Wednesday BARB UP October 24, 2018

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I bought these shoes, at a shopping center in Les Halles in Paris, sometime in the early 90’s. I was there for a month, escaping from life in New York; I’d been fired from a job I loved/hated, I was in my twenties, I was broke. Paris was an economical retreat, staying with a college friend, living on croissants and baguettes. I spent my days walking around the city, ever in awe, a spectator to wonder and history and beauty, oh the beauty of the the people. I had shopper lust, something I’ve yet to grow out of. I spotted them on my first day in Paris, I went into a shop at the Les Halles “mall” and there they were, this pair of pristine brown two tone flapper-era shoes, modernized. They cost about 100 dollars; I didn’t have the cash. I did have a credit card. I didn’t buy them on sight. I came back, day after day, longingly gazing at them, wondering if I dared spend the money, the money I didn’t have, didn’t know when I’d have. My Parisian back up plan was moving in with my parents, that is what awaited me upon coming home, a return to Queens, and it filled me with bile, to go back to the hole I’d crawled out of only a few years prior. I’d worked so hard to land a job, to get an apartment, to grow up and out of the life I’d been raised in. I’d wanted to be an independent woman, not a little girl lost. Paris was a last resort, a respite to the reality. And these shoes represented so much to me: adulthood, wonder, agency. They were the first pair of beautiful leather shoes I would own. I viewed them as a gift, a middle finger to my professional downfall. Work defined my days, ever since I earned my first dollar as a baby sitter, at the age of twelve. Having my own money represented an autonomy that I have never let go of, of not being under the protection of any person but my own. I babysat weekly, for the neighborhood couples. I’d make a dollar per hour, per kid. It was a lot of money to me, back then. I used that money to purchase barrettes and Ralph Lauren polo shirts and Bass saddle shoes; my teenaged fashion Holy Grail. I carried that pride of purchase with me, still do. And these shoes are a part of that moment of pride, of independence, of a future of possibility.

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