments, I hadn't purchased brand new anything for myself in a few years. I mostly wear t shirts and men's size 34-36 jeans. Given what I physically do, anything else is unnecessary. But it had been a rough year and I'd earned a treat just for me.

Armed with $60, I was going to buy brand spanking new clothes that made me feel pretty... or at least kind of feminine... or less lumberjacky (Elena is convinced it's my job to chop down trees).

That's when I saw these...

My heart actually skipped a beat.

They were $25. Almost half my budget. I tried them on anyway.


I imagine the sensation was the same feeling a woman has when the thousand dollar to-die-for shoes she wants are found for only a couple of hundred.

It was almost orgasmic. Almost. I do have my priorities.

Instantly, I wandered off to find a quiet corner of the store when I could look over my clothing choices and whittle them down to fit the boots because they were going home with me. For 10 minutes, it was madness as I discarded red-tagged denim capris, jeans, slacks, skirts, flouncy tops and played mix and match until I could find at least one practical outfit decent enough to wear away from home.

It was close but I managed to do better than one outfit and I still got the boots.

*songs of joy and praise*

I can wear them with anything but shorts, which is okay because if I'm wearing shorts I'm just as likely barefoot. Despite the heels, they are comfortable. They make me look taller. They are perfection. There's nothing else in the world I could ever again need in the way of footwear.

I was complete.

And then it happened. Rachel bought herself a pair of combat boots and from nowhere, jealousy overtook me. I couldn't look at her boots without my brain entirely wandering away from anything important to plot the acquisition of a pair of my very own.

Brain: Are you breathing?
Me: No. Boots.
Brain: You need to breathe.
Me: Boots
Brain: Try not to pass out or wet yourself.
Me: Booooooots

Last week I needed OUT OF THE HOUSE. For the benefit of loved ones, time away from the house doing something just for me was not simply important, it was a matter of life and death.

It had been months since I'd hit up the local Community Thrift Store (Run by the American Kidney Foundation). It's my other preferred book store and as we do not have a single spare inch for that particular hobby (addiction), I simply stopped going.

The entrance to the store sits directly between their four display racks of shoes.

I did try not to look. I took a quick, cursory glance while grabbing a cart then headed to the vinyl record bins. I have a 45 player and only two 45 records. What's the point of of having a record player if you don't have records to play on it, right? I mean, I don't know exactly where the player is in storage but it's there and will eventually be found and then I can blow grandchildren's minds by playing real records!

I was pawing through the records, getting lost in a complete collection of Jerry Lee Lewis, sidetracked by Charlie's family history and their relation to many of early rock's greats, and that's where I made the mistake.

I glanced to the shoe rack over my right shoulder.

Combat boots. New ones. Not a hint of wear on the soles or uppers.

I slipped off my right shoe, silently congratulating myself on thinking to choose shoes that require socks, and tried one on. There was a brief moment of panic, where it couldn't be determined if the laces were simply tied that tight or if they were too small, and then my foot slipped in.

I tried on the other one and stood there for what seemed like an eternity, trying not to start squealing and bouncing up and down. I even considered not taking them off but knew I'd never remember to do it before checking out so took them off and put them in the cart.

I then went to the t shirts. No one in the house particularly needs any more but it seemed a good idea to find something cheap to cover the boots.

It's not as if there's a problem with people taking things from carts at the thrift store but I couldn't take the chance. So I hid them, as much from myself as everyone else, until I was finished cruising the rest of the store.

When I got to the register, the cashier read off a price $10 higher than I'd read. Before my brain could stutter out "too much... can't justify", I shrugged and said "sounds good to me" and made an attempt to look casual while making sure I had that much cash in my wallet.

Just enough.


Yes, they're dirty. I only took them off for the picture.

I have boots. I have work boots, pretty boots and kick ass boots.

But as I sat down to write this post, I thought it would be cool to add a picture of the boots I owned almost 30 years ago and went on an image search. It was a bad idea.

Apparently work boots, pretty boots and kick ass boots are no longer enough, much less more than enough.

There are other boots out there.

Want boots.

It's taken to middle age, but it finally happened. That girl thing kicked in and now I can't turn it off.


And I still want those AlmostChucks.

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