I still remember my first pair of red shoes, a delicious indulgence from Barneys New York no less. Some days they used to fit me perfectly, other days not so much. And that’s because I didn’t listen to my mother. You can’t expect to fit into a pair of narrow Italian beauties after you’ve spent the week walking around barefoot, in flip-flops and sneakers. You’re even less likely to succeed after a whole day of running errands, cleaning the house, and going up and down from basement to attic a hundred times carrying laundry. Because your feet will not be at their daintiest!
And so I wondered long ago, what would have happened if Cinderella’s feet were a bit wider the day her prince made it with the missing shoe? Poor thing spent her days serving those wicked sisters, so her feet would not have likely slipped all that easily into that dainty thing. I knew all about this particular problem because I could not, for the life of me, fit into my fancy red shoes that Friday night!
Oh no! Here I was, so young, and beginning to dismantle my absolute favorite fairy tale!
Over the years, my frustration with the story continued. If you’ve ever tried finding a fabulous pair of shoes on super sale in TJMaxx, Nordstrom Rack or similar in the 81/2-91/2 range, you’ll know exactly what I mean. There would have been a million other girls in town, let alone in the entire kingdom, with the same shoe size as Cinderella! Seriously.
Ok fine, so she had the other one to show and put on. But someone else could have had an identical pair! It’s possible. Do we have ANY guarantee the fairy godmother did not use a spell for the equivalent of an “Armani Exchange” item as opposed to couture? Well, do we?
But what I find most absurd about the whole thing is how the prince would have failed to remember or recognize the eyes and pretty much everything about the girl he fell in love with. He held her in his arms and danced with her for how long?
Fine…maybe he was so love struck that he lost all his senses. But if you were head over heels in love, and desperate to discover the identity of the soul mate you held in your arms and danced with, would your way of making sure you had the right woman/man be to have them try on a friggin shoe?
“That’s silly” my little one concluded.
The kid was right…that whole shoe fitting and matching process is absurd.
And then I thought “Why am I getting worked up over this? After all, it’s just a story, a silly and cute cartoon”.
But it’s not just a story, is it? It’s a lot like what happens in real life. We have this unfortunate tendency to test the authenticity of those we love most by expecting them to always fit into perfect “shoes”, into whatever bits of ultimately irrelevant expectations we end up with after a dance. Or a few dances. Or when we imagine future ones.
It’s so unfair and absurd. True love is not something to be tested by a “shoe” or a collection thereof. We love someone because of how their eyes light up when they see us, for how they fit in our arms when we hold them, for how they love us when we don’t even realize how much we need to be loved.
We don’t love someone because they perfectly fit all current or future expectations, because they perform according to some script, always doing the right things, in the proper order, with the perfect timing, without any confusion, hesitation or mistakes.
We love them because of both their right-ness and wrong-ness, which, if they exist in that magical balance that complements our own, will not always be a perfect 9 narrow. Sometimes it’s going to be 91/2. (And if you’re really lucky, it’s going to be an 81/2 just that once, for the last delicious pair of sandals you absolutely must have.)
Neruda explains the why and how of all this, and a genuine fit better than I could ever hope to:
“That’s why I love you and yet not why.
There are so many reasons and yet so few,
for love has to be so,
involving and general,
particular and terrifying,
joyful and grieving,
flowering like the stars
and measureless as a kiss” (aka “our kisses”…yes, I have my version)
Or as my 8 year old suggested tonight, “because your heart tells you”.
I couldn’t resist probing further of course.
“What do you mean your heart tells you? How can you be sure and know exactly?”
He gave me one of his looks, the kind he gives when I don’t get something that’s supposed to be so very obvious in one of his video or computer games.
“Mooooom….your heart knows and tells your mind. Geez…”
And now how should I end this? Should I say that right after the heart tells the mind, the mind starts to do what the mind so often does, which is make people test “shoes” on each other until they create so much confusion that even the heart starts to question its own clarity?
Or should I just leave it as it should be, a bit complicated sometimes and yet so simple?
Hmm…I’ll leave it up to you to decide.