Thursday, May 13, 2010

Buy the shoes

A few years ago, my girls and I took advantage of a promotional deal at a drugstore and bought a box of notecards and matching magnets for a dollar. Illustrated with whimsical pink-splashed cartoons of shoes and shopping bags, the theme was “Life is short—buy the shoes.” It was clich├ęd and cutesy, and not really my style. Carrie Bradshaw, I am not.

Mostly, I’m happiest in my ripped-up Cons. I don’t love to go shoe-shopping, and when I do need to buy a pair, I often agonize about pulling the trigger. I am reluctant to spend the money on something I usually view as frivolous. (Yeah, I know: the shoes I wear would never be described as “frivolous.”) So more often than not, I don’t buy the shoes—or don’t even go shopping in the first place.

Yet, in the first three days after I learned I have cancer, I surprised myself by buying two pairs of shoes. This is pretty much my shoe quota for the next year or two, and I didn’t set out to buy either pair. The first day, the day of my diagnosis, Dan and I took our older daughter to the mall to meet some friends, leaving us with an afternoon to kill. We were five hours into living with cancer; we held hands and called it a date. I idly looked for some short black boots, but instead, impulsively bought a pair of black slip-ons. Two days later, I took that same daughter to look for shoes for her 8th grade dance. I pounced on a pair of sling-backs long before she made a decision.

After my second shoe purchase in three days, Dan joked that I was becoming Imelda Marcos. Recent behavior aside, we both know there’s no danger of that.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, my dear friend Miss M believes in retail therapy, specifically her fave Fluevog shoes. I don’t share her passion, but I can understand it. “They are sweet gifts that I award myself for getting through all this stuff,” she says. In the last few years, she’s lost her husband to addiction, a close friend to colon cancer, and too recently, her beloved, fierce mother. Partly, she salves the wounds; partly, I think, she knows life is short. She buys the Fluevogs.

In the stores, as I tried on the shoes, I thought of two things: I simply wasn’t going to deprive myself of a pair of shoes anymore. Because, yes, life just might be too short.

But, with any luck and as I fervently wish, life might be awfully long. So my other thought was this: “Shoes last. I could have these shoes for five or ten years. I will wear these shoes out.”

Which is why I offer you a new magnet-ready slogan: “Life is long—buy the shoes.”