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Heel Power: Men Lust After Women, Women Lust After Shoes

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We've been thinking about shoes and why we love them. Why is it we have so many pairs and they are all so different? (One might argue that the twelve pair of basic black heels in our closet are all the same, but they'd be missing their complex nuances: the slightly different heel heights, subtly different toecaps, variations in leather grain.) Do men have shoe envy? No. They lust after us (that's why Tiger's in trouble)... and cars and weapons.

Anyway, recently we were window-shopping on our way to the taping of the Colbert Report (not us; our brother-in-law, the AK 47 history-genius, shared with the country that the Kalashnikov is more reliable than Microsoft Windows, like, duh). Although we were running late, the complex architectural build up of the latest platform shoes caught our eye and we spent considerable time calculating where our center of gravity would reside. Would we topple over in them? Surely we'd be hobbled like an ancient bound-foot Chinese woman. We passed by.

We didn't get but two blocks before we were stopped dead in our tracks by the most stunning, most simple, most elegant over-the-knee black boot. These were perfect. Tall, lean, aristocratic. At once soft, supple, hard, and stately. Best of all, this boot had a long zipper up the back. It was the sexiest article of clothing we had ever seen. Ever. We wanted to stop and make it ours. Yes, we may be Bitches on a Budget, but this fell into our splurge-worthy category if any item in the history of time ever did. But we knew the guys at the TV studio wouldn't let us in if we were tardy, and -- never mind missing our brother-in-law or Colbert -- we wouldn't get to meet Elvis Costello and his glasses (which are now #2 on our must have list). So we marched on.


We left town the next day and had no time to run back to the shop. Now we have the worst case of unrequited lust in our hearts for that perfect boot. Which we had almost gotten over until we read that Michelle Obama just ordered a pair of Robert Clergerie from Paris. Now we have double-lusting-envy (an awful disease) -- our all time favorite shoemaker making Mrs. O a custom pair of thigh-high boots. Drool.

It's left us wondering: what is it about shoes? Do they mirror our innermost fantasies? Are they ready-made embodiments of our various identities? Work boots, hikers, peep-toes, ballet shoes, stilettos, oxfords, flats, Keds. Perhaps they're each simply a reflection of the complexity of every modern woman -- wife, mother, sister, daughter, party-girl, lover, worker, power broker, on and on. No other accessory can so entirely embody and transform our self-conception.

Which brings us to Sarah Palin. Bear with us for a moment here. Her book, her face are everywhere, and they compel us to comment.

Shoes. Sarah Palin. What's the connection?

We wonder: do the same contradictions that drive our Cinderella-slipper/biker- boot schizophrenia explain Sarah Palin? How else to understand her popularity, her magnetism, the endless fascination she inspires among both those who love and hate her? Perhaps she is the acting out of our shoe/identity fantasies: librarian, sexy nurse, mother, wife, grandmother, Governor, moose hunter. Merge all this with a healthy dose of the Horatio Alger myth of American success and a deep-rooted populism, and what do you get? A curiosity. A media sensation. A woman whose every movement (not to mention wardrobe and shoes) we can't stop looking at -- hard as we try.

Well, for now we'll keep on coveting Michelle Obama's new boots (they fall into our super-splurge category). And we'll start our search for those gorgeous babies glimpsed so fleetingly in that Manhattan window (they should be on sale by now). If ever any shoe was the embodiment of all our feminine contradictions this tall strider was it, and now we're on the hunt.

Whose shoes do you choose?

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