Monday, May 12, 2008

Shoe Post One - The Prequel - Or "How Jeanie is not your average woman example #67"

When I was a child, I lived a long way from town.

This meant a lot of things. It meant that if we ran out of milk, the cow had to be brought in. It meant that if Mum didn't have ingredients for a dish, we didn't get that dish or we got a Mum-ified version. It meant that if our shoes were too tight or uncomfortable, too bad.

Of course, the last statement wasn't really as painful as all that, because generally what we wore on our feet always fit. We were barefoot children, and our feet truly enjoyed freedom as much as the rest of us.

We had tough feet - we could run through a patch of wind-dried bindi-eye and didn't feel a thing. Heck, we would DELIBERATELY run through any bindi patch we could find just to prove how hardened our feet were to such hardships.

Gravel roads baked in 40 celcius summer sun (that is over 100 farenheit for foreigners) were merely there for us to test our soles.

Our mother did attempt to civilise us. You never know when the Queen might drop by (or a grandmother) and she did attempt to shoe us.

Every morning before school we would be well shod and hair tied up. Every afternoon after school we would be barefoot and hair flying in the wind. Little did she know that the miraculous transformation took place just over the hill from home on the way TO the bus in the morning.

Therefore, unless we were riding (elastic sides - a horse has harder feet and a lot of weight behind it) or river crossing (volleys required to keep out barbed wire and snakes) we were fairly unfettered children - until the moment came that Mum took us to town.

Most of the time we got out of that little chore - Dad needed us or we would make ourselves as annoying as heck so Mum would leave us with a list of jobs - but there were occasions that our presence was absolutely required.

Generally, those were the days when we needed to be PROPERLY FITTED. Very onerous moments punctuating our childhood memories.

The nearest town was your typical country town - main street with
  • several hairdressers (mum cut ours so we didn't see inside);
  • butchers (only on special occasions - again, we did our own);
  • frock salon (a place of dreams with beautiful women who actually put up with us visiting them);
  • jewellers (look from the outside and DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING);
  • theatre (we went to see Grease there - twice!);
  • cafe (the Rainbow still goes on today);
  • haberdashery;
  • chemists (Mum occasionally worked there as a locum);
  • grocery stores;
  • menswear; and
  • a shoe store.

The shoe store was a scary proposition - not just because the plate glass window featured YOU getting your shoes fitted to every pedestrian; not just because the dapper Mr B-rhymes-with-Vogue was so attentive to your mother and your feet; not just because the range of styles and colours left a choice-challenged shy girl speechless; not just because the back of the shop started very close to the front of the shop and went back in four narrow aisles of boxes of shoes that went right to the ceiling - but for all of those reasons as well as the terror that you were going to get GOOD shoes, which meant NO MORE FREEDOM and BEHAVE WITH PROPRIETY.

The only answer required of the child was where it pinched - and Mr B-rhymes-with-Vogue would do a great deal of squeezing and pinching your foot just so you could tell him exactly where.

Your opinion was not called for - Mum and Mr B-rhymes-with-Vogue would discuss the finer details of style and colour. No matter how much your heart may ache for the buckle straps or the red-corked soles - it was not up to a child to harbour footly desire. The power was with the adults.

Ah yes, another moment in Jeanie's childhood that should ultimately lead to counselling. Except that that dance card is full, and thus I found other ways to cope.

At first it was my lack of care that most of my footwear was handed down from my big sister. My big sister who apparently envies me my average foot - it took a long time to fill her shoes, and an even longer time to grow out of them (for me), therefore I had plenty of time to develop this lack of care over my wearing second-hand (or foot) shoes. At least it meant one less trip to the shoe shop.

Then it was the abdication of all involvement in choice in matters of the feet. If the facts of my life were to include quashing of desires for "the buckle straps or the red-corked soles", then I would quash all pedi-desire altogether, and that should teach the universe.

Even when my mother took Mr B-rhymes-with-Vogue out of the equation and resorted to outlines of my feet in brown paper to gather shoes on appro and attempt to gather a distinct desire of shoe out of me, I was not to be drawn. "Whatever" was the answer then, and I am afraid it continued.

To this day - I can give you the time, date and place of purchase of every pair of shoes I own - and that is because there are so few pairs, so few purchases, so much stress and so little joy from the activity for me.

I know - other children had my childhood and seem to be quite normal - but for me, the average-footed middle-child, I can conjure a mountain out of a molehill but never a foot fetish out of such memories.


BB said...

Oh the memories... and yes it was that intimidating to little bush girls. Although in retrospect, Mr B-etc was quite a sweet little man and undeserving of being the source of any major counselling!

And my shoe fetish? That may be a whole 'nother post... as you well know Jeanie!

Beautifully written as always love.

Rootietoot said...

We would get 1 new pr a year, with last year's old pair serving as every day wear and the new ones for church. Now there's 20 pr in all colors in the closet, but I still go barefoot 11 months out of the year.

Crazed Nitwit said...

Ah, life before the internet. My bros and I wore stride rite. Until summer vacation when we tried to have the toughest, filthiest feet. If it wasn't for swimming my feet may well have rotted off.

What's a locum?


Jayne said...

I love going barefoot and us kids in the street would prove how tough the soles of our feet became over every Summer!
I have 2 shoe loves - thongs (flip flops) and my Blunnies. Live in thongs (or barefeet) in Summer and Blunnies(or barefeet) in Winter.
Last time I bought a pair of shoes was my Blunnies 4 years ago. I don't do shoe fetishes either ;)

Hilary said...

Those frock shops! Even as a child I used to look at them and think, 'Who BUYS those things?' Your country town must have been a step up, fashion-wise, from the ones we frequented.

I used to have to retoughen my soles every summer. It was tough (!) but I was prepared to put in the hard yards. It was the sixties, after all.

Life. Complicated. said...

So, I just wanted to say that your shoe post hit me just right! I was watching my boss walk by in her heels and noticed that they were ones I hadnt seen before. Hmmm, I wear the same tired pair and always the same colors (black or brown). I have never really had a show affliction. I do own several pairs that maybe get pulled out for a yearly special occassion or when I want to play dress up. Alas, I am not a shoe girl.

jeanie said...

bush babe - I know, but he is forever associated in my mind with that shop and the towers of boxes of shoes (he always knew exactly where every single one resided, too).

rootietoot - I am confused - were the church ones bought too big or the daily ones getting a bit tight?

janice - a locum is a doctor or, in my mother's case, pharmacist who stands in when the "real" one goes on holiday or takes a day off. The local pharmacies celebrated wildly when Dad married Mum, because they would always have a locum on call as a result!

Jayne - I am a boots or thongs girl if needed to shoe these days too!

hilary - Loralee's Frock Salon actually had some pretty stylish stuff - our Auntie Bonbon was a regular and a regular walking advertisement for them, too!

the palms - I think it is one of those "there are two types of people" divides. I also have a couple of "dress up" shoes, but they get slipped of VERY gladly at the end of an evening!

Anonymous said...

I'm a barefoot girl still. Even though it is really bad for me as I'm' meant to be wearing shoe inserts to keep my pelvis in line properly sigh.