Elle Competition Entry – Do you really need a new pair of shoes?

I started answering this question by not answering the question at all, by composing instead a creative work of fiction, set in Spain and narrated by a high heel. I was very proud of what I’d written and couldn’t wait to have it read. As I’d gotten carried up and away with the story however, I thought it wise to re-read the brief. Having decided with great reluctance that you wouldn’t appreciate digesting an entry four times longer than requested, I’ve written the following, which is all about Me.

It’s not so much a question of whether I really need a new pair of shoes, but whether I need another pair of shoes that I’ll have to force my hefty size nines into. I should say now that I don’t have the means to do an Uma Thurman and have shoes made just for me, but they say a girl can dream and surely this is no outlandish request? I used to say I was a size eight and a half when I was asked. I don’t mean when I was asked by people who needed to know, such as shoe shop assistants or bowling alley staff, but by random folk who thought it was their right to know the extent of the flippers at the end of my legs. I wanted to answer, “Bloody nine, alright, and what are you going to do about it?”, because I’ll casually give up that information to any old passer-by if I think I’ll get something out of it. For the record – if you too are keeping one – I’m not even sure that eight and a half exists and it certainly didn’t for whoever I told. You could see it in their eyes, all scepticism and pity. Shame now fully upon me, I’d wonder why having big feet was so utterly toe-curling (literally of course, toe-curling is one of those tricks us big-footed use to give the illusion of daintiness), so anti-feminine. If I was depicted in a romantic novel I’d be named something short and manly; Bobby, perhaps. I’d be a maid all my years because of the state of my feet, compounded by my bristly upper lip that no gentleman would bear to kiss. A few years ago I started calling my feet long rather than big because I thought that some form of grace came with the adjective. I had to account for them, making excuses for them like they were some sort of awful relative, akin to a pissed uncle at a discotheque. Sort of like, “Sorry, but I’m really a sweet size six with a long toe”. Now I say, “Look, fuck you and your questions, I’m a nine and I’m letting these babies have the space they deserve”, even if I have to live in sandals all year round. I say this when I first meet people, to break the ice.

I’ve done some silly things in attempt to bring fashion to my feet. I’ve put beautiful, Italian designs on and worn them till my feet screamed at me, till the dance-floor was a mine-field and my friends were considering how unfriendly it’d be to abandon me. That particular night I hobbled all the way home and gave my feet some TLC. There were oils, candles and everything, all the assorted feety products I’d gotten for various annual celebrations (fancy buying someone a foot care product as a token of festivity!). I won’t mention the state of the shoes but I will say that what I did to them was a travesty and that I thought it best to hold a small funeral. Worse, once, to give my heels some room, I cut a slit down the back of some leather courts, hole punched through the new flaps, threaded a ribbon through the holes, tied a pleasant bow and knew instantly that I’d made a rather large mistake.

Even if size wasn’t a BIG deal (I enjoyed that joke a lot. It’s clear I miss my story), there’s another problem. I’m a vegetarian and have one of those all or nothing type mindsets, so I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with leather products. Most veggies are messed up creatures, fumbling and stuttering when asked why they’re a vegetarian, asked to summarise their morals in preferably one succinct sentence. “And do you eat eggs? And do you wear leather?” I found it so pleasing when I concocted the retort that buying second hand goods would be in keeping with my principles in that it wouldn’t propagate the market for leather. Please don’t scupper this ideal if I’ve formed it without solid founding. Take pity, shoe shopping is an exhausting, philosophical exercise for me. Perhaps spare a thought for the fools who join me.

But it can happen! Those rare and golden moments when all peripheral is eclipsed and I get the sensation that I’m taking steps to taking some fabulous and comfortable steps. Although at these times when the nines are found, having taste then becomes the obstacle. I’m not sure that creators of size nine plus shoes are even designers at all, but perhaps instead boat makers. Maybe they’re under the misconception that those such as I have slabs of feet, rotund and bulging. As a result, ugly harnesses of things lurk in stock cupboards, bowls with straps in various shades of nasty, in shapes that belong nowhere, that altogether give the impression of corrective equipment.

At the risk of getting on a horse as high as the Man upstairs, I could say of course that I don’t really need a new pair of shoes. I will elucidate (and feel pleased to have used such an intelligent, smooth-sounding word) by saying that my travels have taken me to places where shoes can’t be called a necessity. Places where children play football on the beach or dirt, unperturbed by shingle, unfazed by all the possible hazards that we as Westerners would conjure into existence by our fretting alone. These boys and girls dance, work and run barefoot, nature supporting and nurturing them. But to go straying down that pious route would be too much of a risk and as a vegetarian I take far too many of those already. Will you forgive my joke that I’m no Goody Two Shoes? So, yes please, I do need a new pair of shoes. Gorgeous, ethical ones that fit!

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