They found a 5,500-year-old shoe the other day in a cave in Armenia. Just the one–it was like the sale rack at Nordstrom’s. The archaeologist who found it was very excited at first, because she had always dreamed of finding a shoe. Except she was hoping for something in a pump. This one was more of a Buster Brown–a sturdy leather number, musk ox maybe, in size 7 with eyelets and laces with the little mastodon-ivory jobbers at the ends to make the lacing easier. A fine shoe in every way, and just the sort of thing I might have picked out. It was perfectly preserved in mounds of sheep dung. This is a sensible place to look for a shoe. Even back then, if a guy loses his shoe in a deep enough pile of sheep poo, he’s going to look at it and think, shoot. I can always get another musk ox.

I don’t have a lot of shoes. Usually there’s a cute-shoe gene strapped right on to the X chromosome, but in my case it’s missing. I not only rarely refer to shoes as “cute,” but I’m drawn to shoes that look more like men’s, and buy women’s styles only under duress. This is true even though I am aware that Dave is an aficionado of women’s shoes. I wore a uniform at work and have never had to maintain a proper wardrobe. It was a chore to come up with a decent outfit on special occasions, because I didn’t even have the basics, so every time I would have to buy hosiery and accessories and a suitable coat as well to pull it all together. Plus the shoes. At that point I’d usually give up and suggest we stay home instead.
When our friend Peg got married, a group of us decided to doll up big-time, so we trolled the thrift stores together until we got a theme (it was “pink”). I even found some pink three-dollar heels to match. Dave warned me, soberly, that I’d need to practice wearing the heels, and that he’d need to be nearby to spot me. “Walk towards me,” he said, so I did, then “okay, turn and walk away from me–slowly, slowly,” so I did, and this went on for a very long time. I was pretty sure I had it down, but Dave insisted, in a dreamy, far-away voice, that I couldn’t be too careful.
I did buy a few pairs of shoes through the years that I really liked, and even when they went out of fashion, I couldn’t give them up. This worked out a few years ago when my nearly-new Uggs from the eighties came roaring back, but it was a whole different story with the Cherokees. The Cherokees were ribbon sandals with a saucy ankle strap and a towering, narrow rubbery platform heel that nearly doubled my height. Sexy as hell, I thought, and because the heel was rubbery, they were easy to wear, even for someone like me who’s been known to tip over just from changing my mind too fast. I bought them in the early seventies but they fell out of favor when a different kind of heel gained ascendance, and I stashed them in the closet. For 25 years.

Then we got invited to a fancy dinner and I bought a slinky dress and realized my beloved Cherokees would totally work again. Off we went. As I sashayed into the venue, I stumbled a bit on what looked like gravel. Inside, I stumbled a little more. Finally, I discovered to my horror that my rubbery heels were disintegrating into crumbs with every step. Just before the other guests were able to cop to the fact that I was shrinking visibly before their eyes, I sat at the table and refused to get up. “Jeez, look at that,” the person next to me said, “someone dumped their rolls onto the carpet and the crumbs are getting all over. What a putz.” At the end of the evening I strolled out of the restaurant barefoot, affecting a bohemian air.
Next time, I’m totally storing them in sheep dung.