I am not what one could ever describe as a fashionista. You know those men (it is always men) in the movies who open their closet and all you see is this one, same outfit, repeated over and over again? Just one long row of the very same thing? Well, that would be me, except that the row is not that terribly long. I am one of those rare women who does not like to shop unless I have a very specific goal in mind: something has either been worn out, lost or outgrown. I go. I find. I buy. I leave. I live in a country where we have four distinct seasons; where proper footwear and outerwear is a necessity. Including my winter boots, my rubber boots, my sneakers, my flip-flops, and my Sunday-best shoes, I would be hard-pressed to come up with eight pairs of personal footwear. I own 4 coats (and we really do need a different coat for every season here).
Don’t get me wrong: I am vain enough to want what I wear to be at least somewhat flattering, but when I find something ‘somewhat flattering’; say, a top; I buy 10 of the same. I might be so daring as to buy it in different colours (say, 2 navy, 2 white, 4 black and – if I am feeling really bold, perhaps one in red), but that is about as outrageous as I get. You know those shows where a ‘friend’ wants to have a makeover for another friend? You cannot believe how many of my women friends have offered – over the years – to ‘make me over’.
I was not always this way though. I actually did dress up in the eighties – that decade of huge shoulder pads and sky-high hair. I even wore heels. Nothing, though, is quite so memorable as my very first pair of fancy winter boots. Against all good sense, I bought myself a pair with heels. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Canadian winters, that is about as smart as buying a rowboat with a hole in it. This is especially true of Québec City, where their yearly snowfall averages about the same as Siberia, and temperatures can dip to minus 35 for months at a time (my feet were frozen solid pretty much that entire winter).
It was in the early eighties that I wore those boots outside for the first time. I was walking to a university class and had just come in from outside where one of the first snowfalls of the season was in full swing. That year, all the university maintenance workers were on strike so no sidewalks on campus had been cleared. Not a problem: Québec City always gets tons of snow so the infrastructure is organised around it. At the university, there is a series of tunnels (actually large – and very long – hallways) that meander underneath the entire campus.
On this particular day, I was gratefully taking the tunnels instead of trudging through the snow above. I was the only person walking in my direction, and only one other person – a male student – was walking toward me. I was feeling ALL kinds of cute and pretty in a long, tailored pea coat I had found in a thrift store and my new just-short-of-the-knee winter boots with a one and a-half inch heel. I was wondering – as girls will – if the guy coming toward me had noticed me, and I stood a little straighter, just in case. The floor slanted slightly downward; evening out perhaps 15 metres further on. What I had forgotten to factor in, however, was the snow that students preceding me had tracked in, now melted and pretty much invisible. I took my first step, and the smooth heel of my fancy boot started to slide. And slide…
By the time I got my boot stopped, I had just about reached the floor: doing the splits like an Olympic gymnast. I was by now fervently hoping that the guy – who was only a few feet away and approaching fast – had NOT noticed me. I have always had excellent peripheral vision: at the point where I finally stopped my downward voyage into utter mortification, he was directly beside me. I could see him, out of the corner of my eye, hesitating: ‘Do I offer her my help, or do I just pretend I didn’t see this at all?’. It was clear that he really wanted to help me out. My face was beet red: I kept my eyes firmly forward and pretended I hadn’t noticed him coming toward me (as if). The only thing that could have made the situation worse would have been for him to acknowledge my predicament. He was smart enough to take the hint: after some interminable inner discussion with himself, he silently crept off in the direction he had been going.
I must add that he had the good grace not to laugh within earshot.
I wear ugly, sensible winter boots now. My feet are always reasonably warm no matter how cold it gets and I never fall. Oh, and I have not done the splits in over thirty-five years…
Patti Moore Wilson © wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com