Among the more minor but nonetheless irksome annoyances of quarantine is being stuck inside with ourselves – and all of our stuff – compelling us to confront our choices.
For me that’s meant turning my attention to my two closets full of clogs.
I’m embarrassed to admit I own 21 pairs of clogs, in just about every shape and configuration imaginable – open-back, closed-back; casual styles, dress styles, vintage styles.
I used to have even more. And while I genuinely love clogs, the pandemic made me realize they are more than just a fashion statement.
I got my first pair of clogs in 1977, at the start of 7th grade. They were hard won, since my mom was very much not on board with the purchase.
My Mom thought clogs were impractical, and worse, dangerous. She worried her clutzy daughter might twist an ankle in them.
But I insisted on having a pair, because my new step-sister – daughter of my father’s new wife – had them. She got them before me, a travestyreflecting our disparate economic statuses.
On a day out shopping , her grandmother bought them for her but not me. I wasn’t her blood, her responsibility. It hurt. And it marked the beginning of a painful, unspoken sartorial rivalry between us.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like my step-sister. I very much did. But it wasn’t a level playing field. She already had everything I didn’t. Boys wanted to date her, but just be my friend. A 100% ashkenazic girl with a Snow White complexion who pronounced her r’s, she couldfit in among her Waspy, leafy Westchester milieu in a way that I, a short, curvy, olive-skinned, half-sephardic girl with a Long Island accent could not.
Each season, she would go with her mother to buy whatever was in fashion at retail. Sometimes I’d be right there with them, along for the ride, but wouldn’t get anything.
In contrast, my broke single mom taught me to be a champion discount shopper. We’d make an evening of browsing at Bloomingdale’s, never actually intending to buy anything. We’d model clothes in the mirror – high off being immersed in a department store’s sheer abundance – leaving with nothing other than a small Godiva chocolate bar each, or, if we were lucky, a pair of the store’s signature Bloomie’s underpants.
Months after my step-sister had scored some fashion item I coveted my mom would buy me something similar – in an off color, or slightly damaged – at a discount or thrift store, usually after the item was cool. The clogs were just the beginning of a humiliating state of affairs for an already insecure teen who’d had her life upended by her parent’s split and its ill effects on their finances.
Then, around 2010, when I was in my mid-40s, clogs began making a comeback. I was instantly overcome with an irrational urge to collect all the clogs. I became obsessed and began hoarding second-hand pairs.
It coincided with another bout of deep insecurity. I’ve never had much money , but the recession made things worse. I took a series of odd jobs because it was difficult for me to find enough writing and editing work, which incited a crisis of confidence. My husband and I nearly foreclosed on our house, at one point taking in a boarder.
Maybe it’s not surprising that a period of financial instability and low self-esteem would reopen that ancient void, prompting me to unconsciously try to fill it. Some formative hurts aren’t easily – or ever – resolved. But it is surprising it took a pandemic to see the ridiculousness of my clog-hoarding.
I’d like to believe this new awareness has changed me, that henceforth I will no longer need to be The Girl With the Most Clogs. I’m not quite there yet: I still scroll through eBay for more pairs as a familiar mode of anxiety-soothing in these dark times. But at least I haven’t bought any yet.