Friday, April 20, 2007

Fall fashion.

A friend called Tuesday night. Did I want to meet her and her friend for lunch in Beverly Hills the following day? My external voice said, “Oh, I’d love to” in a way which I believe concealed the degree of anticipation I felt. A lunch date! A real lunch date! Most days, what I would call my “Lunch plans” could also be described as “Eating a cheese sandwich while window-shopping on Ebay while waiting for someone from Tech Support in Mumbai to take me off hold”. Eating food in the company of people who weren’t actually in India sent me into finger-flapping glee.

It got even better. Because I was going to Beverly Hills, a trip of at least forty minutes, I had to find another errand to justify the fossil fuel outlay. And I did. I made an appointment for a haircut, dovetailing neatly into my lunch. Not only would I be eating with real live people and not eating a cheese sandwich off a legal pad — I would be doing so with a fresh haircut.

More gleeful finger-flapping ensued.

When one eats at a nice restaurant in Beverly Hills, or even nice restaurant adjacent to Beverly Hills, one does not wear one’s usual pile of stained rags. In my case, I wore the least-disgusting jeans and least mottled short-sleeved polo shirt I could find. I also carefully applied moisturizing sunblock to my arms for a semblance of healthy sheen and general freckle-mitigation. I then went to the closet and pulled out the new shoes I had bought only last week. They are black platform espadrilles, and they were so casually hip and cute that I could barely look at them. I shimmied into them and turned to the closet mirror.

Oh my….this is incredible. For the first time in my life, I’m five-seven, five feet of which appear to be legs. I look younger. I look thinner. Somehow, I even look more tan. Why haven’t I been wearing these every single second of my life? Let’s see how they look from the side…


I used the dresser to help get up off the floor. My ankles bowed under me like a newborn foal’s. I stood and gazed appreciatively at my profile view. I went to turn to the back…


Huh. Floor again. It seemed the espadrilles worked fine as footwear fine until I moved. It’s a credit to the cumulative effects of the five (or possibly six) concussions I’ve suffered over the years that it never occurred to me to change into different shoes. I gave my reflection one final “lookin’ good” fingergun, and wobbled to the car.

Two nights before, Consort, Daughter and I had been driving home from dinner someplace, talking about stuff when I became aware of a ticking sound. A reflexive scan of the dashboard indicated my left-turn signal was activated. I switched off the directional lever, which had no effect. I toggled it up and down, which neither stopped the blinking nor moved it to the right. A complete reboot of the ignition switch didn’t stop the blinking. The car was stuck in a closed loop indicating a left turn.

I said to Consort, “I bet that guy behind me really hates me right now”.

“Your left-turn signal has been blinking since we left the restaurant and you’re not very tall, so cheer up,” he said comfortingly. “He probably just thinks you’re really old”.

The good news: by the time we got home, many miles later, the turn signal had stopped blinking. The bad news: the turn signal was now indicating nothing at all. Of course, this now meant that while waiting for a slot to open up at our trusted mechanic I would be forced to use hand signals. In these modern times – and especially in Los Angeles – it turns out using a hand signal to indicate you’re changing direction encourages other people to use a hand signal to indicate you’re an idiot. Knowing my left arm was going to be flailing around out in the sun I reapplied an extra layer of sunblock.

Once I got to Beverly Hills and parked, I was forced to reconsider walking, a skill I had incorrectly assumed I had mastered for this lifetime. It appears, however, that walking in platform espadrilles with a heel only a half-inch wide at its narrowest makes every previously-held assumption a fraught negotiation. The shoes allowed me to walk forward, so long as I didn’t do it any faster than your average geisha. The shoes allowed me to back up, as long as I held onto something solidly connected to the earth to maintain my balance. However, the shoes quickly and brutally established that we weren’t changing direction.


If I leaned one way or the other— if I tried to, say, turn a corner—the shoes would reward me with a quick downward trajectory. Since the fall was starting in my ankles, a joint not known for its love of sudden lateral pressure, I was pleasantly surprised each time I didn’t hear a snapping sound while crashing onto the pavement.

That’s me: Miss Focus-on-the-Positive.

Getting my hair cut was very relaxing, primarily because I was sitting down and thus had very few chances in which to fall. I had bangs cut, which is one of my three life cycles -- the other two being Growing Out Bangs and Thinking About Wearing Bangs Again. During the procedure, I was immersed in a book about Louis the 14th and his romantic complications so it wasn’t until the final blow-out before I noticed that my arms were covered in hair trimmings. I brushed at my arms casually. I brushed at my arms purposfully. I brushed at my arms frantically. The hair remained immobile.

“I probably shouldn’t have moisturized and sunblocked before a haircut”, I said slowly.

“Probably not,” my hairdresser agreed, just a bit too cheerfully.

My arms appeared to be covered in dark brown sleeves. I tottered to the bathroom, turning towards the bathroom…


Getting up off the ground.

I went into the bathroom and washed off my arms. The arm fur undulated under the flowing water like tiny seaweed but otherwise stayed put. Of course, I thought bleakly, waterproof sunblock -- the spar varnish of personal emollients. How wise of me to somehow know I’d be up to my elbows in water today but still want sun protection. Rubbing vigorously with a towel…


Getting up off the ground.

I scrubbed off enough hair so you could see some skin underneath, but I clearly looked like someone who needed a more seasoned electrologist. Well, everyone was just going to have to judge me because my lunch date was in a few minutes and I needed to factor in extra time for walking slowly and falling.

Funny thing about my new bangs. When the hairdresser and I were discussing what look we were going for, I kept stressing “Movement”. I wanted them to be able to be down over my forehead or off to the side, or staying home and doing QuickBooks if that’s what the mood required. Movement, I said firmly, and darned if he didn’t cut them for movement. Those little beggers were dancing all over the place. Having not had bangs for a while, their very motion caused me to keep unconsciously moving my head…


Okay, that’s not fair. I’m not turning a corner, I’m moving my head.

Apparently, somewhere during the haircut, the shoes ratcheted-up their level of diffculty. Now even the most microscopic change in my center of gravity was an invitation to stop, drop and roll. I had developed the gait of a drunk with an inner-ear infection. If you added in my still-hairy arms, I was a drunk Ewok with an inner-ear infection.

Lunch was fun because the women were smart and entertaining...and because I was sitting down. I could gesture with abandon and not fear the taste of floor. An hour later, as we rose from the table, I winced as the cumulative effects of all those falls began to catch up with me. Apparently, wincing changed my posture just enough to annoy the shoes, because my new friend suddenly had a big old armful of Quinn lunging at her. I had explained the shoes during lunch, but I suspect she just thinks I’m overly affectionate.

The upside to being in pain was that I was now naturally walking slowly enough so as not to fall over. I learned quickly, though, that the shoes didn’t like when I tried to brush head-hair off my flypaper arms, or take my sunglasses out of my purse or rub my elbow, which had taken the brunt of several of the falls. And whatever the shoes wanted, the shoes got. I shuffled several blocks to my car.

Inside the car, I immediately pulled off the sandals. Torquemada could not have designed a more effective device for torture. Both of my ankles were swollen in an unwholesome and irregular way. My pinky toe was dripping blood; I had no idea when that happened, and it’s a credit to my overall level of pain that the pinky hadn’t drawn any special attention to itself. I called my friend Armita, a shoe fanatic.

“There are platform espadrilles at Nordstroms. They cost about sixty dollars.”, I said as soon as she answered.

“Ooh,” she trilled, “I know those!” she trilled. “They’re adorable!” she trilled.

“Yeah, they’re adorable,” I said flatly. “They’re Satan’s pug puppies. But they’re completely unwearable and don’t buy them. Let me have learned this lesson for both of us.”

I heard her breathing.

“They come in navy and red,” she countered, finally.

“I know, but they’ll kill you. And they’ll laugh at your dead body.”

“I bet they make your legs look really good”, she said happily.

“Yeah. Great, actually. I’ll have the hottest legs in the ER”.

“You got them at Nordstrom’s. You have the reciept?”

“Sure, I only bought them last week.”

“Then take them back.”

“I can’t do that. I bled in them!” I said, appalled.

“They’ll take them back. It’s Nordstrom’s,” she said decisively. “They have the best return policy.”

I looked at them over in the passenger seat. In the dim light of the parking lot, they looked so innocent.

“I could,” I said slowly. “But…”.

“They’re really cute and your legs look really good in them.”

“Yeah”, I sighed.

“I gotta go,” Armita said.“I’m going to try them on in red before I pick up Jake at school”.

The trip home brought a touch of serendipity. Having to keep my arm out the window in order to signal my turns finally blew most of the pelt off my left arm. And when I wasn’t remembering to signal, I was coming to my senses. I was being too hasty. My legs might never look this good again in daytime shoes. Once the toe clotted and the swelling came down, we’d try again. It was my fault for wearing them too long on the first day. The shoes didn’t mean to hurt me. If you stopped to think about it, I made the shoes do it.

It’s not the start of a healthy relationship, but it’s going to make a wonderful movie for Lifetime.

Fatal Footwear: The Quinn Cummings Story.


Blogger Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

It's amazing what women will do for cute shoes. I have several adorable pairs in my closet that look great but feel terrible when worn. Sigh...

Thanks for sharing this great story.

5:53 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

I too have a pair of way-too-high black espadrilles (9 West) languishing in the back of my closet. I sometimes wear them, but completely lack the ability to drive in them unless I want to accidentally accelerate too much. Barely touching the gas in those things is like flooring it in my regular shoes. They do make your legs look great though.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Valerie said...

**sigh** i so feel your pain.
i'd comment more, but i gotta go break in some peep-toe heels at the b-ball court.

4:53 PM  
Blogger John, famous in Siberia said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:06 PM  
Blogger John, famous in Siberia said...

You mean you actually use turn signals out there in LA? I thought using them there was just asking for trouble.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Melodee said...

I use my natural tallness (5'7"--tall enough for me) as an excuse not to wear murderous footwear.

I also have a cycle--I grow out layers, then have layers cut in. I also cut my hair short, then spend two years growing it out. Gives me something to do.

9:09 PM  
Blogger Dodi said...

Possessed shoes and embarrassing faux arm hair... I haven't laughed that hard in weeks! I so wish you were my next door neighbor!

5:07 PM  
Blogger Tom Moran said...

Three comments:

1) What's wrong with having freckles?

2) It's *Mrs* Focus-on-the-Positive.

3) I'm starting to think that you have the makings of a fine comic novelist.

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You crack me up. Not just make me giggle, you make me laugh out loud and my co workers think I am a loon. Wait....they thought that before.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

It is my firm belief that all retail shoe outlets should be forced to have a minimum of two working treadmills available to all customers for exactly this sort of real-world testing.

I mean, everything feels good when you're standing still or taking four steps across a perfectly level carpet, but it would be good to know in advance if those adorable shoes intend to stay adorable after a couple dozen steps.

I'm considering lobbying Congress.

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your shoe story brought back memories --- I bought a pair of shoes once at Tod's on Rodeo Drive, went to a mall in the Valley and walked about 2 miles at which point my feet were killing me. by the time I got home I had worn away about 2 layers of skin on my heels and both heels were bloody. I paid a small fortune for those shoes and wanted to exchange them for another size, but felt guilty since they had blood on them, so I still have them. I have literally counted the times I have worn them in the past 5 years (about 8 times), so that averages out to about $30 each wearing. the pain was too much, so I finally gave up wearing them. anyone want a practically brand new pair of really cute Tod's loafers, size 6, blood not really visible in heel area?? Laurie

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What Dodi said! Thanks for the laughs, I sooo can relate.

You'd think, at 5'11", I'd never wear tall heels. But I had THE office party last weekend, and had to have sexy heels to go with my strappy shimmering red dress. In size 10? Good gawd, those currently fashionable Witchie-poo pointy-toed shoes look like skiis on my feet! They enter the room 5 minutes before I do.

My only option was to get sandals. The only pair in my size 4 hours before the party were black sandals with 3" skinny heels, and a strap around the ankle. Gorgeous, sexy, but hubby had to stare UP at me as I gracefully wobbled into the hotel lobby...

The things we women do in the name of fashion!

6:01 PM  

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