Suede Shoes

By Felice Prager

In the days of disco, I could never figure out fashion. That doesn’t mean I didn’t try. I had outfits with metal studs – the bling before bling. I had all the clothes required to walk into a disco, club or skating rink looking for Mr. Right – in this case, Mr. Disco. I just flunked the world of polyester. I never felt comfortable wearing disco clothes. The issue I couldn’t quite decipher at the time was that I wasn’t meant to be with someone comfortable in that world. I was not Miss (or Ms.) Disco. I was still that pseudo-hippie-chick who felt best in torn jeans and tie-dyed shirts. My hair was meant to be long and carefree, not poofy, flipping up over my eyebrows, feathered, layered, crimped, multicolored or in need of the constant care of a professional. I was never comfortable or skilled with eye shadow and fake eyelashes. In fact, the only thing that was a proper fit for me in the days of disco was one particular pair of shoes. I had nothing that matched them at first – except jeans (which go with everything), and I had to buy clothes just to match the shoes so I would look right in a world that was a bad fit in the first place.

According to the salesman, these shoes were ultra-soft suede – the real stuff, not the pseudo stuff. They had patches of forest green, maroon, and gray suede. In these fabulous clunky, expensive-for-the-time shoes, because of very huge wedges beneath my heel and toes, I was almost five foot five! I had trouble walking in them at a normal pace, but I managed to keep my balance by keeping my steps short, most of the time. As for being able to dance, that didn’t matter. I was never able to master the hustle anyway.

In those days of being single, the world around me consisted of well-meaning people who wanted me to find Mr. Right and settle down. So these well-meaning people, mostly my mother, my aunt, and their friends, proceeded to provide me with an assortment of blind dates. I suppose they saw how uncomfortable the polyester, high-maintenance world was for me, and they decided to help me find a life away from Mr. Saturday Night Fever. Unfortunately, the extent of their matchmaking skills stopped at “Is he alive?” and “Is he single?” If he fit the above criteria, my number was given freely and without conscience about outcomes.

On one occasion, the blind date took me to the opera. Opera Man apparently was an opera aficionado and had season tickets to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. My taste ran along the lines of The Who, The Guess Who, Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, and Country Joe and the Fish. So when Opera Man asked me if I liked opera, my brain went to The Who’s Tommy – a ROCK opera, and I told him I did. I just wanted to wear my new favorite outfit that I purchased to go with my forest green, maroon, and gray suede shoes. Unfortunately, for this occasion, I may have matched, but I was very under-dressed. I wore forest green pants, a fancier-than-usual blouse, and a maroon sweater to go with my forest green, maroon, and gray suede shoes. Opera Man was wearing a tuxedo, complete with cummerbund. Knowing I was under-dressed and trying not to be rude or unappreciative, I behaved admirably, I thought, and pretended to be moved by the opera while simultaneously making sure the suede on my shoes was dust free and the nap of the suede was all going in the same direction. At one point, Mr. Opera asked if I was enjoying the performance. I wasn’t paying one bit of attention to what was happening on stage because I had discovered a little speck of street tar on my forest green, maroon, and gray suede shoes, and I was trying to remove it. Opera Man never called to ask me on a second date.

Another blind date was with The Guy with the New Car. In the same outfit, which I still loved because everything matched my forest green, maroon, and gray suede shoes; a very short man arrived at my front door. I, who look up at everyone from my vertically-impaired (aka short) body, was looking down at him. I have no idea whether he and I had anything in common. The pre-date phone conversation consisted of a lot of talk on his part about the new car he just picked up. When he walked me out to his car, he didn’t open my door – which I suppose was okay – but when I closed the door, I did it the way I always close car doors; I closed it hard to make sure the door was closed. His response was a rather miffed, “Don’t Slam the Door.” Then I got a lecture about what happens if you do slam the door and an education about how this car’s doors were engineered so they would close tight without any extra help from me. Needless to say, the rest of the night is a blur, but I do remember slamming the car door every single time I closed it – in spite. The Guy with the New Car never called again.

There was another date where my forest green, maroon, and gray suede shoes played a pivotal role. It wasn’t a blind date. I knew Mr. College Professor when I was a young teenager, and when I ran into him years later as an adult, his interest in me was evident. As a young teenager, I had had an unrequited crush on him, about which I doubt he ever knew. So being asked out by Mr. College Professor was an incredible coup. He was about 15 years older than I was. The plan was that I would meet him in Manhattan at his office at the college where he taught, and we would go to dinner from there. I parked my car in a garage, and as I was crossing Second Avenue, the heel on my forest green, maroon, and gray suede shoes broke. I hobbled up to his office with shoe in hand, heel dangling. He tried to repair the shoes with Super Glue, a relatively new consumer product at the time. Just like that, my shoe was fixed. He was my hero. Someday I would tell my children about how daddy fixed my favorite shoe on our first date. Unfortunately, once the date started and we were across the table from each other, eating pasta in a very romantic Italian restaurant, it wasn’t a Lady and the Tramp moment. Instead, the age difference became uncomfortably apparent. I was the Beatles; he was Elvis Presley. I was Pete Townshend; he was Pete Seeger. I was jeans and a t-shirt; he was “Chantilly Lace.” No matter what we talked about, he didn’t connect with me, and I didn’t connect with him. It made a huge difference. Conversation just never started. There were long uncomfortable pauses. No matter how cool my shoes were and how huge a hero he was for repairing them…no second date.

Eventually, still owning the same shoes but no longer wearing them since wedged heels were out of style and the College Professor’s fix left them, at best, wobbly, I met my husband. With my husband, being more comfortable in old jeans and sneakers was part of what bonded us. I remember modeling the shoes for him once while wearing pajamas. He wasn’t terribly interested in the shoes. His reaction was something about not being able to go hiking in those kinds of shoes anyway. And it didn’t matter to him that I couldn’t do the hustle – with or without clunky shoes. He couldn’t either.

About this writer

  • Felice Prager Felice Prager is a freelance writer and multisensory educational therapist from Scottsdale, Arizona. She is the author of five books: Waiting in the Wrong Line, Negotiable and Non-Negotiable Negotiations, TurboCharge Your Brain, SuperTurboCharge Your Brain, and Quiz It: ARIZONA. Her essays have been published locally, nationally and internationally in print and on the Internet. Learn more at www.WriteFunny.com.

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