I Have Shoes Older Than My Wife

Our essayist learns the vocabulary (and economics) of women’s designer accessories.

We were having lunch at the T Room at Forty Five Ten when my wife went: “Jimmy Choo!” I was about to say Gesundheit, when she squealed, “I can’t believe Tamara Mellon is here!” Such discombobulated utterances are not unusual for my wife. After 12 years of marriage, though, it hasn’t gotten any easier on me.

A young, stylish woman was having lunch with a Dallas socialite whose circle we ran in. Introductions were made, and air kisses were exchanged. The young woman was Tamara Mellon. I was still locked on the Choo mystery. Perhaps to draw attention away from the mute, dazed-looking statue by her side, my wife apologized to Ms. Mellon for her “horrid Manolos.” Another non sequitur.

Inexplicably, Ms. Mellon and the socialite looked down at my wife’s shoes, which were scuffed and dirty. Their pointy tips curled up like elves’ shoes. Despite my continual entreaties, my wife is rough on her shoes. If shoes were dogs, even Michael Vick would be appalled by how she treats them.

Ms. Mellon clapped her hands and cried, “I can’t take care of my shoes to save my life! I have to throw them away after three wearings. Otherwise, it looks like I spent the day working on a farm!”

We all looked down at Ms. Mellon’s shoes, which were immaculate, seemingly right out of the box. My wife vowed to “chuck” all of her “boring Manolos” and head straight over to the Jimmy Choo store in Highland Park Village and buy all new pairs.

The Choo mystery was solved. On our way to the car, my wife explained that Tamara Mellon was the founder and president of Jimmy Choo shoes. (This was to draw my attention away from her comment about buying all new shoes.) My wife loves shoes. She’ll be trying on shoes at, say, Neiman’s in NorthPark, and I’ll idly browse the display, picking up a gossamer contraption that looks like an origami Post-it Note festooned with paper clips. The sole is barely sturdy enough to support the price tag, which I casually inspect—and then reel away from the display, flapping my arms as if I’ve been stung by fire ants. Five hundred eighty-five dollars for less leather than the strip of bacon on the club sandwich I just ate for lunch?

The leather on my shoes is at least three-quarters of an inch thick, and between sole and vamp, a good two cows have given their lives to keep me shod in a single pair. Half my shoes are older than my wife, and they look as new as the day I bought them. I reach for my wallet as the clerk piles up the boxes.

And it’s not just shoes. Lately, I’ve noticed a growing multiplicity of purses, both on my wife’s arm and stuffed in cubbies in our closet. I don’t yet know how to assess the threat.

We were at a charity event recently when I heard a female voice shrieking at us from across the room. “I can’t believe you have that Birkin!” She was referring to my wife’s purse. She and my wife clucked happily about it, as they inspected the buckles and stitching. “It’s one-of-a-kind,” my wife said, and she only got it because a friend of hers worked at the Hermès store in Houston and had called her when the person to whom it had been promised had had to release it. The waiting list for a new Birkin was ordinarily two years.

Burqua? Merkin? I had heard that word before. Yes, Martha Stewart’s trial. Much had been made of the Birkin bag she carried. I wracked my brain for its significance, but I was defeated by the effects of the evening’s open bar.

The next morning I awoke from a fitful sleep. My head pounded with a repeated trochee: “Birkin, Birkin.” The Hermès website was no help. I found it on Wikipedia: “The Birkin bag has been featured in television shows such as Sex and the City and Will & Grace, as well as on the arms of well-heeled celebrities like Martha Stewart, Victoria Beckham, and Lindsay Lohan. Generally, the price of Birkin bags starts in the $6,000 range and easily makes its way into five-digit, sometimes six-digit figures.” The periphery of my eyesight blackened, and the room started to spin.

Early in our marriage, I concluded that there was no upside to asking what my wife had spent on a particular purchase. The money was already out the door, and her guaranteed response was a stony silence and a ruined evening. Instead, I’ve learned to breezily compliment her on her new purchase—and think of which client’s file I could bill. It’s a living.

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