I was invited to my very first wedding at the age of seven, that of a distant cousin whom I had no recollection of meeting but I knew, from the wedding invitation, that he existed. Upon learning of my cousin’s existence and his imminent nuptials, I began dreaming of a beautiful gold dress, with ruffles and taffeta, lace and brocade paired with a tasteful tiara and black patent leather ballet flats. (I was seven, living in New Jersey, and it was the early nineties—there’s no accounting for taste.) I related my pageant-worthy costume choice to my mother, but only got as far as the taffeta before her face fell into an “I feel sort of bad for you, but you’re ridiculous” grimace. “Laura,” she said, somewhat gently, “This is a daytime wedding.” What that had to do with anything, I hadn’t a clue, but the point was that my dress was not appropriate. “You’ll wear a suit.”
She whisked me away from my cartoons the following Saturday morning to shop at Saks for this ill-fated suit. I sat in the back seat, pouting all the way for the loss of my delusions of grandeur, and maybe a little because I wasn’t allowed to sit in the front. We were greeted at Saks, with offensive enthusiasm by Carol, who had gone ahead and picked out a bunch of suits for me. As we walked through the beautiful party dresses in a parade of crushed dreams, I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone else didn’t find it preposterous that a child would wear a suit. At seven, I looked up at two grown adult women and thought, “You want a child to wear a suit. And I’m the ridiculous one? ” But sure enough I began trying on suits. We finally go to one that had a nice top (a cream vest lined with black satin) but I was wearing pants with it and worked up the nerve to put my foot down. “I saw a skirt out there that goes with this. Can I please wear the skirt?” My mother agreed and I handed her the pants.
“Carol,” she called. “Would you mind bringing the skirt for this top?”
“And which top is that?” Carol called back.
“Oh, come in and see it,” my mother answered without a second’s hesitation.”
“What? Mom, no!” I pleaded. I was in my underwear. Carol was not allowed to see my underwear. First these women were robbing me of a beautiful party dress and now my dignity? Absolutely not! But in Carol came. I stood there awkwardly feeling my face getting hot and trying desperately to pull the vest down to cover myself—in vain. Carol acted like the sight of my underwear wasn’t no thing, but the damage had been done. I got that “my throat is hurting because I’m trying not to cry” feeling. My mother paid for the suit and a sensible headband and off we went to Stride Rite.
I still had hope for the black patent leather ballet flat, which I fondly referred to as ‘big-girl shoes.’ (My favorite shoe to this day is the black patent ballet flat.) I made my wish known to my mother, who agreed, assuring me they would definitely have those. I spotted them the second we walked into the store. Perfect. I sat on the bench shaken by the panties incident, but thankful that at least I wasn’t afraid of the metal foot measurer. The salesgirl came over, measured, looked down at my dream shoe, then up at my mother. “She has a very broad foot,” she stated. “These aren’t going to work, but those will.” She pointed to a Mary Jane. My heart sank. “But what about another size?” I asked. “What about something you have in the back?” I was grasping. “PLEASE!”
I couldn’t believe it. My last chance for some semblance of elegance and they were sticking my stupid broad foot in a Mary Jane? A Mary Jane is the opposite of a big-girl shoe! It’s a little-girl shoe! “Sorry,” the salesgirl said—still no sympathy, and in fact, maybe a taking some sick pleasure in all of this. “These are all we have.” My mother agreed and she bought the Mary Janes. I was so depressed I didn’t even want to stop at Mrs. Fields. I hated the mall, I hated my life, and I hated my fat fat fatty fat foot.
This feeling, being denied the shoe you want because of the size of your foot: avoid it. Shop Barefoot Tess.
Now, you know I want your traumatizing childhood stories. Let’s hear ‘em. And mind the contest ($50 to our commenter of the week)!