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Consider This

By LC Van Savage

Lift Your Spirits, But First Always Lift Your Shoes

Recently at a meeting I saw a gorgeous woman, one I’d kill to look like, one I couldn’t remotely look like if I had a live-in makeover guru with a triple-edged scalpel, cauldrons of molten Max Factor and a spatula. Her pale hair did not have one strand out of place and I’ll bet the rent she awoke with her ‘do looking like that; coifed. My hair is the exact opposite of coifed, and looks a lot as if I cut it once a month myself in an upstairs bathroom. (The answer’s yes.) And her outfit; understated. Classic. Expensive. Her make-up was subtle, perfect.

And there I sat actually having thought that morning I was dressing up because the “gold” hoop earrings I wore were one size larger than the ones I wear every day. And, in a rush of mad abandon, I’d even put on lipstick before I’d left that evening for the meeting.

I began to think, looking at that grand lady, about my days as a young office worker in Gotham. Or the Apple. Whatever. Like thousands of others, I had to dress perfectly every morning before going to my job, and to even wear stupid, tearfully painful high heeled shoes with sharply pointed toes that ruined every woman’s feet but at least made the killing of cockroaches in the corners of their apartments easy sport. And those skinny, spiky heels were always getting caught in any of the tiniest holes or slits in sidewalks or floorboards. Escalators were murder, literally, because if milady’s heels impaled in those lethal stairs and she lacked the inclination to leap from her precious shoes in time, she could quite simply have been sucked and sliced down through those endlessly moving metal stairs to end up a heap of shredded meat in the building’s basement.

As I sat in that very boring meeting, I remembered the lift issues we young ladies suffered back then. Now, not only were we expected to appear at work wearing spotless white gloves and a hat and sporting rigidly straight gartered stocking seams, the lifts on the tips of our spike heels had to be in perfect condition.

Oh, you don’t know what “lifts” are? No, not British elevators. Lifts are (or maybe were, I don’t know if the name has changed) the tiny, hard little “soles” or tips at the end of each spike high heel, and by heaven, they had to be in perfect shape and not worn down a fraction.

Now I’m not one to be opinionated or judgmental, but sometimes when I walk behind young business ladies today and look down at the tips of their high heels, I’m appalled to frequently see they’re completely run down, the lifts totally gone and the leather torn, splayed and curled up like an upside down peeled banana exposing the wood or white plastic or whatever the heel is made of. Nasty! (Hey, you can always tell a person’s character by the way they care for their shoes. It’s true. You could look it up.)

If the lifts on our shoes back then were worn down, we young lady office workers were expected to immediately get to a cobbler during our lunch hour and get them replaced, and there were cobblers everywhere because they knew young female office workers would be in deep whatever if their lifts were worn and frayed. (The synergy of businesses.) Jobs and careers would be imperiled if bosses noticed any splayed and shredded heel ends. And to be fair, men were expected to have highly polished and well-heeled and soled shoes too. Wing tips preferred.

But tack to those small cobbler shops patch worked in between large stores along the finest of New York City byways. Inside would be a row of small, waist high wooden stalls with hard, splintery benches within. I’d go in there on my lunch hour after spending 3 hours in agony that my lift negligence would be discovered by my boss, my poorly shod feet tucked hard under my office chair. I’d shut the door of the cobbler’s stall, sit down, remove my shoes and hand them over the top to the shoe repair guy and watch while he replaced those errant lifts. When done, he’d hand the shoes back, I’d pay and out I’d walk, deflawed and repaired, allowed to go back into the workforce free from shame.

That beautiful woman at the meeting seated next to me had absolutely no lift issues. She was impeccable, scalp to bunion. It didn’t exactly brighten my evening to discover she was 87 years old. There’s hope for me yet; I have 16 years to go.

Today’s fashion savvy working women, even in the great megalopolises, wear comfortable, soft sneakers to work. Actually, it does look comical to see a woman dressed to the nines (what does that expression mean, anyway?) with full make-up, perfect hair, everything done well, all appointments and accessories in proper locations about her person while wearing a pair of great, bouncy Nikes, her strappy, sexy Pradas in a Coach tote over her arm. How bright women are today to want their feet to be comfortable as they trudge to work. I remember back in my very early twenties when I worked in NYC. I didn’t have taxi or bus money one early evening and had to hike on far too many blocks of freezing cement on the walkways of that city in January, wearing pointy very high heels and suffering pain the likes of which I’ve never suffered before or after. I remember staring down at those shoes through tears of terrible pain, they were turquoise, and thinking “LC, you are a complete ass for ever buying these things.” And yet I had to keep on walking so I could get home. When I did and peeled those turquoise instruments of torture from my blue, frozen feet, the pain was so intense I knew having babies would be by comparison a walk in the park. OK, it wasn’t, but it was close. What did I know back then?

I will never have shredded lift issues again because I will never ever wear high heels for the rest of my life. I’m just so done with all that.

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