Loss of beloved shoes means more to me than my first kiss
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A new survey claims that women remember the first pair of shoes they bought with their own money more easily than the name of the first person they ever kissed. I remember both, although neither are memories that cover me in glory or heralded the beginning of any lifelong love affairs: particularly in the case of the kiss.
I've never been too bothered about shoes. I mean I'd rather wear them than not, especially if it's raining, but I hate shoe shopping, own less than five pairs and, until I got married, had never spent more than £50 on shoes for myself (I have an 18-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son: £50 would barely buy them one trainer to share).
The shoes I got married in cost about £80, I think, but my dress cost less than £100 so I don't think anyone could claim that I'm a spendthrift, although undoubtedly there's someone lurking under a bridge who will do just that now I've said they won't, just to spite me. But that's a column for another day.
The first pair of shoes I bought with my own money were from the Indoor Market on St Benedict's Street – they were black, with ridiculously pointed toes and a large silver buckle: a cross between Welsh national costume and the Wicked Witch of the West's day wear.
They were hugely practical: you could walk at least 200 yards before your feet started to bleed and the bones in your toes started to break and at least 500 before you were weeping and someone dialled 999.
I used to hide said shoes in a plastic bag in a bush outside my house and then swap them for the hideous sensible shoes my Mum forced me to wear for school – you can't rock an all-black-look if you're wearing clumpy brown brogues from Start-rite, even if you claim they're ironic and post-modern.
In adult life, you're unlikely to give a monkey's chuff what anyone thinks about your shoes, your bag or your hair colour. When you're at school, these aren't mere trifling matters, they're the very currency of social acceptability.
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One shopping trip with a penny-pinching parent of the 'it's not a fashion show, you know and anyone who judges you on what you wear and not what you say isn't worth knowing' variety could lead to a long, slow term of abject misery spent dodging verbal and possibly physical assaults from herds of burly halfwits wearing designer coats.
Unless you had a pair of shoes hidden in a plastic bag in a bush. Which I did.
I did love those shoes, but only because they saved me from the tyranny of properly-fitted, well-made shoes that didn't concertina my toes into improbable positions but did ostracise me from anyone that wasn't similarly afflicted with a conscientious parent who spent far too much time thinking about their offspring's feet.
I wasn't wearing the Edward Scissor-toes shoes when I had my first kiss – I was wearing a pair of tukka boots from the G.U.S catalogue that I'd been given for my birthday (they weren't the right ones, obviously. I made that clear when I sulked all day long and repeatedly pointed out the pair that I had underlined in the book, which had miniature gold coins attached to them and some tassels).
Indeed, it may well have been my first kiss which forced me into a perpetual state of mourning for my dignity and self-respect and which led me to only wear black ever since.
On the night in question, I was wearing a pair of jeans, some wine-coloured legwarmers, a black 'teabag' vest over a t-shirt and the aforementioned boots in honour of the Christmas school disco.
School discos were held in the dining room, a cavernous room with psychedelic curtains and a strong aroma of sulphur, plimsolls, egg rolls and shattered dreams.
During a disco, the only concession to the 'party atmosphere' was the addition of a mobile disco with around six flashing lights – if we were lucky, the lights were dimmed when Spandau Ballet's 'True' was played so that we didn't have to see the people jeering from the sidelines as we had a slow dance with the school dwarf.
I think, on this particular occasion, even the school dwarf shunned me when it came to shuffling around awkwardly while Tony Hadley sang about the sound of his soul.
It was possibly with this stinging rejection in mind that I joined a line snaking from the school gates to the centre of the roundabout at the top of Richmond Road where a boy called Paul was offering his services to pre-teen Old Maids who had never been kissed.
One by one, we dutifully stepped forward to be kissed. I tried not to think where Paul's mouth had just been and, more to the point, to forget that I'd seen the girl he'd just kissed eating a tuna sandwich at lunchtime – this remains the closest I have come to eschewing my vegetarianism.
The next thing I knew, Paul's mouth was locked over mine and it appeared he was attempting an oral transfer of a piece of rubbery old chewing gum. Then I realised: the rubbery old chewing gum was his tongue.
Reader, I hurried him. To stop.
Afterwards, I felt only relief: firstly, that it was over and secondly that I'd ticked something off my 'to do' list. I remember feeling the same thing when it came to my driving licence, my A levels, my virginity and my degree.
Another finding of the shoes/men survey revealed that while 96 per cent of 1,000 women questioned said they felt sorry about throwing away a pair of heels, only 15 per cent regretted a break-up with a boyfriend or husband.
Moi? Je ne regrette rien. Other than not removing the bag with my witch shoes in it on the day when South Norfolk District Council did its hedge strimming: it was footwear carnage.