Heels (#251)

I loved dressing up when I was young. There was no high-heeled shoe, no tutu too blinged out for me. I convinced my second grade teacher to let me put on plays solely for the costumes. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Sleeping Beauty performed in tutus–but minus the music or ballet. 

I got tall early. My mother tried to steer me toward tailored, conservative clothes. Her results were mixed. Whenever possible, I insisted on shiny boots or four inch clogs, no matter how many times I tripped or how many inches I towered over my fifth grade square dancing partner.  

More than once, my father flinched visibly over my outfits.

My less restrained older sister asked, “What hooker did you murder for those shoes?”

I responded by dressing as an actual prostitute for Halloween. With even more outrageous boots, because, let’s face it, sex workers are very fashion forward and have the best shoes. The outfits from the notorious red-light district of my youth (shout out to D.C.’s 14th Street!) would now be considered conservative evening wear for the Kardashians. 

As a teenager, I worked in a women’s clothing store. I lived to deck myself out for Proms and Homecomings, especially once I had a 6’5” boyfriend. I wore the highest, glitteriest heels I could find, especially once Judgmental Genius Older Sister went to college. 

Sadly, my love affair with hooker heels collapsed with my arches. Excruciating foot and knee pain sent me to orthopedists and podiatrists. They prescribed custom made orthotics. And those orthotics only fit into running shoes, walking shoes, or flat, laced boots. 

Eventually I was able to wear heels on special occasions. All my competitive dance shoes had heels as low as possible. I practiced in dance sneakers, which were ugly and clunky as fuck. 

The ugly shoes were so effective that I never returned to stylish shoes. I admired pretty, strappy sandals from afar, marveling as my once trashy taste in shoes was suddenly trendy.

And then I got pregnant. 

Pregnancy feet are A Thing. Your feet and ankles get swollen, because your circulation is all messed up. 

The extra weight makes your feet expand.

Finally, your bump is so big you can barely tie your comfy sneakers anymore – just after you’d made peace with wearing them forever. 

“This sucks,” I complained to my sister when I was about 8 months pregnant. “I thought I’d reached the pinnacle of shoe ugliness, but now it looks like I’ll be reduced to Crocs.”

“Yep,” she agreed. “Or you could do what my one friend did. She’s pregnant with twins. Not a chance in hell she can tie her shoes, but she needs super supportive and comfortable ones. Every morning she sticks her feet out from under the covers and her husband puts on her shoes and socks and ties them before he goes to work.”

After I quit laughing, I said, “Yeah, but we don’t wear shoes in our house. I need to come up with something else. Or bigger shoes, at the very least. I can barely get mine on.”

That weekend, my husband convinced me to return to that which I had long ago foresworn: Macy’s shoe department. 

As we approached, I grudgingly thanked Andy for looking out for me and my problematic size 11 (going on 12) feet.

“Of course! It’s the perfect time for it,” he chirped. “They’re having a clearance sale, honey!”

Chivalry isn’t dead. It can be resuscitated by 80% off. 

I waddled wistfully past all the sparkly shoes and looked for something more practical. Like a sneaker without laces. Which I didn’t think was actually possible.

Until I saw them.

They were known as mules, backless and originally made the boudoir. But these mules, called “Nike After Party II” looked like they’d been merged with a cushiony platform sneaker. They were just my size. I slid them on. 

Heaven. Those mules were the most comfortable shoes I had ever worn in my life. I bought t wore them out of the store and until they wore out (months after my pregnancy). I searched online relentlessly, only to find they’d been discontinued years ago. Stupid Nike. 

I didn’t see them again until the night I caught Andy watching an old HBO reality series called Cathouse. Cathouse takes place in an actual, legal brothel in Nevada. The series looked interesting, though we’ve since learned that HBO made the owner appear far less horrible than he actually was. But what caught my eye immediately were the shoes. When a bell rang the sex workers would hurry out of their rooms and pose before potential clients in lingerie and killer heels. Before the bell, however, one woman lounged around in–

“My shoes!” I yelled, scaring Andy into dropping the remote. “Rewind it! Air Force Amy is wearing my shoes!”

We are probably the only people who watched that particular section of “Cathouse” repeatedly. And we conclusively proved that Air Force Amy definitely wore Nike After Party II mules.

Turns out, I still have the same taste in shoes as prostitutes. 

And those sex workers are still on the forefront of fashion. Because while I was never able to find those same Nike mules again, here are all the different types of lace-less, sneaker/ mules now available at Skechers:


To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

I’ve never been fragile. Born into a large family of semi-feral children, I learned to guard my food and my stuffed animals early. I mowed lawns, lifted weights, and fought dirty with siblings when necessary (also when unnecessary).

Sympathy and coddling were in short supply. Like most young women, I powered through feeling like crap when I had cramps, headaches, and nausea.

The “I can endure misery” mindset was helpful when I was pregnant. I continued working out and playing volleyball, since the endorphins helped me not puke all the time. I still walked my rescue dogs for miles. My only concession to pregnancy was lighter weights and no squats.

This astounded people.

Continue reading To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

Once upon a time, my future husband gave me thoughtful, expensive presents. On one of our early dates, we rode an elephant together (before we knew better, sorry, wildlife defenders everywhere). Elephants had been my favorite animal as a child, in part because “elephants never forget.” Not being forgotten is the childhood fantasy of every middle child in an enormous family who has been left at school, ballet, or the Trailways bus station.

Andy didn’t forget why I loved elephants or our date. Andy got me a gold and emerald elephant pendant for Christmas that year.

Andy learned I liked old-fashioned, unique jewelry. He found an Edwardian ring design and worked with a jeweler to have it modified and cast in platinum for an engagement ring. 

I said yes. Eventually

Continue reading Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

Snapped (#241)

My ex-debutante mother trained my siblings and me to be good hosts. She also trained us to be good guests. We brought bread and butter gifts. We found something to compliment in every home. We ate whatever food was placed in front of us without complaint and insisted on helping with the dishes. 

We were groomed to make social occasions run smoothly, with nary a scene. White Anglo Saxon Protestants (i.e., WASPs) with social pretensions avoid conflict and HATE scenes. They are a symbol of ugliness and failure. 

And so common.

Continue reading Snapped (#241)

Rules for Trick-or-Treating (#237)

I have exactly one rule when it comes to Halloween.

Rule #1: Everyone who comes to my door on Halloween gets candy.

I have these rules because I had a racist Southern Grandma. The worst Halloween horror story I ever heard was about that grandma. My mother once told me how her mother would keep two bowls of candy by the door on Halloween. One bowl was filled with Hershey Bars. That bowl was for the neighborhood kids.

The other bowl was filled with candy corns and cheap lollipops. When truckloads of “poor kids” came in from “more rural areas,” to trick-or-treat, they got the crap candy. Continue reading Rules for Trick-or-Treating (#237)

Red Flags (#226)

You know what I was excited about when Andy and I bought our house?

Putting up a flag pole. I couldn’t wait to fly seasonal house flags.

I envisioned a flag with flowers for summer, an autumn flag with falling leaves, a black cat for Halloween, and Christmas flag with a polar bear. Of course I would fly the Stars & Stripes for Independence Day. Continue reading Red Flags (#226)

Very Telling (#224)

No sooner had my husband and I returned from our honeymoon than my Chinese-American father-in-law called, demanding to know where his grandson was.

He called every week. In vain did I explain family planning and birth control to my husband’s parents.

After three years, Jay finally quit calling. Continue reading Very Telling (#224)

Of Cursed Birthdays (#220)

When I was a kid, birthdays were a big deal.

As an adult? Well, after your 25th birthday, when your car insurance bill drops, there’s not a lot to look forward to. Besides, no birthday could ever live up to my 10th, when I got a kitten and pierced ears.

My husband tried, though. Andy made me a cake the first year we were together. It was beautiful: nicely frosted, with my name written across it, even. Andy is a fantastic cook. I know it. He knows it. Everyone knows it, probably because I brag about it all the time. I expected the cake to be delicious.

I took a bite. The cake was moist. It was sweet.

Other than that, it had absolutely no flavor. Continue reading Of Cursed Birthdays (#220)

Wretch (#218)

My mother loved being pregnant. When I was 10 and she was pregnant with Baby Brother, she gave up alcohol and cigarettes without complaint. Same thing when I was 11 and she had Baby Singing Sister. She rarely threw up and was always cheerful.

My older sister, the Judgmental Genius Doctor, had miserable pregnancies. Continue reading Wretch (#218)

Not Your Ordinary Magic Wand (#217)

Finding out I was pregnant was anticlimactic. Because here’s the rule: you can’t tell anyone until you know it’s a viable pregnancy.

Actually, you can tell people, sure, but since 1 out of every 3 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, you run the risk of having to un-tell them later. Possibly while sobbing incoherently.

So I was stuck in this no-man’s-land of being pregnant – maybe – for two weeks while I waited for my obstetrician to officially confirm that a) my pregnancy tests weren’t liars and b) the embryo had a heartbeat. Continue reading Not Your Ordinary Magic Wand (#217)