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What's With the Shoes
by Susan Johnstone
Not For Sale


I don’t understand the fascination some women have with shoes. It almost borders on addiction, and surely it must involve some sort of compulsive behaviour, whether it be shopping or spending money. I just read – on a website - one woman’s account of a friend who had appeared at a party wearing stunning red velvet stilettos that apparently made women gasp in awe and inspired them to go out and indulge themselves in purchasing similar shoes. Really? I thought. Does one pair of shoes have that much impact on a group of people, like someone driving through on a golf buggy with a flashing neon sign saying ‘Look at me’? Surely there were some in the room who didn’t notice the shoes but instead were thinking, How many of these pastry things do I need to eat before I can go home and slip on my trakkie daks? So anyway, the woman telling the story claimed that shoes are an expression of the owner - they say a lot about the person.

Hmm… what do my shoes say about me?

I thought they just said, ‘It’s raining and I don’t want my feet to get wet.’ But clearly there is more to a shoe than a piece of sole and upper. A shoe can be a whole job interview and psychiatric assessment , it seems. What do my torn leather boots say about me – that I am old and worn out? Or my tight joggers that are probably a size too small – that I am constricted by the societal restraints around me?

Perhaps my ‘little old lady’ red floral slippers say that I have poor circulation in part due to low iron levels, and so my feet are always cold, and I am willing to wear anything to protect my sensitive skin from the bare wooden floor... and when someone gives me a bag of hand-me-down clothes containing those sort of slippers, regardless of the lack of fashion and the connotations towards nursing homes, I just have to take the slippers and be grateful. And that sometimes a couple of fluffy bed socks just don’t do the job and I need something more, particularly if I want to go outside to get something off the line and those socks make it really hard to put my scuffs on, so that’s when a pair of slippers come in handy.

Yeah - that’s what people can deduce by looking at my shoes. Who knew they were so revealing?

The website that I mentioned at the beginning is called iluvthoseshoes.com, by the way, which is a pretty worthwhile site apart from the opening illustration. At first, I thought it was a gardening website called “I luv thoses hoes” and I was a bit concerned about the grammar for a moment. But now I know.

Meanwhile, at this time of year we are racing around buying all sorts of things - probably not shoes - in attempts to appease the greedy hoardes of relatives who expect ‘stuff’ – not anything one really needs, but just boxes and wrapping paper, and something (preferably) sparkly or full of kilojoules, that can be easily and quickly devoured, then forgotten about in a couple of days’ time. The thought of such mass consumerism makes me ill and I refuse to get carried away. My nieces have everything a girl could want, and more, and while I will make a token gesture of benevolence, we agree that I don’t have to spend a fortune in order to impress, or compete with the other present-givers around the tree.

And all this because somewhere before the hype and commercially motivated advertising, there was a little child born to humble parents who grew to be a man, who toiled and cared, and listened and healed, and taught about peace and love and forgiveness. He became a leader, a revolutionary - a religious stirrer who demonstrated that someone’s attitude was more important than empty, token gestures. He pointed out that attaining status and amassing wealth was worth nothing if you used your soul for currency.

His philosophies were more than rhetoric, for he walked the talk. He lived and laughed, touched and cried. He saw through social expectations and pressures, the cliques and posturing. He rejected others’ attempts to flatter and manipulate him, and chose to hang out with normal people in the towns and country roads. He embraced cultural and social outcasts, and looked deep into a person’s soul, recognising glimmers of value within everyone. He could see the hurt and the emptiness felt by the masses and he knew each individual’s secret longings to be loved.

And the shoes he wore were not fancy, showy things that encouraged others to buy and consume and compete with external adornment. No, I’m guessing his shoes were the same as all the other working men from around Palestine 2000 years ago – sturdy leather sandals. Sandals that let in the dust and the heat, connecting him with the earth and pulling him to his knees at times - his sweat mingling with his tears, all in the name of relentless love.

What shoes would I rather wear?

Read more articles by Susan Johnstone or search for other articles by topic below.

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