I have a two year old daughter. She will be three in three months and what I find remarkable is how enamored she is with beautiful things. This is not a girl thing per se as I have distinct memories of my son adorning himself with gaudy faux diamond bracelets and Mardi Gras beads until the little girls in his daycare harassed him about wearing jewellery. They clearly thought bling was exclusive fashion for females but I was okay with it because I had seen rappers get away with giant festoons of gold around their necks. It was also a great way to get rid of all the tacky jewellery I had been given. Your mother-in-law can’t begrudge an uber cute three year old boy tromping around the house wearing the bear claw necklace she gave you.
I was a little girl once and there are pictures of me in dresses but I also remember my older sister begging me to wear them. She was six years older and nothing pleased her more than tying my hair up in little ponytails or braids and dressing me up in scarves, dresses and bows. The rest of the time I was happy to roam in jeans and shirts and to this day, people are surprised when I show up to Christmas parties with makeup on. Which is why I’m so intrigued by my daughter. She insists dresses are de rigueur daily wear. She is an unabashed mugger with sunglasses on and can’t fathom why her black velvet slippers aren’t practical for a blizzard.
Steve Martin came up with a great skit back in the 70’s to lampoon women’s painful obsession with fashion. Here’s an excerpt:
“Carlo disappeared into the back room for a moment, and then reappeared carrying an ordinary shoe box. He took off the lid and removed a hideous pair of black and white pumps. But this was not an ordinary pair of black and white pumps; both were left feet, one had a right angle turn with separate compartments that pointed the toes in impossible directions. The other shoe was six inches long and was curved inward like a rocking chair with a vise and razor blades to hold the foot in place.
Carlo spoke hesitantly, ‘Now you see…they’re not fit for humans.’
‘Put them on me.’
‘Put them on me!’
Carlo knew all arguments were useless. He knelt down before her and forced the feet into the shoes.
The screams were incredible.
Anna crawled over to the mirror and held her bloody feet up where she could see.
‘I like them.'”
Full disclosure: I love, love shoes. If I had unlimited wealth, I would be that woman with three walk in closets full of shoes. I am also a size 11 which is a cruel twist in nature’s imperative to have me beautify for a mate. I am very proud of a pair of gold sneakers with Chinese embroidery on the side. I wear these to the theater to fit in with the cool artist types.
I suppose it is somewhat hereditary that my daughter loves, loves her little brown cowboy boots. We were in Nashville last spring and we discovered that not only is this a magnificently cool city with a great vibe and an amazing music scene but it is also a great place to buy three cowboy boots for the price of one. They need some way of attiring the masses in country uniform and I’m guessing this is the cheapest place on earth to buy leather boots. That is saying a lot from a gal from Calgary, Alberta – host to the world famous Calgary Stampede and major shopping hub in cowboy country. We bought one pair for our little girl and two pairs for our son because my son seemed enthralled by the boots and we weren’t sure if our daughter would find them comfortable. My son settled on a brown pair and red pair (but only after confirming with sales staff that the red pair were boy’s boots – sales staff are not going to crush the enthusiasm of a seven year old boy in a town that thrives on dreams). It was nearly impossible to take those brown little boots off of her. I didn’t know a two year old could strut but she sure did. It was only the Canadian winter that forced those boots off her finally.
We have had an unseasonably warm February this year. There were more days above + 5C in a month which usually sees temperatures below -5C. The snow has all melted and the ice rinks are slushy pools. My daughter came to me a week ago and asked if she could wear her cowboy boots. “They make me feel good,” she said. Who can argue with that? We got her boots and she started putting them on. Except, 9 months had passed and she had grown. With a squinty look of pain, she forced her left foot into the boot. I asked,”Are you in pain?” “No.” She let out a gaspy breath as she forced the right foot into the other boot. I asked, “Are they comfortable?” “Yes.” She hobbled out the door with a smile on her face. I knew what this meant. The cowboy boots had become her Cruel Boots. She wore them for one hour before she discarded them and ran around in socks. But, it didn’t stop her from putting them on the next day. Or the day after.
In three months it will be her birthday. I am buying her a new pair of cowboy boots and the Cruel Boots will quietly disappear. I suspect there will be other cruel shoes and I will continue to nudge my daughter to more humane choices. That is my job. Everyone has their cruel shoes; those beautiful impractical things that imperil our common sense and make us feel good. The trick is knowing when to caste them off and run around free.