The first time I heard my first-born son say “Mama,” he was telling me to hurry up and decide already.
I’d been pushing him up and down the aisles of a Nordstrom’s Rack, probably for at least an hour, maybe more. He was getting fussy and I was finally heading up toward the checkout line with several items draped over the top of his stroller. Then, I stopped to look at the Tahari rack. That was it. The little guy leaned out to look at me and belted out an exasperated “Mama! Mama! Mama!”
“Did you hear that?!” I asked the woman next to me. She’d heard it too. Yep. That was his first “Mama.”
My youngest son was nearly born in a Macy’s.
He’d passed his due date and I’d taken to walking and walking to encourage him to pop out. I was in the Macy’s women’s department when I rushed to the ladies room just in time for my water to break. I went to find my stepmother and explained to her what had happened.
“We should go to the hospital,” I said. “Oh! You should come see the shoe sale!” she said. So, I did.
We walked to the special room that was set up with rows and rows of discounted shoes and started looking at the racks. As I held up a beautiful pair of stiletto sandals in a black and green snake print, I went to try them on when I realized this was madness. My son was born about an hour later – at the hospital. But, we somewhat seriously regretted that I hadn’t stayed to deliver in the shoe department. I probably would’ve gotten a year’s worth of shoes out of it.
What is it with Latinas and our shoes?
For one thing, we aren’t afraid of them. This week I attended a Latino media conference, Hispanicize 2012, in Miami. When I arrived at the event site, even though I’d never been there before, I had no trouble finding the conference: I just followed the women rockin’ the curve-hugging suits and red heels.
At a luncheon, we had the privilege of hearing esteemed journalist/Univision news anchor Maria Elena Salinas, the most recognizable Latina journalist in the country, tell us about her fantastic and inspiring path as both a pioneering journalist and as a mother. She wowed the crowd. But as I approached the stage to photograph her, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by her shoes. A stunning pair of Louboutin double platform pumps in chic beige patent leather.
The most telling detail of the shoes, however, was not their exquisite design, or the signature red leather sole. It was the way that gorgeous sole has been worn away by this accomplished woman. These shoes are not mere display items, not some frivolity to adorn one’s feet to some special evening out. No. The way the bottom of those soles were worn were proof of Maria Elena’s valor. She works those heels. The woman works.
It’s been said of Ginger Rogers that while Fred Astaire was certainly wonderful, we need to remember that it was Ginger who did everything that he did, only backwards and in high heels.
I once had a boyfriend who thought my passion for style was ridiculous and he insisted that I buy and wear only sensible shoes. Obviously, the relationship didn’t last.
Even some girlfriends have been puzzled by my shoes. One – a girl who I only ever saw in flip-flops, mules or tennis shoes, asked me why I deliberately made my feet suffer. To me, I said, a good pair of heels is not about suffering. It’s about empowering.
My most special shoes are kept in boxes and brought out for events as warranted. Putting on a pair of killer heels changes the way one walks. It makes me stand a bit straighter. It makes me carry myself with a bit more attitude. It’s one thing to walk into a business meeting, but it’s another to walk in as a woman, and especially as a Latina woman. So, when I walk in with my heavy artillery, I’m making a statement. Some may call it fierce. Some may call it power. For me, it’s a feeling from within and for within. It’s confidence. It’s an expression of the essence of myself, as a woman and as a Latina woman – one who fears nothing and who goes where no man has tread before.