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Gene fuels the desire for fashionable footwear

Jan Hearne • Nov 4, 2013 at 10:19 AM

Shoes. Women are supposed to be crazy for shoes, and it seems a lot of women are, particularly models and actresses and wives of dictators.There’s an ad on TV now. Women scream with joy when they learn shoes can be had for $39.95. I do not get it.My mother loved shoes, my sister loves shoes, though with her tiny feet she can’t wear the styles she loves, which I think is cruel irony. I have size 71?2s and really care about one thing: comfort.If I am ever complimented on my shoes, it sounds something like, “Oh, those look comfortable,” which they are. I have worn the same style for 21?2 years because I love them. The last pair I bought were the last pair available. The style has been discontinued; I hate to think what I’ll do when it’s time to replace them.If I had any interest in stylish shoes, it was quashed so long ago, I don’t remember it. By the time I entered first grade, my doctor had decided there was something wrong with one of my legs and the only cure for it was saddle oxfords. Huge, clunky saddle oxfords that looked like I was wearing fat, squared-off cats on the end of my skinny legs. I suppose that was the first time I felt self-conscious.At Christ the King school in Atlanta, we didn’t wear uniforms, but we were required to wear dresses. My mom dressed me in cute clothes to no avail. Whatever feminine effect she strove for was dashed by the saddle oxfords. For some reason, I could put the saddle oxfords away during summer and go barefoot or wear flip-flops or Keds Grasshoppers. Freed from the black-and-white concrete blocks, I could run like the wind. Three months of weightlessness were followed by the dreaded trip to the shoe store to be fitted for another pair of clodhoppers. Tears were shed.I have no idea what was supposed to be wrong with my leg, though I do remember the doc checking for a lump behind my knee. When we moved to Knoxville when I was 8, my new doctor saw nothing to worry about and gave me the OK to wear “real” shoes. Unfortunately, uniforms were required at my new school — our choices were loafers or saddle oxfords. I chose loafers.While my mother and sisters trotted about in stylish footwear, I showed no fashion sense. On Sundays and special occasions, simple flats were OK with me. At 13, my first pair of pumps were thrilling, but I soon lost interest. In high school more uniforms that I alternated with loafers and daintier saddle oxfords, which I came to love. They looked great with knee socks and were really comfortable.In 1970, I gave up on shoes altogether, going barefoot just about everywhere, including classes at college. My feet must have been like leather.I did wear heels to my wedding but took them off as soon as we got to the reception. My back hurt. I received guests in my stocking feet. It was my wedding and I wanted to be comfortable.If you were to look in my closet, you would find four pairs of shoes: my everyday Merrells, a pair of flats, a pair of hiking boots for bad weather and sneakers. I lack the X-chromosome-related shoe gene. I am not proud of this, and feel I have missed out on quite a lot.If life were fair, my sister would have my feet and I would have hers. Comfortable shoes come in all sizes.Jan Hearne can be reached at jhearne@johnsoncitypress.com.

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