Staying On The Funny Side – Of Mail Order Catalogs

I ordered these new stilettos in the mail because the model looked great wearing them and I was convinced they were the very thing I needed to complete me. Well, that and sheer shawl with the beaded butterflies. The stilettos, just like the model, were everything I wasn’t. They even sounded cool – stilettos. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I figured with a name like that they must come with a dark exotic man holding a platter of margaritas.

I should probably tell you that I am not a delicate woman. I bought a bikini this summer and never could get my entire stomach tucked into it – kept popping out on all sides like canned biscuits. Looked like I was wearing an inner tube and the bottom half of the bikini disappeared from view completely. Now that I think about it, putting stilettos on me made as much sense as putting an alarm system in a Dodge Dart. Yeah, now that I think about it, they weren’t me. But that had never stopped me before and it didn’t stop me now. Plus, they were only 25.99. And it is a rare day that I can turn down something that’s only 25.99 whether I need it or not.

When they arrived, they turned out to be slightly higher than I had pictured – kind of like Great Aunt Ethel gets slightly off balance when she’s had seven gin and tonics in the course of an hour. Four inches high. So high, that when I wore them they pitched me forward with every step and I could actually feel the formation of hairline fractures (not sure that’s what they’re called, but it sounded good when House said it) along with the whispered cries of my ankles begging for mercy.

Oh, but my calves looked good. And I pictured that model in the catalog and remembered that dream where I saw myself sitting in my future wearing cardigans and orthopedic tennis shoes and yelling at my afternoon soaps. And I entered into another one of those moments where I break from reality – like when I lost three pounds and thought I could pull off that tube top – and said what I often say when my purchases don’t make sense. I can make these work.

So every morning I practiced walking in them. And being the practical stay-at-home working mom that I am, I made smart use of my time by breaking in my new shoes while I answered my emails (ah, the joys of working from home) and allowed for my spray self-tanner to set in. This was in the midst of another lapse from reality where I was convinced I wasn’t really bright orange but rather one application away from looking like the model on the bottle. And everybody knows you have to let the stuff dry before you get dressed, so I had on this really little skimpy nightie that was what my husband referred to as my rape-prevention outfit – light blue and covered with tacky orange sunflowers that had been a gift from my great granny who had one just like it. My two-year old was napping.

Blame it on the delivery guy, but that’s how it started when he rang the bell to deliver my new CD box set: Six Steps to Uncover the New You which he apparently thought was a good purchase after taking in my nightie, orange skin, stilettos, and head full of pink sponge rollers. In fact, I think he was a little afraid because he sort of threw the package on the steps and left without even asking for a signature, making me have to walk outside to get it, pitching forward in my new stilletos with every step, like a chicken, while he gunned the engine and peeled off down the street.

That’s how I got locked out of the house and found myself standing on the front porch in that one moment of slow-motion sanity, thinking to myself this can’t be good before I hit full-fledged panic. The kind of panic that comes with knowing you’ve just locked yourself outside while your kid is napping inside – intensified by the knowledge that you are standing in front of God and all your neighbors wearing stilettos and a nightie that barely covers the crucial the parts and leaves the rest open to the elements, especially the neighbor’s dog who was already drooling at the sight of my plump thigh. Apparently, he didn’t care how orange it was.

I ran like a deranged colt to the neighbor’s house. No answer. To the other neighbor’s house. No answer. Until I had tried almost every house on the street except for the lady who borrowed my heating pad and never returned it. That wound still had not healed. My only recourse was the gas station on the corner. And so there I was clucking my way down Sherwood Street looking like a defective dollar-store mannequin in the middle of morning commute traffic, getting a lot of stares, one open-mouthed gape from a freckled kid on a bike, and an occasional honk from a well-meaning trucker taking pity on me- all the while trying my best to look normal.

I pretended like it was nothing out of the ordinary when I half-ran, half-limped past Little Mouse Daycare and waved to the forty-seven faces plastered to the chain link fence with expressions that said this was way better than when Jimmy threw up in the fish tank. I shuffled past Diamond City where the line of Vietnamese nail technicians waved cheerily and asked did I need my eyebrows waxed. At least that’s what I think they were asking – that, or it was some ritual chant to ward off evil, orange, spray-tanned spirits with stilettos. I passed the little Baptist church on the corner where a group of ladies chatting outside huddled up and started praying for me right there on the spot.

I passed all these places, never once considering that one of them might have a phone I could use – including the corner bakery where I smiled and for the first time in my life, kept on going. Okay, okay. So I stopped and got two bear claws and a crème puff. Sue me! I was stressed and I needed the extra energy for the last fifteen feet to the gas station. Only I never made it to the gas station thanks to the Barney Fife wannabe who pulled me over on the side of Sherwood – just an arm’s length away from the pay phone.

Long story short, I was picked up for something that had to do with indecent exposure. They wanted to get me for prostitution but decided that even street walkers know better than to put those colors together. And they are trying to get me in the police car and I’m hysterically screaming, My baby, my baby, and they think I’m talking in code, perhaps signaling my more dangerous street boss – an obvious conclusion for two hometown cops who’d seen one episode of Law and Order too many, and they reach for their tasers, or maybe it was just a breath mint but I tend to get worked up over things. And just as I’m screaming, Don’t tase me bro, don’t tase me, I see my husband driving up the street.

I swear I saw him hesitate before stopping. He denies it, but I saw the look – the look that said he was trying to decide which was worse – my wrath, or admitting to the cops that we were bound together in matrimony. And like the good man that he is, he talked me out of a ticket and threw me in the front seat of his car with a look that dared me to say one word. He didn’t want my side of the story. Never did let me tell it.

Now I use the stilettos to hammer stuff, which irritates my husband who says it’s an awfully expensive hammer and one that brings back stinging memories whenever I pull it out. Apparently, a couple of his golfing buddies happened to see the picture on the front page of the paper with the headline that said: Local Woman Gives Street Walkers a Bad Name.

But I’m all about finding the good in things. And I think there’s something to be found in that story. A message. Because don’t we all find ourselves at some time in our lives trying to shove our foot into a shoe that doesn’t fit? Trying to be something we’re not? So learn from me when I say that life was meant to be lived just the way we are. Embrace what makes you unique. Or you might find yourself clucking down the street like a chicken.