Shoe retailers are trying to make a man out of me and I'm not sure I appreciate the effort. I sort of like being a woman vis a vis shoes. Granted, it's not easy being a woman with feet like mine; I walk into the biggest shoe store in town, ask the helpful salesperson to bring me everything she has in my size, and wait for her to emerge, eventually, from the storeroom with a single pair of spike heels in green suede.
Or, more likely, nothing at all. "We don't carry any wide widths in sizes larger than 8," they insist, and when I ask why, they say, "Because there's no demand for them."
"You want demand?" I say. "I can be pretty demanding when I put my mind to it. I am 10-wide, here me roar!"
But it's useless, so for some years I've made a habit of driving two hours to the Big City a few times a year for the express purpose of buying shoes at the one store where I'm certain to find them, and when I find a pair I like in my size, I don't even look at the price tag. It gets expensive, but it beats going barefoot.
So today I'm on fall break and the loyal spouse took a day off so we could go gallivanting off to the Big City in search of shoes: a pair of walking shoes and a pair of casual loafers to replace my old Eastlands that finally became too disreputable-looking to be worn anywhere but in the garden. A simple task, you might think. Ha!
My old faithful store no longer carries my size. "Nothing over size 8 in wide widths," said the salesperson. The guy in the sports store said the same thing. "Women don't wear shoes that wide," he said. By that time I was so demoralized that all I could do was sigh deeply and move on.
Across town a bigger sports store had the goods: one pair of walking shoes, my size, my price. Perfect. We asked about loafers and they suggested the big shoe warehouse nearby.
It was big, all right. If I'd needed patent-leather thigh-high boots with five-inch stilleto heels, I could have chosen from a wide spectrum of colors ranging from lime green to eggplant to princess pink. We wandered rows and rows of women's shoes: camouflage print pumps, plaid Keds lace-ups, shoes with criss-crossing velcro straps, bowling shoes, hiking shoes, showing-off-your-funky-socks shoes, but nothing resembling a loafer and nothing--nothing!--in my size.
I was about ready to give up when I ran into a former student who lent a sympathetic ear. "You ought to try the men's department," she said. "They have loafers over there."
She was right. I tried on one pair after another before settling on a perfect pair of Sperry Topsiders. They fit! They're comfortable! They even look good! Okay, they weren't cheap, but it beats going barefoot.
I did get a few odd looks while trying on shoes in the men's department, but after a two-hour drive and five solid hours of shopping, I didn't care. If the shoe retailers of America insist on squeezing me out of the women's department, there's not much I can do about it but stand up and take it like a man.