Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wedges are my friend; 
or Expat lady talk; 
or I am so gossip deprived that I chatted for half an hour to a lady who was just trying to sell me some shoes and at one point she sighed and rolled her eyes
I hear they all have knee problems now . . .
The whole social scene from last week stressed me out to the point where my digestive system rebelled and I started detoxing some kind of hard little grain of sand size crystals from the pores of my face. No really, I did. And even though this is TMI of the worst degree, you can also know that it is not an attractive condition.  It is like teenage acne for a pre menopausal expat lady that leaves a lovely red scar and is completely due to the fact that I got overanxious.  Well, nothing like looking like an angst ridden pimply adolescent to make me want to obsess over my footwear.

I went to a friend's house the other day and she unveiled a closet wall of little custom made shoe compartments for her family's shoes.  She had so many different kinds just for herself that I fantasized about spending a whole day in her house playing dress-up and pretending that I was the kind of Sex and the City chick who coordinates bags and shoes with their outfits. I'm really not the type. I carry a "wristlet" purse (a purse with a wrist strap) for my keys, cash and credit card because shoulder bags hurt my back. For years I  made do with about five pairs: snow boots, rain boots, sandals, dress shoes that hurt too much to wear for more than ten seconds, and sneakers. In Brooklyn I wore sneakers all the time, even with skirts. I justified it somehow. I don't even remember what lie I told myself. Given the fact that I wasted a year when my back went out and two years when my knees went out, there were definitely times when I lost interest in anything but being pain free. Boring! Since we moved to the land where you are judged by your footwear, I have reconsidered everything.

In Italy where no one wears a bike helmet, everyone talks on their cell phone while they drive, and women wear stilettos on the ice while they drag their toddlers around the ice skating rink, there is a certain amount of throwing caution to the wind.  Mostly I am very against all of the above behaviors, but I do admit to having a low level jealousy for the hair tossing, high heeled, short skirted abandon of my new neighbors. Unfortunately, I have the kind of princess-and-the-pea feet whereby I can feel any type of possible itchy tag, scratch stitch, rubbing buckle and end up right away with blisters and cuts. To make things worse I pronate and have flat feet which I thought for years meant that I had to wear orthotics that of course change the fit of every shoe, making it impossible to find something that doesn't look like Nurse Jackie would make the rounds in them.

To review: An Italian woman in Lucca would not dream of wearing Reebock type sneakers if not inside the confines of the gym. Sneakers on the street are all Converse brand and often totally redone in leather. They even wear high heels while riding their bikes!

I thought I had found the holy grail of safe but attractive enough shoes when I discovered Fit flops which are a kind of flip flop that have sculptured soles with built in arch supports. I even brought extras with me when I moved, although it turns out they sell them here too. The advertisement for them says they make your thighs skinny because you have to use your leg muscles more when you walk in them. Me and my squibbly thighs can promise you that this is not the case. I was beyond happy to find out that they now come with gemstones and sequins attached, but T says that they are still old lady-ish. Italians love the shiny and add sequins to everything. There is not a cartoon character on earth that does not have a disco version of itself emblazoned on everything from (Tweety) panties to (Minnie Mouse) bath towels.

T's, new anklet sandals, F's new metrosexual sneakers, and my sparkly wedges!
Of course lots of tourists in Italy wear Fit flops or crunchy granola Birkenstocks or Teva trekking shoes. In my last three mile long walks around the wall of Lucca, the Fit flops revolted and started cutting up my feet. I guess I didn't wear them more than a few blocks when I was running errands in Park Slope. Even the "custom made" ballerinas that are really just run of the mill flats with a small leather arch support in them that my shoemaker ordered from a catalog, leave big red welts on my toes. How do you chic Parisians do the ballerinas without elastic straps? Mine would fall right off. And I feel every jut of the stone streets right through the soles. So I went out and bought a pair of high heeled wedges with a platform and they are the most comfortable thing in the whole world. Could it be that trying to find flat, practical shoes led me onto the wrong path? If you put this together with the fact that I now feel naked without jewelry in the summer, a scarf in the winter, and sunglasses most of the year, I think this place is rubbing off on me almost as much as my feet are rubbing off onto the cobblestones.
I had gelato for dinner; my parents are insane.

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