Sometime back two decades or so ago when I stilled lived in Barrow, I made a great ceremony out of tossing my last pair of pantyhose into the trash and declaring my body pantyhose free for the rest of my life. I did this out of a sense of duty to every woman who has ever walked down the street with her pantyhose twisting around her knees, the crotch sagging lower than a teenager’s levis.
Along with the pantyhose went the idea of ever again wearing a heel that in any way came to a point or a pair of shoes whose shape bore no resemblance to the female foot. My motto is that if god did not make our toes come to a point, then she clearly did not mean us to wear shoes that did.
For over twenty years I was able to stick to my resolve. But recently something terrible happened. I had to attend a huge 100th anniversary party for my old childhood parish. Since I have been losing weight rather rapidly as of late, I had nothing to wear that still fit. Which meant I had to go shopping. And as anyone who knows me knows, that is something I will put off as long as possible in the hope that eventually the need for it will go away.
Only this time I lost on that gamble and found myself on the East Coast in a car with my sister heading towards a store where I was going to be forced to try clothes on till I found something she liked that didn’t make me want to run into the night screaming. My sister, I should add, inherited all the clothes and shopping genes my mother accidentally left out of my makeup. She actually wears high pointed heels to work every day.
I am proud to say we accomplished our mission with a minimum of bad feelings and bloodshed. She brought in blazers that cost $250, I laughed. She brought in blouses that cost $95, I laughed even harder. She finally took the hint and went to the sales rack where we agreed on a skirt and sweater whose total price did not equal my monthly mortgage payment. I thought that was a reasonable standard.
It wasn’t till we left the store that it occurred to me that I’d just bought a skirt, which meant the possibility of pantyhose now loomed large in my life. I tried to convince my sister that since this was a mostly Italian affair, I could just wear an old pair of nylons rolled down below my knees and get away with it by calling it a tribute to nostalgia. After all, it was good enough for our grandmothers, so I figured it should be good enough for me. She neither saw the humor, the nostalgia or the remotest chance that she’d let me get away with it.
And so a few days later I found myself struggling into a pair of her pantyhose and wondering how, in the twenty years since I’d last worn them, manufacturers still had not figured out how to make them fit my figure. Worse yet, I found myself struggling into a pair of my sister’s shoes – the kind with pointy heels.
I had considered buying a pair of shoes till I saw the price on the limited selection she would let me consider. I figured for that much money, the shoes should come with someone to carry me around so my toes didn’t hurt. The compromise was to wear a pair of her shoes.
I picked the lowest heel possible. Since all her shoes were pointy, I resigned myself to pain for the night. Everything seemed to be going well till I tried to stand up. Apparently if you don’t wear these stiletto heels with any regularity, when you attempt to stand in them for the first time you tend to wobble. Then you wobble some more, your ankle gives out and you fall.
This is why I entered the ballroom the night of the gala holding on to my friend’s arm for dear life. I was tempted to tell people I was suffering from a neurological problem that precluded my standing on tiny spokes. But my explanation was consistently drowned out by the sound of my friends laughing every time I took a step.
The pantyhose are back in my sister’s drawer; the shoes are in her closet. I am back in Alaska where people understand that our toes aren’t pointed and stilettos are knives that should not be associated with shoes. And once again I am reminded of why I love this state so damned much.
Long live mukluks!