Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sole mates

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (or, at least, in Berkeley, California), Bella psicologista once opined that finding a mate was like finding a parking spot: sometimes you had to drive and search a very long time, but you only needed one. Although my sister's words were wise, upon returning to the dating scene after an over two decade interlude, Bella professoressa has found the process of seeking her soul mate more reminiscent of the search for the perfect pair of shoes.

When you are a young professoressina (or, really, a professoressa-in-training, since Bella p was a mother of two before she landed her first tenure-track position), comfort takes a back seat to cuteness and style. While I have never had the tightrope-walking skills of Bathsheba, who has walked on her toes all her life, there is actual footage of me dancing in four inch heels with a ringer from the Arthur Murray dance studio, in the nightclub scene central to the heart of that scintillating made-for-tv movie, “King of Love, loosely based on the life of Hugh Hefner. For more quotidian usage, I had adorable little pumps (in a variety of colors that matched my various outfits) in which I walked miles and miles, to class, to synagogue, to be seen.

Pregnancy, however, not to mention motherhood, can really put a kink in your sartorial tendencies; and a mother’s sacrifices often include her footwear. During the ten-odd years when Bella professoressa was incinta professoressa, professoressa allattante, or both, just as her dresses were designed for pragmatic breast access rather than sensual display, so her shoes reflected a need for comfort and arch support.

In a home now replete with teenagers, your innate feminine desire for attractive footwear must be balanced equally with the exigencies of chronic plantar fascitis as well as the necessity of protecting said footwear from rapacious, eye-rolling daughters who also wear size 7 and a half. And this balance beam is an apt metaphor for post-divorce dating.

In the shoe store as in life, some first impressions can be deceiving. You are initially attracted by the ruffles along the top of the foot, and, although the four inch heels look high, you realize that they are mitigated by the substantial platform; upon first putting these sandals on, you are struck by your own height and the elegance of your legs’ long silhouette. As the evening progresses, however, you grow more and more uncomfortable – and so it was with the very first man I dated in this millennium. Although “lance” was a seemingly engaging and intelligent conversationalist, whose life work focused on pain prevention in childhood cancer, his at first scintillating dialogue rapidly degenerated into a tedious four-hour monologue, culminating in the revelation of why he had chosen not to get a prosthesis for the testicle he had lost to cancer. The heels are donated to goodwill, and Lance is dismissed, never to be seen again.

Other fellows are not so much ill-fitting dress shoes as overly sensible walkers. The accordion-playing Peacemaker, for example, resembled nothing so much as those seventies’ standbys, wallabees. Ready to transition from academia to retirement in Florida, he was comfortable, supportive – but not at all attractive.

Sometimes shopping is a complex affair of dashing from store to store, but there are moments when you walk into DSW and immediately seize upon the perfect pair of black suede pumps, high enough so that your calves look shapely, but not so high that your toes hurt, and with a cute little bow detail that makes at least one woman come up and tell you how adorable they are every single time you put them on. Plus, they make your feet look small.

The Gentle Giant is kind, intelligent, funny and extremely handsome. He has eight children, he gives a mean footrub, and he thinks I'm beautiful and brilliant. And, at 6 foot seven, he makes my feet look tiny.

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