I went to a wedding last month. So did my Choos.
I always thought you could tell the difference between city and country by the clothes. I was wrong. True, one look at mom jeans and capri pants screams provincial, and my husband and I, in town (Paoli, Penn.) for the nuptials, got strange looks for our attire, me in my skinny jeans, him in his V-neck at the local Target. But nothing, it seems, is as defining as the footwear.
"You can judge a man by his shoes," the saying goes. Possibly, but women are far worse. With the judging, that is.
I was a bridesmaid in my childhood friend's wedding and, along with my charcoal grey, one-shouldered dress, I chose to wear my brand new glittery Jimmy Choos. They were a Christmas gift from my husband. (Naturally, I selected, he purchased. While I've educated him on the difference betwen a Louboutin and a loafer, he still doesn't know his way around a department store.) Sitting in my closet unloved for several months, this was the perfect occasion to break the platforms out of their windowless, yet perfectly shelved cell. Had I known the controversy they would cause, I may have thought twice.
At six inches, they're higher than any heel I've worn before. But I was confident I could carry them off and excited to showcase the sparkly beauties. I just didn't realize I would be displaying my alleged insanity as well. It all started at my childhood home. Apropos, as it's a place that often drives me to the brink.
Ever the procrastinator, I hadn't broken them in until the day of the wedding so, that morning, I gave them a trial run. Paired with my polka-dot pajamas, I pranced around the halls of my parents' home, practicing my wedding walk. Things were going smoothly -- no stumbles, no twisted ankles -- until my family joined me. One by one, they bounded into the kitchen for their coffee and crumb cake. It was like any other morning, until they saw the shoes.
What happened next I can only describe as an intervention. Not only was I criticized for my choice, I was then persuaded to think otherwise. I swear, my mother even uttered a, "I don't know where I went wrong with you," as if she found track marks on my arm instead of high heels on my feet. My sister then interrogated me as to how much I paid for the silly soles. "Were they $500?" No comment. "Oh my God, that means yes! She paid $500 for those!" I didn't have the heart to tell her they were $750 -- $800 with tax. I was already being slammed for my style; I couldn't take the financially irresponsible bashing, too.
Eager to get away from the shame den, I headed to the bride's house for some pre-wedding pampering. Upon arrival, my fellow bridesmaids asked to see the stilettos. At the rehearsal the day before, as we were lined up and arranged by height, I simply mentioned the heels I was planning on wearing the next day were higher than those I was currently sporting as not to throw off the perfectly proportioned tiers come ceremony time. "How much higher can you get?" came the comments from the crowd. And I was wearing what I thought were my modest, sensible pumps.
Surely, despite said statements, these girls would get me. After all, they are my age and most of them live in the city. They did not. The gasps and outbursts the shoes prompted were unbelievable. The exclamations were followed by a good 10 minutes of dialogue about how crazy I was for going so high. Then the heels were passed around and tried on. I watched as each girl wedged her foot into my Choo, being held up and supported by the others. Like Bambi and his new legs, they teetered, they tottered; they told me I would fall down.
At the rehearsal hall, the critiques continued. As I finally put them on for the pre-ceremony photos, they all stared and snorted, once again, mocking me. "They're just shoes!" I finally stammered. "Those are not shoes. Those are ridiculous," jeered my friend.
In fairness, I do my share of teasing. In fact, that's what I equate with love. If I'm giving you a hard time, it means I like you. It's the way I was raised. My dad and sister relentlessly tortured me as a kid and I, in turn, have replicated that behavior with my friends and loved ones. I certainly dish it out and thought I could take it but this was getting out of hand. It was no longer fun and games; it was straight up harassment.
Despite the increasing discontent, I proudly walked down the aisle; happy I didn't tumble, happier for the couple. But, as I passed my family in the second row and smiled for my sister and her camera, even my dad got in on the action. Over the sounds of the orchestral accompaniment and their version of Elvis' "Can't Help Falling in Love", I heard him declare, not so subtly, "She's so Hollywood."
Cocktail hour came and I was ready for a drink! But, no sooner had I put down my bouquet and picked up my Chardonnay, then the talk returned to my Choos. Pals I hadn't seen since I was seven came up to me and, instead of chatting about my career or our recent move, spoke of my shoes, prompting my family to start up again.
Just then I spotted my stylish friend, who lives in New York, and begged her over. Surely she would understand me, maybe even defend me to my protestors. Upon seeing the heels, she replied with an enthusiastic, "Those are so h..." I jumped at the chance for a compliment, responding with a quick, "Thank you! I knew you'd get it!" Puzzled, she looked at me and continued her statement. I thought she'd said, "hot". She'd said "high". Wishful willing.
My family erupted into laughter, elbowing each other and exchanging knowing, "We told you so" faces. I'd finally had it. "Enough," I shouted. "Can we please talk about Katie and Craig?" They were the ones just wedded, the ones worthy of the attention.
When I was leaving the venue after a night of celebration, thankful for conversation that was finally more about the bride and groom and less about the footwear, the wedding coordinator, a woman one might have pegged as a bumpkin with Kate Gosselin hair and a central Pennsylvania accent, offered a surprisingly encouraging statement, the first of the day. "You rocked those heels, girl! Way to go!" she said as she high-fived me.
The lesson? While you may be able to spot the hick from the kicks, they may surprise you. Even my trend-devouring city friend, who I thought would have my back, sold me and my shoes down the Schuylkill, but this woman, a mere stranger from the sticks, loved my look and was championing me and my Choos.
As for the actual shoes, they are taking a much needed and deserved break (along with my feet -- ouch!). That is until my next wedding in three weeks... in NYC. Perhaps I should bring the country coordinator with me. I may need the support.
Below, my Jimmy Choo shoe:
Follow Natalie Thomas on Twitter: www.twitter.com/natsnextadv