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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why I can't thrift boots: How ill-fitting footwear helped me to love myself

Why I can’t thrift boots: 
How ill-fitting footwear helped me to love myself 

It’s a waiting game. At the end of August, autumnal-worshipping fashionistas are already chomping at the bit for weather cool enough to buy or wear the ideal boot with their fall outfit. Rack after rack of riding boots, calf boots and lace up booties begin to surface at every department store, and large shoeboxes arrive on many doorsteps as the women inside cross their fingers in anticipation… 

Will the shoe fit? 

Like everyone else, I'm excited about outfits with boots. Pants with boots. Skirts with boots. Everything with boots! All the way through winter! Though I enjoy “brand spanking new” items as much as anyone else, part of my personal credo and mission as a conservationist and a thrift blogger is to ask myself: Can I find this item second-hand before I buy it new? The answer, almost undoubtedly, is yes. EXCEPT…and this is a painful exception…when it comes to boots. 

Why can’t I buy most boots second-hand? The answer isn't because of orthotics, worn leather, or fear of some type of “shoe cootie” (though I hear this stops many people from buying footwear second-hand  and I can assure you, I've never had an issue). No, the answer isn't about anything aesthetic or personal in the least. 

I simply can’t fit my calves into them. 

Let us now take a journey… to a place called Lithuania. 

 Welcome! Long before its independence as a nation in 1918 (and before erecting a tributary sculpture to FRANK ZAPPA in 1995, which is entirely awesome), Lithuania has been turning out strong, sturdy Baltic men and women. As a primarily middle class or poverty stricken nation, it should be noted that Lithuanians are a WORKING culture; a laboring people. Hard physical effort, tending to one’s own land and athletic capabilities including dancing are considered to be common traits amongst the people who hail from this land. (I can attest to that, because my Lithuanian great grandparents and grandfather were avid gardeners and also loved to polka.) Their union and immigration to the United States (specifically, Grand Rapids, Michigan) made possible my own family lineage that includes many short, stocky and muscular relatives, whose hearty statures and longevity have served them well. 

 Grandpa Don Verbis in the yard, where he spent many hours drinking beers and growing his amazing tomatoes. 

 Yet, I haven’t always been so proud of my natural born Lithuanian calves. 

For many years, I envied the slender-legged girls. Oh, the tan, slender-legged girls of summer who boasted never-ending gams of perfection in their baby doll sun dresses! Oh, the slender-legged running women of the road who seemed to glide along the pavement like gazelles in their North Face micro-shorts without a trace of cellulite or thigh dimpling. Oh, the slender-legged women of Shoe Carnival who slid their willowy calves into fashionable boots with ease, their legs slipping inside like a greased pill down a wide throat. 

How I desperately wanted A. Yet, I felt like B. 
(Okay, B with a side of jiggle and cellulite.) 

 I wish that the comparisons with my plus size body and what I deemed as perfection had ended at my calves, but alas, I spent my entire adolescence, teen years and twenties casting my whole body into the depths of “Not Good Enough Land”, where hoodie sweatshirts covered love handles and baggy jeans masked my stumpy stems and thick thighs. Though I had always loved dresses and fashion in general, it was easy to hide behind the casual gear at that time in my life. I was a musician; a rowdy guitarist for a heavy indie band. My punk rock attitude only made it easier to hide my figure behind clothes that camouflaged the pain of dis-satisfaction. I hated my body, and because I hated it, I treated it poorly. I didn't always eat well, and I didn't exercise often, let alone take time for self-care rituals. Just as one would expect, my issues with weight only increased further, and I had fully convinced myself that my problems were only external. 

What diet could I try to fix the problem? What magic piece of gym equipment could restore my self-worth? Shocking, I know…but there wasn't one. And there isn't  And there never, ever, will be. If you are reading this article right now, hoping for such a thing…stop dreaming right now, and instead wake up. Take a terrifying leap as I did, into the cavern of your soul, and feel around in the dark for a “jagged rock”—a problem--like the one I had. 

My “jagged rock” was a roadblock to self-acceptance. I couldn't properly quantify the worth--the purpose, the advantages--of my physical body. It took me thirty years, but I finally jackhammered that rock and blasted it into a thousand pieces. Inside the rock, a thousand golden nuggets spilled out, filling me with the understanding that, not only was my body worthy of my praise, attention and—yes—even celebration, it was also full of purpose

Suddenly I realized that the muscular, Lithuanian calves I had cursed for years had carried me through much rough terrain throughout my lifetime. They allowed me to climb from the depths of despair to the heights of happiness, supported my footsteps on every journey of my life’s transformation, upheld my pregnant belly with ease and, later, the weight of my son upon my shoulders. They even endured mile after mile as I ran down the road with strength and exhilaration. 


 The mental metamorphosis was swift and enlightening. 

I gave up on having someone else’s legs, and opted, instead, to have a big, fat slice of fall fashion pie, buying myself some properly fitting, wide calf boots. While I was relishing in the sheer joy of self-love and acceptance (and riding boots, yay!), I decided to call myself an athlete because of my love of running and my training efforts (a title formerly forbidden, in my mind, to a slender-legged gazelle). I even realized a dream of mine and created a fashion blog where I photographed my own, plus size body (gasp!) in clothes I had styled, because it was a body that I loved; one that was mine, and full of purpose. Now that I revered and praised this body for its service, I could begin to honor it with only the best nourishment, exercise, and self-care routines. And then something even MORE magical happened: when I saw the purpose and beauty in myself, I began to notice it all around me. I just couldn't keep quiet about it. YES, that included ALL body types, because despite my comedic tone about slender-legged women, we can all be beautiful. Bodies are different, and beautiful, and purposeful. 

As you can probably predict, the more I valued my body, the happier and healthier I felt, and the more weight I lost. I quit referring to myself as a “work in progress” and tried to focus on being present. Though I'm sure I’ll always dream of a tighter tummy and skinnier slacks, I'm not wasting one more day of my life waiting to live. Ever. Again. 

The cherry on top of my own journey to self-discovery would be to pass this knowledge on…even if it is just to one frustrated woman who is out shopping this afternoon, measuring her self-worth in the dressing room of a department store. 

 Don't waste another minute.

Today is the day to love yourself and recognize how your physical body has served you.

Today is the day to treat your body well, to feed your body well, to dress your body well, in items that fit you. 

Forget about the goal pants and the thrifted boots. 

Today is the day to buy new boots.


P.S. Are you looking for a wide calf boot? I gotchu, girl!


  1. I can't get shoes or boots from thrift stores. I wear a size 12 shoe and I have since 7th grade. I have had time to get used to my big feet and have grown to appreciate them. They keep me balanced, Im 5'11'', so I guess the big feet were a given. Its funny to watch who buys my old shoes at garage sales, usually men, who maybe like to cross dress or something. I am never going to have amazing shoes, unless they cost a gazillion dollars from a specialty place, Im stuck with whatever Aerosoles or payless sells. Im fine about it. Its just my feet, things could be worse....

    1. I hear you. My feet are actually two different sizes, as I totally understand what you are saying! Often I just deal with it and try to get two size 9's, otherwise my larger foot will suffer. I just can't be that person in the store who "mixes and matches" because I'd feel too guilty, haha! It stinks that you have to pay so much more to have the same shoe. Darnit! That said, though...splurge on the shoes. I'm sure you deserve it. ;)

      Thanks for reading and commenting! :)


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