Put On Your Dancing Shoes



By Louise Ure


Okay, I know I risk the loss of attention of some of our male ‘Rati here, but I’m talking about shoes today.

Little girls love them because they’re a physical manifestation of our princess fantasies. Adult women love them because they’re a physical manifestation of all the rest of our fantasies. Big girls love them because they’re the only clothing (aside from gloves) that we can buy in a normal size. Slim girls love them because they make us feel like the ballet dancer on the top of the musical jewelry box.

I love them all. Flat shoes. Fancy shoes. Killer heels. Animal prints. Straps.

I used to date a guy named Tom who bought me shoes for no reason at all. I’d come home from work and there would be a little pyramid of shoeboxes on the bed. Straw wedges. Red canvas sneakers. Strappy sandals with a chunk of turquoise in them. Black ballet slippers. It was heaven.

It takes a special man to know the shape and pressure points of his woman’s foot. A special man to get the right size every time. I’d be with Tom today if it wasn’t for his equally nasty habit of leaving lipstick love letters in baby talk on the bathroom mirror.

I’ve grown older and wiser since my Tom-the-Shoe-Man days and now eschew heels of either the footwear or male variety.  And I’ve cut back from the 100+ pairs of shoes in the closet to a measly fifty.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned the passion.

So the day after Christmas, with my shoe jones in high gear, I sneaked off to see my dealer. Zappos.com, that is. From the Spanish word “zapatos” (shoes). They have 1000 brands on hand. Ninety thousand styles. Three and a half million pairs of shoes ready to go.

I gave the secret password and entered into the wonderful world of shoes. Fleece-lined. Waterproof. Thigh-high. Italian leather. Purple.

Did I say purple? For some reason, my shoe jones was screaming for purple and I found just the thing. Puppy-soft leather. A hot-orange sole for flamboyance. An elegantly understated logo across the heel.

Zappos never disappoints. Twenty-four hours later they were in my hands. Er … on my feet.

Except that they were tight. And the flamboyant orange made me look like I ought to be duck hunting. And that understated logo was braying like a tea partier with a megaphone.

They were going back.

When you print out the (free) return-shipping label at the Zappos website, they have this deceptively humble little comment box that says: “What could Zappos have done to prevent this return?” As if it were their fault.

It reminds me of that weight loss ad that on late night TV that starts with: “Unsightly belly fat? It’s not your fault.” Of course not. That bean burrito just jumped right out in front of me at the intersection. And I didn’t even realize I was being rude to that jelly donut until it started crying.

What could you have done differently, Zappos? I’ll tell you.


“Next time please remind me that there’s a whole world of purple out there and the color on these shoes is not going to match any of the lavender, lilac, deep purple or mauve in my closet.

And you could whisper that I haven’t been a size 8 in a closed-toed shoe since I was in third grade.

You could tell me that I bought the same pair of shoes from you in gray last year and they’ll go just fine with all the purple stuff.

You could cough gently into my computer and say that $188 for a pair of faux-leather purple shoes I don’t need is not a bargain. You could even have a little asterisk at the bottom of the page with the credit card info that teases, ‘Are you sure? You’ve got a big credit card bill coming in at the end of the month.’

Like a nurse in a methadone clinic, you could have offered a free pair of those little slip-on satin Chinese slippers instead, with the warning that ‘as a writer, you spend most of your time at the computer and you shouldn’t be wearing screaming purple and orange outdoor shoes.’

You could have cut me off. Told me my addiction was getting out of control. Your pages could have taken longer to download. You could have saved me from myself. But you didn’t.”


I hit Send, then printed out the return label and hot-footed it down to the post office before I lost my nerve.

Unfortunately, the Post Office was in cahoots with my dealer and instead of sending the shoes back to Zappos, they returned the box to me. Like a recent quitter who finds a fresh pack of smokes in her purse, the jones kicked back in.

I would prevail. But now I needed a new return label, so I got on the phone to talk to my dealer directly.

“Zappos, the happiest place on the internet! This is Loren,” he cooed. Oh my, yes. I’ll bet he had blue eyes. I wondered if he left messages in baby talk on the mirrors.

I explained my dilemma.

“Let me look up that order,” he said.

There was an uncomfortable silence as he read my suggestions for what Zappos might have done differently.

“Oh, you’re THAT Louise.”


 P.S. The winner of our “‘Rati Holiday Contest” is commenter Sylvia! Ms. Sylvia, if you’ll send me your snail mail address, you’ll have 14 Murderati books winging their way to you!






29 thoughts on “Put On Your Dancing Shoes

  1. PK the Bookeemonster

    I got a whiff of the shoe thing late in life. I have wide feet so buying shoes can be difficult but I blame my recent fling on a pair of gorgeous red heels on the clearance rack (and an enabler — a lady I didn’t know walking by said "Buy them!" as I tried them on) and then a love affair with a pair of beautiful brown ones with a sassy but not obnoxious bow.
    I couldn’t really justify even wearing high heels when I was unemployed, then I got that stupid leg infection and right now I can only wear flats. (sigh)
    I can appreciate the shoe thing now as good times past. But regarding your purples and being too small — some shoes are meant to be sitting shoes and looking wonderful without *really* being used to get from place to place. 🙂

  2. Sylvia

    THAT Louise? I love it. In Customer Support, when you get a great response – funny, crude, rude, horrific spelling, etc. – you share it. It’s the only thing that saves the day of Customer Support reps. In a nutshell I can tell you that they secretly loved it. I’m surprised they aren’t naming a shoe after you.

    Shoes. I love shoes. I’m a size 10 and my mother would say things like "I’m so sorry you have such big feet – and legs. It’s in the family I guess." Well Mom, they make for darn good paddles!

    I love mules, open-toed, heels. Slip-on Franco Sarto’s make my heart flutter.

    My 9-yr old daughter has the shoe bug after getting a pair of black Nine West biker boots on sale for $19.99 at Marshall’s that she bought with her own money. She now knows the word "buttery" to describe leather.

    AND… HOT DOG! Woooo-hooo! Thank you Murderati! I look forward to 14 books a reading to get to know all of you better. Yeeee-haaa!

  3. Louise Ure

    PK, if those fine heels should only be looked at, I’d be better off enshrining them in a Plexiglas cube and displaying them on my desk.

    Woo-hoo, Sylvia! Although I worry for young Vivian. If she already knows "buttery," all is lost.

    Aw, come on, Stephen. No shoe jones? Not even for Aldos?

  4. kim

    This is hilarious.

    Yesterday on NPR they had a management guy (or anti-management, now I’m not sure) yammering on – but one thing he said was Zappos has a great customer service model – their reps don’t use scripts and can do whatever they feel necessary to help a customer. I thought that was great…makes me want to buy unneeded shoes from them (but likely not purple, which will go with nothing I own). 🙂


    (found this article about Zappos http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_49/b3962118.htm)

  5. toni mcgee causey

    "THAT Louise." Somehow, that should be a t-shirt.

    I had the shoe lust in high school, lost it in college chasing around kids and school, and only really caught it again a few years ago. Two years ago, though, I had an epidemic case of it and, in a feverish moment of chills and insane expectations, bought a pair of 5" red stilettos that were stunning. And painful. I convinced myself that they weren’t so bad the first couple of times I wore them, and they were gorgeous on. For a brief moment, I looked both tall and willowy. (Yes, I had the extra serving of denial, why do you ask?) But alas, the pain was not worth the gain and they are shelved, only to toy with me and make me sad.

    Last summer, I had conferences to attend and dresses to wear, and I am so short, I knew that I needed heels or else I’d be talking to everyone’s boob all night. (Photo ops are a bitch… it’s either cut everyone’s head off and then it’s me with six sets of breasts, or show everyone’s face and then there’s me, down there by the armpits. I should carry around my own box.) Anyway, I walked into the largest shoe store I could find, asked a clerk, "What is a gorgeous shoe that people have been coming back and raving ‘wow, that was so comfortable’ to you?" And she brought me over to these black heels by Gianna Bini, with stunning 5" heels and a criss cross pattern that purred, "I am sexy, dammit." I tried them on and lo, they were like walking on clouds. Seriously. Almost as comfortable as my sneakers. It was the first time I’ve been at a conference, proud of my shoe p*rn, at roughly the same height as the other attendees and not having intimate knowledge of everyone’s deodorant all day.

  6. Louise Ure

    Patty, Patty. Take a risk, my dear. There’s untold fulfillment in those internet shoes.

    Kim, I think Zappos is godlike. First, they spend zero dollars on advertising, choosing instead to put all the money in customer care. As we in the book world know, there’s nothing that works better than word of mouth.

    And Toni, your "word of mouth" is still the funniest stuff I’ve ever read. I can just see that photo titled "Toni and Twelve Breasts." Now I’ve got to go order a pair of those Gianni Bini. I’m a sucker for that "really, they’re just as comfortable as slippers!" line.

  7. Alafair Burke

    I’ve recently purchased a few pairs of shoes I refer to as my mid-life crisis shoes, must cheaper than a sports car and less skanky than an affair. For the first three and a half decades I was allowed to choose my own shoes, I opted for sensibility. No more. What began as a flirtation with the occasional chunky heel is now a passion for the baddest ass skyscrapers I can tolerate. E.g., I own these (yep, from Zappos):

    On another note, I like Toni’s suggestion of a "THAT Louise" t-shirt so much that I’m already researching where I can get a "THAT Alafair" shirt made for myself.

  8. Terry Odell

    I missed the shoe gene. I’m another one of those with hard to fit feet (six wide anyone) and the hubster loves me in stiletto-height shoes. I keep saying if there’s a pair in my size he likes, I’ll buy them. For the most part, they’re ‘restaurant’ shoes — only have to walk from car to restaurant and back. And I live in Florida which (except for now when we’re having a week of temps in the 40’s) means mostly I go barefoot or wear sandals.

    But we did find some red peep-toe heels and animal print furry ones that I can wear for reasonable lengths of time. He loves them. I wear them because he loves them.

  9. Louise Ure

    Rae, I have seen your shoes. You are a goddess.

    And Alafair, you can have the t-shirt design if I can borrow "cheaper than a sports car and less skanky than an affair."

  10. Barb Goffman

    I can’t do cute shoes anymore, sigh. I sprained an ankle very badly a few years back, was put on a very high dose of ibuprofin, both my feet swelled scary big, and the right one never went back to normal. (And that was the foot I hadn’t sprained!) So now I’m a 7 1/2 on the left and an 8 on the right. Sigh.

    But I understand the shoe bug. Maybe a decade ago when I was in therapy, my therapist kept harping on the fact that I liked shoes. If I ever complimented her shoes, she was all over it. Why did I like shoes so much? I couldn’t get why she couldn’t get it. So I’m glad to see that you all do get it.

  11. Louise Ure

    Terry, and all this time I thought "restaurant shoes" were the ones that waitresses in the diners wore!

    And Barb, how does one buy shoes when you have two different size feet? Inserts? Or is there some magic online store I haven’t discovered yet?

  12. Barb Goffman

    Hi, Louise. I buy everything in an 8 now. My left foot has come to enjoy the roominess. And I have no magic online store (wouldn’t that be fun?!), though I do swear by the Clark’s brand.

  13. Chris

    My wife is a total shoe fiend, and I scored big time this Christmas by gifting not only a pair of heels she’d been lusting over, but the perfect pair of sheepskin slippers as well. I done good.

    Thing is, she loves all that stuff — shoes, clothes, accessories, etc. She makes and sells her own designs, so it is a common topic in our house, and I’m afraid it is rubbing off on me in ways I’m not sure I’m comfortable with. Just this morning, out front of the convenience store an attractive young college girl walked by in front of me and I was brazenly staring at . . . her purse.

    What will become of me?

  14. Catherine Shipton

    Shoes. Oh yes you can tell a lot about people from their shoes.

    My first job, my weekend and holiday job for about 3 years in highschool, was at a shoe store. You learn a lot about people working in a shoe store.

    To my interview, I wore a pair of burgundy snake skin wedges with multiple strappy bits that were so fine . I’m still not 100% sure if it was me or my shoes that got me the job. I know I felt pretty confident wearing them. These shoes were magic to me. My globe trotting aunt had bought them in Bahrain. These were the only shoes someone else has given me that fitted. I have feet that are challenging to fit.

    My cat ate them the week after I got the job.

    I’m not sure if this is way too twee, but I just had an image of you all…the Murderati crew in a coference bar with t-shirts with your logo, with THAT JD, THAT Pari, THAT Alex (except Alex’s would have to have sequins).

  15. JT Ellison

    This made me think of one of my favorite Bowie songs, where he sings, "Put on your red shoes and dance the blues…"

    I have a shoe problem. I’m working on it. It’s just one of those things – I like to know I have something for every occasion, yet rarely wear them. I gave 150 pairs to charity last year, and I’ll keep doing that until I’m down to two for each type of event. *cough* Except boots and sneakers. You can never have too many pairs of running shoes.

    Zappos is crack. Crack is whack.

    And congrats, Sylvia!

  16. Louise Ure

    But Tom, we revel in our cheapness and skankiness! Well, some of us do, anyway.

    Barb, we need to start that store. Mis-matched shoe sizes are as big a pain as mismatched swimsuit parts or worn-once bridesmaid dresses and folks have figured out solutions to those.

    Chris, there’s a short story in there you’ve got to write. Accosted at the Seven-11 for perving on a young woman’s handbag.

    Catherine, what a good idea! I can see us all lined up, leaning on the bar … THAT Allison, THAT Tess, THAT Stephen. Too cool.

  17. Louise Ure

    Oh JT, you make me howl! Two pair of shoes for each occasion? That would be fine until I started defining the "occasion" as "in case I wind up at the ski lodge in Gstaad and I’m wearing my orange turtleneck sweater" or "in case I get invited out for dinner in Napa valley after chasing butterflys in the surf." That kind of "occasion" definition would allow me an unlimited number of shoes.

    (But you say you gave away 150 pairs? You’ve got a worse problem than even I do.)

  18. Judy Wirzberger

    I just kept thinking of all the "shoe" books from You’ve got mail – Meg Ryan weeps as she speaks of them… Shoes, marvelous shoes – they do a body good – especially when I kick them off as soon as I get home. They gather like dust bunnies under my table, and collect in front of the sofa, browns and blacks, so boring am I in the winter. They line my steps two by two to be carried upstairs the very next trip (or the one after that for sure). They loll by my bed to trip me on my nocturnal bathroom visits and hide cat toys to oke my toes. I grew up running barefoot in the yard and hoping across the tarred streets baked by hot summer sun. Shoes, for me – a necessary evil.

  19. Louise Ure

    Judy you are the antithesis to this shoe fetish. But I can picture a dusty pair of solid round-toed brogans on each riser of the stairs like the beads of a rosary you neglected to say.

  20. BCB

    I hate shoes. Hatehatehate them. Only wear them when absolutely necessary and take them off as soon and as often as possible. Hate shopping for them even more than wearing them. I’ve been known to use packing tape to extend the life of worn out shoes rather than go buy a new pair.

    But I loved this post.

    "You could cough gently into my computer…"

    LMAO. Louise, only you could entertain me with a post about shoes.

    BTW, thanks for mentioning Zappos. Had heard the name and was avoiding them the same general way my budget compels me to avoid most online shopping, but wasn’t entirely sure what they sold. Now I can avoid them with renewed determination.

    Thanks for the laugh. I needed that.

  21. Sylvia

    I say we get the "THAT Louise" t-shirt design done over at Threadless.com or make one ourselves and put it on CafePress.com


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