On Poetry and Culture Shock


Marian Keyes, a writer of excellent comedy of manners, says that there are three types of women: handbag-and-shoes women, pretty underwear women and cosmetics-and-bath-stuff women. I belong firmly in the last category, and I hate to go shoe-shopping. I need summer shoes right now (why I do is another story), so I went to the Mall thinking that I would get the first pair of black strappy sandals I saw and get the ordeal out of the way quickly.

There are three or four places to buy shoes, not counting sports shoes, at the Mall. And I had two surprises: one, sizes. In Spain, women’s clothes come in erratic sizes: you’re never sure of what is yours, because there is no standardisation among manufacturers. I have two jackets from the same “good”, relatively fancy and expensive brand, the fit is good, and one is a 42 and the other a 44. But shoes are not like that: my size is always and ever the same. I thought I would scream in despair when I realised that American shoes are like Spanish clothes! I am anything between a 6 and a 9, depending on the model! I thought I had died and gone to a hell designed especially for women who hate to buy shoes.

The second surprise was that every single shoe was made of plastic, never leather. All of them. And they weren’t even pretty shoes, the type of shoe that makes you think the design is so good you’ll buy them any way. I can’t wear plastic shoes. So, then I went to the Commons, to drown my sorrows in books. I had gone out shopping and rather that come home empty-handed, I might as well buy a novel and not consider the morning wasted (can you see my impeccable logic?)

There was a shop with cute clothes at the window and I took a look. And there I saw Camper shoes. Camper shoes!? In Ithaca!? Now, this is sophisticated. I have seen Camper shoes in two places: Spain, and British fashion mags. As I told the shop-assistant, I felt like an American would feel if they found peanut butter cookies in a café in Italy.

Its easy to just say that in Spain, there is a tradition of good quality shoes. You only realise the full extent of that when you try to buy shoes abroad. It also means that in Spain, Camper has hundreds of competitors for quality and dozens of competitors for design, and they are a little bit overpriced. But here in Ithaca, it fills me with a weird sort of patriotic pride to see that my choices for shoes are limited to junk and Camper.

2 comentarios

alexandfm -

plas, plas. Mu buena la frase de Dumas.

Aurora -

Según la definición de Marian Keyes, yo no soy mujer... O soy la excepción que confirma lo adecuado de su clasificación. Sé que este comentario no tiene nada que ver con los zapatos, pero es que, como dijo Alejandro Dumas "Todas las generalizaciones son malas, incluida ésta" y por tanto esa clase de etiquetas me pone de una leche terrible :P