The ones that got away.
When I was a senior in high school, my friends and I liked to take the D.C. Metro down into Georgetown. We would go down and have lunch and mainly window-shop, because Georgetown isnâ€™t exactly known for its bargain basement deals.
My favorite thing to window-shop for was boots. There were a few good boot shops in Georgetown at the time, Commander Salamander and that other one. I never remembered its name but it was the better shop, as measured in Doc Marten selection. It was Doc Martens that inspired the most lust in me, and I would gaze lovingly at all of them, shining and kick-ass and far too expensive for me to buy on my part-time job at the library.
One bright afternoon I saw them. Any other passerby would see only a pair of 8-hole Docs primarily done in white satin, but with a patchwork design of other white fabrics – some lacy, some shiny, some textured. A stunning shoe, perhaps, but to any other passerby a mere shoe nonetheless.
To me, they were My Wedding Boots. As soon as I saw them I was granted a vision of myself, walking down the aisle in a dress probably far too inspired by Pretty in Pink, with those boots flashing out, completing the outfit, standing out, kicking ass. To say I wanted them would be cheating. It felt, to my 17-year-old heart, as though they already belonged to me. As if they were, in some way, my destiny.
They were $120.00.
I looked, I hemmed, I hawed. I tried to imagine my motherâ€™s face when I explained that I had used the For Emergencies Only credit card to buy boots, but it was okay, because they were for my wedding, even though my grand total dating experience at that time was one highly awkward 6-week relationship with a gangly young man who pretended we werenâ€™t dating when we were around his friends. But it was okay! The boots, MY boots, werenâ€™t for him! They were for me! And they were for my soulmate, the man who would be my other half, who would complete me, who would listen to me spout horrible cliches and love me anyway…me and my ass-kicking satin wedding boots.
I did not buy them.
I thought about them, oh yes I did. But I never saw them again. I knew they wouldnâ€™t last, that shoes so special would win someone elseâ€™s heart, someone who could cough up a hundred and twenty bucks. For years afterward, I would sometimes feel a pang that I hadnâ€™t bought them anyway, hadnâ€™t saved up the money to pay back my parentsâ€™ credit card and put them on a shelf in my closet for the day the right man came along.
Eventually the internet happened, and with it the Doc Martens website, where you can get any number of stunning, beautiful pairs of boots in any color or style imaginable, but I have never seen those satin beauties again. I think they were a product of the â€˜80s and are unlikely to return.
Twenty-one years later and I still havenâ€™t gotten married. I think about those boots sometimes and what would actually have happened to them if I had gotten them. They would have been moved so many times. Boxed up, unboxed. Shown off, bragged over. Iâ€™ve certainly told the story enough times.
Over time, though, the story has changed. When I first told it, it was a romantic tale, certain to have a fairy-tale ending. Then it was a chuckle of a tale at the follies of youth. And now Iâ€™m using it to illustrate why I donâ€™t tend to hang weighty emotional expectations on articles of clothing anymore.
Do you know what those boots would be right now, if they still lived in a box in my closet? They would be an albatross. A spunky, satin-covered, â€˜80s-souled albatross. A box that sat there and smirked at me each time I entered the closet, mocking me for not needing those boots yet, laughing at my hopes and dreams.
Iâ€™m glad I donâ€™t have them. If I ever do get married, I would rather get married in some kind of footwear that I picked as the person doing the marrying, not the stuff a dreaming teenager picked out decades ago. Something comfortable and fun and something I can wear again after the wedding because I donâ€™t want to get saddled with shoes that are more meaning than foot-covering. And if I donâ€™t ever get married, I want to feel free to buy white Doc Martens anyway, should the mood strike.