I had a pair of tall, red vinyl boots when I was a kid. They were probably called "patent leather," but leather doesn't squeak like those used to when they brushed up against each other. I wore them everywhere, all of the time, and with every outfit: shorts, jeans, skirts. It didn't matter. They're the one article of clothing I remember from childhood. They had little heels--maybe half an inch--and I walked on the sides of those heels until the shoes became deformed looking, twisted and stretched . . . but more comfortable. See, I was a tomboy up until I hit middle school and really, truly discovered boys. And the boys I liked didn't care so much for girls who could out-tree-climb them or who didn't like brushing their hair, even for school photos, or who spent hours in the woods, imagining they heard Bigfoot or saw the remains of fairy rings.
I'd outgrown my boots by then. I switched to "baby doll" shoes--the black, canvas, Mary Jane ones. More practical. But I never loved them. They didn't feel like "me." Middle school is like that: three awkward years of not feeling like "you" and wondering if it's your shoes . . . or your hair or your clothes or your weight or your family's awful orange VW van with Ziggy painted on the side. (Yes, seriously.)
High school isn't a whole lot better and in many ways it's worse. I'd gotten rid of my baby doll shoes by then and envied the other girls' Tretorns and K-Swiss and Reeboks but tried to find my own "style" so theirs wouldn't "fit" me. I wouldn't want what they had because it wouldn't "match."
College? I borrowed my roommates' shoes a lot. Also their clothes. I was kind of amazed--in a very sad, pathetic sort of way--to realize after college how few of the clothes in my wardrobe I liked. So I started over, putting myself in debt (not obscenely so, though my husband may disagree) in an effort to "find myself." It didn't work.
It took a long time, which it does for most of us, for me to find the shoes that fit me again rather than the me that fit the shoes. I'm comfortable with the skin I'm in. It's a good place to be.
Last night, I was taking my daughter to ballet and passed a children's shoe store that is going out of business. I sent her up to the studio and went back to the store. The first pair I found? Tall, red patent leather boots--in my size, not Emma's. I got her a couple of pairs of shoes, too, but the red boots are mine.