Imelda Marcos left at least 3000 pairs of shoes behind when she and her dictator husband, Ferdinand, were driven out of their Malacanan Palace in the Philippines in a 1986 revolt by the People’s Power.
3000 pairs of shoes left behind.
Astonishing. Excessive. Ridiculous. Embarrassing. However you look at it, it conjures up feelings of distaste or ecstasy. Imagine how many children she could have sponsored, or how many social justice initiatives and micro-finance loans in developing countries she could have supported.
Some of you get the excess, don’t you? And it doesn’t really bother you, does it?
Maybe I should just speak for myself and say that I’m feeling tense and conflicted or is it more like ‘convicted’ as I write this. One side of my brain says having this many shoes is disgusting, grotesque, not at all what my Christian faith would condone or support. The other ‘base’ side of my brain says - I get it - because there is something about shoes that makes a woman sing or at least feel good when she slips her size 6 or even size nine manicured or calloused foot in a good shoe or wedge or Hunter boot or Jimmy Choo stiletto that you scored on Kijiji (as you hope to GOD that it’s authentic and not from some Canal Street dealer) Shoes (the right shoe) make your heart race, your posture straighter and stronger, your skirt shorter, your legs longer, your body taller… a bonus for someone who is beautifully only 4’10 1/2”.
Which brings me back to Imelda - which is my unofficial nickname given to me by my dad or was that by my ex-boyfriend who had a thing for ‘asian’ women? Doesn’t matter.
So close. But not at all the same, except for our birthplace, our hair colour (thanks to Elie my hairstylist!) the colour of our skin and our desire for shoes .. lots of them!
Why do I really like shoes?
Because they are a thing of Beauty. Because there is nothing like a strappy heel to make a dress and YOU on fire! And, with that kind of confidence a girl can do just about anything.
Because they make my heart race. Because there is something about the colour, texture, style and leather smell that makes my heart beat a little faster and gets my adrenaline pumping.
I have enjoyed shoes for as long as I can remember. My white reebok runners with rainbow laces, my purple satin graduation pumps that matched (of course) my puffy purple dress, my first Tretorns, my first platform boot from Aldo, my first Versace stiletto with gold sparkles, my first orthotic shoe (Mephisto), my first Hunter rain boot, my first moment when I hit over 100 shoes in my own personal collection.
I don’t like to admit it though, owning (not renting) over 100 pairs of shoes. What if people judge me - which they will… and have. What if people judge my priorities - which they will and have. What if people judge my character - which they will. So, I keep it a secret and only tell close friends and family.. and strangers that I may happen to meet at a bar or pub and feel that the conversation is going nowhere and so decide to tell them about my excessive shoe collection. That always prompts further discussion on consumption, social responsibility, vanity and usually nothing important at all.
So why ‘Imelda? I think she represents all the excessiveness one can spend and obtain at the detriment and expense of all others or a nation for that matter.
It’s my warning. Not that I’m responsible for the well being of a nation, but a warning that when your life becomes obsessed with excess ... you can bet that people will suffer and you will suffer, much like the Filipino people did during the reign of Marcos in the early 1980’s.
Have I suffered? Yes. Have I made others suffer? Yes. Was the ‘getting of things’ worth it? Some days... but most days not.
We have a responsibility to one another AND to ourselves. Financially, emotionally, spiritually and physically. we’re all in this together. and though the shoes and her mink coats that were all left behind in the takeover, years later her “treasures” were ruined by termites and rain and the elements because no one gave a dam about them and stored them in regular cardboard boxes at some museum in the Philippines.
Maybe they did it (subconsciously) out of embarrassment for that part of their history or maybe because at the end of day it’s just shoes, stuff… and it doesn’t speak to you, or help make you a better person or love you or hold your hand or help you pack when your husband has left you or give you a shoulder to cry on when your heart is broken again.
It’s just stuff. IT’s just shoes.
So, on this journey - walking in my many shoes - I’m learning, just like you. I don’t have it all together... yet, but one day I hope to. Probably not until I meet my Creator. But when I do, I hope I have a great pair of Christian Loboutins on as I enter .. and not just enter .. but DANCE through those pearly gates.