It was a hot day. The sun in its usual manner decided to show Nigerians that it’s the boss. The wind like a badly behaved employee refused to show up to perform its duties. All the elements were well aligned to ensure that the day turned out horrible. Despite the blazing heat and behaviour of the elements, I wasn’t ruffled because I had a mission. I put on a white spaghetti strap top, a pair of super skinny jeans, carried a bottle of cold water, and arranged my face to show the determination in my heart. No silly Nigerian heat was going to stop me from buying brand new silver shoes that I planned to wear for my high school alumni reunion next Saturday.
I had checked online for silver shoes, but the only ones I saw looked fit to be shoes for Cinderella’s ugly sisters. To be honest, I think silver shoes are a very delicate purchase because there is a fine line between buying silver shoes that look fit for a princess and buying silver shoes that look fit for a wanna-be princess, and I knew which look I was going for.
I decided to take my fate into my hands, so I ditched the comfort of online shopping and faced the reality of shopping as it was meant to be – shopping that required trying the shoes on before purchasing them. A no surprises kind of shopping.
Water bottle in hand, I strutted into the open air market, and in an instant, I felt like the only girl in the world (slot in the Rihanna soundtrack), as various merchants struggled to get my attention. “Yellow, come and see it here, I have what you need.” Another shouted “Fine fine dresses, bodycon, crop-top, mini skirt, I get am.” A third one appeared from nowhere, held my left hand and tried to drag me into his shop with promises that he knew what I wanted. I always wondered about the confidence with which these street merchants always claimed to know what customers want. Heck, half the time I’m in the market, I don’t even know what I want, but I digress.
I spoke to the second merchant and asked if he knew where I could get nice shoes. I was not surprised when he told me that in addition to selling fine fine dresses, bodycon, crop-top and mini skirt, he had “Imported shoes for young babes.” I chose to believe him and followed him to his shop. The whole shop was about the size of a Toyota Corolla car, but with a high ceiling. Sunlight struggled with the mannequins wearing the advertised bodycon dresses, in a bid to brighten the shop, but the dull blue light in the shop gave the sun some form of assistance. The merchant, who introduced himself as Uche asked for my shoe size.
“I wear size 39, UK size 6,” I said.
“Don’t worry, I have what you need,” he replied.
He started his attempt to make me part with my money by giving me white shoes, then he graduated to giving me cream shoes.
“Bros Uche, I need silver shoes, or sliver if that will make you understand better.”
He looked at me and said, “Oh sliver?”
I replied with an expression that could only be translated as “Duh!”
“Oya no vex” he said, “Let me go and bring sliver shoes from my next shop, just give me three minutes.”
I had not doubts that he didn’t have a “next shop” and he was probably going to get the shoes from another merchant’s shop and mark up the price, but I didn’t care much, so far he brought me awesome shoes. True to his word, Uche returned in a few minutes and surprisingly he brought an amazing pair of silver sling back peep toe shoes with a glass heel. I was excited but decided not to show it, for fear that he would double the price of the shoe.
“So how much is this one now? See how the heel of the shoe is like glass. The thing will now go and break. This shoe does not look strong oh.”
My arsenal of negatives was ready and I hoped it would be strong enough to ensure that he offered a reasonable price.
“Fine sister, don’t worry. This shoe will fit you well well. Oya bring your leg, so you can test it. If the shoe no fit you, my name no be Uche.”
Uche spoke, and I listened and I slid my feet into the shoes, and those shoes were a revelation. My feet looked party-ready and I stood up to walk in them. All of a sudden my feet sent an error message to my brain “PAIN.” My brain quickly responded to itself with an appropriate “Say what? What stupid pain?” What form of wicked step-mother spirit would cause pain in these divine shoes? Nah mehn, I thought to myself. The pain is my imagination. I tried to take another step and I felt the pain again. The pain was from my left foot. I think there was something about the front of the shoes where my toes peeped from. It felt a little tight, but then I remembered that my left foot is slightly bigger than my right.
“Uche, this shoe is tight oh,” I told him.
“Baby girl, it will expand. It’s because you are wearing it for the first time. By the time you walk in the shoe for five minutes, it will expand to fit your leg. In fact, the fit will now become perfect.”
I took off the shoes and looked them over again. This time, I noticed that the shoes were a size 38.5, and it all made sense why it wasn’t a perfect fit. I knew I had to make a decision. Common sense whispered that it was probably best not to buy shoes that don’t fit perfectly, but on the other hand Uche’s reassurance that the shoes would expand to fit my feet also boomed in my head.
I had to make a decision, and I decided to buy the shoes. I would live with the consequences. I took my purchase home, excited about the reunion, and silently delighted at the fact that since I have now blossomed into a beautiful curvy woman, compared to my scruffy teenage self, then I might stand a chance of catching the eye of my high school crush who always had a bias for shapely women. Peter Ayaji-Pedro or PAP (each alphabet pronounced individually) as we called him then, was the hottest guy in my year. I’m not ashamed to say that ten years after high school, I still look through his Facebook pictures. Sounds a bit pathetic, but come on, we all have that one harmless high school crush that we can’t seem to let go of. I haven’t seen PAP since we graduated from high school, as he has been out of the country since then, but I have it on good record (from his Facebook page, ha ha) that he will be at the reunion, so I really want to look my best. Quit judging me please, and go and look for your high school crush.
Like many other people, I’m not keen on opening my failures to the entire world, so in as much as I want to give you the full gist of the reunion that held yesterday, my pride will only allow me to give a shortened version of the sweet gist. I went to the reunion looking like a million dollars in my mono strap, sequined little black dress and silver shoes, but I was only able to look like a million dollars for all of fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes of wearing those shoes and I WAS DONE! I felt like my toes were about to break. Uche’s prophecy of expansion did not manifest quickly enough. He forgot to tell me that it was a promise similar to God’s promise to Abraham for a son. I would have to wait until my old age for the shoe to expand! Thank God I had my trusty silver flip flops in my car. I called for them, slipped them on and reunited with my classmates from a lowly place (pun intended). To be honest, I still had a good time, but I definitely was not able to execute the sexy walk I planned to do in front of PAP, who by the way, came with one nonsense girl that I assume is his girlfriend, and the girl had her heels and hair on fleek. I never even got around to saying hello to PAP.
It’s the morning after and my left foot still hurts. I hope fifteen minutes of trying to impress will not leave my foot damaged. I’ve been using ice on the foot but I will go to the hospital first thing tomorrow morning to see a doctor. I’m never going to wear tight shoes again. Not to impress anyone and certainly not to impress PAP.
The story above is not entirely fiction and it’s not entirely fact. Yes, I bought silver shoes a while ago, and yes, I’ve been to shops in open air markets with blue light. There is no PAP in my near or distant past (sorry), but I suspect that at some point in my life, a guy named Uche has probably sold me ill-fitting clothes or shoes.
What is real in this story is what “tight shoes” means to me. I have actually stopped wearing tight shoes and by tight shoes, I mean decisions that make me uncomfortable or make me suffer in silence because of the subconscious human desire to look good and be validated.
Tight shoes could be a job, an expensive habit, a friendship, relationship or association that on the outside makes you look really good, but on the inside brings you pain or discomfort. You need to take those shoes off, please, before the damage becomes permanent. It doesn’t matter how good life looks on the outside if you are secretly battling pains. It’s time for you to leave that abusive relationship even though you guys look “instaready”.
You have the power to change your life and make decisions that bring you peace. I don’t deny that the process of discarding those tight shoes may be painful or humiliating, -I mean, I wore flip flops for a fancy reunion- nonetheless, the freedom that came with taking those shoes off far outweighed any humiliation I felt (which was temporary and probably more in my imagination, by the way).
You also need to be careful about the Uches of this world. Those friends, family members or even acquaintances who believe they know what is best for you. Those who have opinions on the type of job you should have, the church you should attend, the friends you should keep and places you must not be caught dead in. When those tight shoes are killing you, typically Uche is nowhere to be found and you are left to deal with the consequences of Uche’s decision for your life.
I have stopped suffering in silence because I want to look good. Not anymore. I have realised that I am responsible for my decisions and I owe me the duty to be happy. I recommend the same to you too.
Have you had any experiences with “tight-shoes” or decisions you made just to look good? Have you been able to discard the shoes? If so, how did you do it, and if not, what is holding you back?
Can’t wait to hear from you.