In college I had a pair of black suede Mary Janes. They had a slight platform that made them especially cute with little skirts and slick soles that made them dangerously incompatible with my hilly, brick-laned campus. I first felt their peril in front of the dining hall when my feet flew out from under me and I cracked my shin open on the brick curb just before landing flat on my back --to the amusement of the dinner crowd. I was wearing those same shoes later that semester, when I left a good-sized chunk of my left knee stuck to a brick walkway on my way back from class. And still I kept the shoes. I have scars to this day, but damn did they ever make my legs look skinny.
I have negotiated Parisian cobblestones, eight-hour teaching days and 18 months of pregnancy in pointy-toed high heels. Late in my pregnancy with Big E, I had to attend an orientation meeting for the natural birth center where I planned to have her. Just before the meeting, the wool-sweatered, Birkenstock-wearing earth mother in front of me turned, stared at my feet and sniffed to her husband, "I didn't know there would be hospital people here." When I pushed out a nine-pounder after 24 excruciating hours of drug-free labor, I had half a mind to track down Ms. Flat-Foot Sensible Shoes so I could tell her this: I am not my shoes.
I have spent many a winter morning mincing daintily through snow drifts and parking lot slush all in the interest of arriving at work fashionably shod, and when the girls have managed to drag me out to play in the snow, the best option my shoe wardrobe has offered has been a quick-to-sog pair of old running sneakers. So this winter, because I'm trying to come to terms with the season and because I've designated play a priority, I came to an uncharacteristic decision: I need a pair of practical, comfortable, weatherproof boots.
The clearance rack at Marshall's tempted me with a heavily-logoed pair of Coach snow boots and a shiny rubber pair with a chunky 2 1/2 inch heel by Kate Spade. But in my new found spirit of sensible shoes, I opted for a very reasonably priced pair of utilitarian, flat black rubber boots. They've served me well already: tromping up the sledding hill, strolling through a slushy New Year's Day at the zoo, walking the dog along the shore at the beach.
Still, I am keenly aware that they look like something you'd wear to milk a cow or tour a slaughterhouse. I try to remind myself that I am sacrificing for a good greater than my own footwear vanity. I try to imagine that I've slipped them on to stroll through a dewy meadow in the English countryside. But mostly, I tell myself this: I am not my shoes.