I know better – I really do. One does not buy new walking shoes right before leaving for vacation. But they felt so right, like a summer romance – springy, breezy, and ready to take me to exciting new places. They let me spread out and be myself, instead of squishing my little duck feet into some sadistic shoe designer’s idea of pointy-toed perfection. Were these to be my new sole mates? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) And so my new Geox walking sandals came with me on my spring break trip to Spain. Alas.
I’m a slightly plump, middle-aged American living in Europe. I have fashion role-models all around me – inspiration for what a ripe, luscious, stylish femme d’un certain âge can be, and I do try to follow their example when I can. During our stay in the beach town of Furengirola, near Malaga, I saw many elegant women from many elegant lands, each handling the sun, stiff sea breezes and cool evenings with sartorial aplomb. Elegant Spanish Doñas strolled on the seaside promenade in Furengirola wearing slim slacks or skirts, crisp blouses and silky cardigans, and trailing a faint wisp of cologne. Tall, bronzed Nordic women chatted in guttural, phlegmy languages as their neat blond bobs blew in the breeze. An adorable French family scooted by on their way to the beach, Maman looking très chic in her embroidered beach caftan and jeweled flip-flops.
And then there were our British neighbors. Oh, I’m sure that some of the women whose elegance I admired were British and just happened to be silent as they passed, so I didn’t notice their nationality. But so many of these dear ladies looked like pink potatoes stuffed into strapless tops and stretchy shorts. Have these people never heard of sunblock? So many painfully-burned plump backs, and fronts, hanging out of far too little clothing – ay ay ay!
And then there’s me, limited by Ryanair’s strict baggage policy to a few items of clothing. And my vanity is talking all kinds of trash – why do I listen to that b****? You see, we were travelling with friends, one of whom is the pedometer queen. Freshly turned 60, Diana kicks my butt in number of steps taken each day. While I’m not usually a competitive person, her boasting (OK, gloating) about her number of steps kept me moving – thank you, Diana – and Fuengirola’s miles of flat ocean-view promenade gave us plenty of opportunity to walk.
Dressing for a full day of walking, I contemplated my footwear choices. The flip-flops were too flimsy – strictly for the beach. The heels – well, I never even wore those, since it was a two-kilometer walk from our hotel to the center of town where the restaurants were located. The big, practical running shoes – with ugly ankle socks – those would have been the wisest choice. But my vanity gave me a sharp pinch; I looked over our balcony at the plump British women my age wearing ugly tennies or sandals with socks – and I Did. Not. Want. To look like that. So I slid my feet, sockless, into my new Geoxx walking sandals. And up the coast we went, in search of beautiful views, tapas and cerveza – which we found. In abundance.
Dios Mio! After about 18,000 steps, I knew I was in trouble. Just a few hot spots, I thought. I’ll put on some socks when we get back to the hotel. Isn’t it funny how physical discomfort can turn your mood from sunny to cranky-pants in a short time? New shoes, no socks, long walk – what was I thinking? By the time I limped and grumbled my way back to our hotel room and peeled off those f***ing sandals, I had worn some very impressive blisters onto the balls of each foot.
And, since there was nothing to do in Fuengirola but walk, from tapas bar to restaurant to chiringuito to the beach and back, I continued to walk for the next five days, with my little duck feet encased in – you guessed it, ugly tennies, and socks. “Dumpy, dork feet!” my vanity protested, but what are you gonna do when reality pinches?
And here’s where the karma comes in. Every woman has her own secret (or perhaps loudly trumpeted) point of vanity. This one has long, elegant fingers; that one has glorious, glossy hair; the next one has a magnificent bosom. My secret vanity has been my cute little feet, size 6 ½, which look pretty in sandals. I’ve even been known to make derisive remarks about “big peasant feet” seen in artwork and – alas – on actual people. Not to their faces, or feet, mind you, but I’ve smugly complimented myself on a feature that I had no part in creating. Well, on this trip, some big peasant feet would probably have held up better under my not-so-tiny weight. Serves me right. Ouch.