It was page 362. I was roughly halfway through devouring my fashion meal that is the September issue of Vogue, when I turned the page and there they were. I gasped.
This amuse-bouche was unexpected and deliciously seductive.
Three models wearing three different colors — and styles — of shoe with the same fabulous heel. In bold type I read, “Sies Marjan Shoes” followed quickly by the subheading, “At long last, the label’s lust-worthy footwear collection has arrived.”
I did lust.
The shoe from the image that caught my attention was in a beautiful shade of blue. I immediately read the article to which the image was attached then put down the magazine and headed to my computer to do some research.
I learned that the silhouette of the shoe was inspired by the penny-loafer; that it had a one inch platform in the front to go with its 4.5 inch heel. I learned that it was covered in Nubuck, which is the material used for Timberland’s. And that her name was Ellen. It was that heel, however, that turned my lust to love. It’s flared shape was the distinguishing feature that made it nothing short of intoxicating. (Who knew a magazine could feed you and get you drunk?) There was a twist though: the blue shoe, which might be a bit less conspicuous for a man to wear, didn’t seem to exist. Everywhere I searched Ellen Nubuck Ankle Boot it was only available in pink. Pink!
For days the image of that shoe popped in and out of my head. I would find myself on a break at work Google imaging it. Finally I screen shot the image and saved it to my phone (duh!) so I could drool over it whenever I wanted.
When I awoke on the morning of October 2nd, I decided it was time to go to Barney’s on Madison Avenue and see those shoes in person. Why not? "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and I wanted to behold. Plus, it never hurts to look.
They were gorgeous. Shocking in their pinkness. I hesitated to touch the one on display but it called to me in a dulcet tone saying, “Pick me up. I won’t bite.” The softness of the suede was like the rose petal butter cream that fills a rose-flavored macaron. I wanted them. I only hoped they had my size. After someone stripped a mannequin of her footwear I admired them on my own feet in the reflection of a mirror. I was apprehensive about the color yet exhilarated by it at the same time.
I walked out of Barney’s with those shoes in tow. Yep, I did more than look. In 20 years of living in New York City, they were my first Barney’s purchase. As I headed toward the subway to take my beautiful pink shoes home, I was floating on air. Excitement was exploding from my body. It was ricocheting off of every person I met. I wondered if they could feel it.
It was after arriving home that the dreaded realization emerged. The shoes were damaged. The heels weren’t even. I couldn’t tell this in Barney’s as the shoe salon is mostly carpeted. But on my hard wood floors it was obvious. One rocked. One didn’t.
I didn’t quite fully panic, but my insides did get that tingly spread that happens during a panic. I went into search mode. I saw there was a pair of the shoes in my size available on the Barney’s website. So I called. I spoke with a very helpful customer service representative who connected me to Barney’s, and from there, my sales associate, Andrew. Andrew said he would get that pair from the warehouse delivered to the store so that I could try them on and make sure they were perfect, then exchange the pair that was damaged. I relaxed…a bit.
The bad news arrived: the shoes inside the box in the warehouse were a size 39 instead of the marked 40. They were searching for the 40’s but had been unable to locate them. Andrew was holding out hope. I was not.
Barney’s was unable to locate the size 40. I returned the damaged pair to the store. I mourned.
Then I got the bright idea to reach out to customer service at Sies Marjan. I spoke with a customer service concierge named Amena. She was wonderful. She immediately began to search for the shoes in my size in order to “rectify this problem.”
Later that day she texted me with the “bad” news. The only other pair of the Ellen Nubuck Ankle Boots available in my size was at Selfridges in London. I was heartbroken. Yes, I know they’re just shoes. But when you find something you love and you actually have it in your possession only to lose it, there is a sense of loss and heartbreak attached.
It took two days before I finally realized that the Universe was giving me exactly what I wanted but that I didn’t like the option for how to get it. I was playing the victim, a role that I have perfected over the years even as I try to stop the type casting. There was not another pair of those shoes in my size in the United States but there was one pair in my size in London. I didn’t want to order them from London. I had PTSD from the first pair being damaged and certainly didn’t want to order that only pair available in my size from another country. What if they didn’t fit? What if the color was off? What if they too were damaged? I was prepared for the disappointment without giving one thought to the possibility that they would be perfectly, beautifully, exactly what I wanted.
This led to a deeper discussion: Why won’t I allow myself to be happy, Why can’t I find the joy? Why is it easier for me to prepare for the gloom and doom than to live in the moment and the happiness that is waiting for me to embrace it?
I don’t have an answer to either. The universe was giving me exactly what I wanted. All I had to do was place an order. That’s all. If something happened to be wrong with the boots, I could return them. In my mind, the idea of returning something to London was such a burden. But then again, what if the shoes were perfect and no return was necessary? I couldn’t seem to give a positive outcome as much credence as a negative one.
I began to wonder if there was a moment in my childhood where I learned to feel bad for my desires, when I started thinking I didn’t deserve the things I wanted out of life. I remember my father saying that he hoped I found a good job when I grew up because I had expensive tastes. I remember feeling bad about that in the moment. That little gem burrowed its way deep into my psyche.
The shoes were the catalyst revealing something that goes much deeper. Why don’t I think I deserve happiness, joy? This issue has tentacles that touch every aspect of my life: I have a good job, what if I get fired? I love my apartment, what if my lease isn’t renewed? This guy is great, what if he thinks I’m stupid…or bad in bed? What if my next blog piece fails to connect? What if the shoes are damaged? What if, what if, what if?
They’re just shoes. I know that. But to me they are yet another step in my expression evolution. To walk out into the world, to ride the New York City subway, to show myself in pink heels elicits old adolescent fears of name-calling or maybe even physical contact. It may be an irrational fear at this point, but my adolescence — and living in the Age of Trump (even in NYC) — gives me reason to pause. My guard is always up. I often wonder how it might feel to live without that guard: to exist, breathe, express myself without fear?
I shouldn’t let any of the above keep my happiness at bay. And none of it should keep me from experiencing joy. That’s on me. Fear though: it takes a toll on us that we don’t often see.
By Sunday night I had gotten out of my own way.
Selfridges delivered the shoes two days later. They were perfect: a confectionary delight —no sugar, no carbs.
The day that I wore them out into the world for the first time my guard was way up, but in the safety of friends I found my joy.
We’re meant to enjoy our lives. With this blatantly obvious reveal, I am now trying to really experience the joy that I find, live in its light. Damaged shoes do serve a purpose. Who knew?