So the first thing you should know about me is that I'm a serious Sarah Jessica Parker fan. Yes, I'm a Sex And the City fan, too, but it runs deeper than that. My love affair with SJP began in high school when saw my first few episodes of SATC. The curly-haired, effortlessly stylish writer that she played on that show would serve to be one of the female characters I idolized growing up (more on that in another post). One of my most treasured Christmas gifts was a tiny diamond horseshoe necklace like the one she wears. I still have a giant costume flower that I pin on jackets and dresses every so often.
Beyond Carrie, though, I love SJP herself. She is whip-smart, funny, classy to a fault. I love her blindly and always will.
My freshman year in college, the Sex and the City movie came out. My mom and I went to see it and it was every bit as fabulous as I thought it would be. One scene in particular stayed with me:
Those shoes, people.
They were so gorgeous and so unique. I loved them so much that when a friend of mine spotted them in a Saks in Chicago, she snapped a photo and sent it to me. That picture was the background photo of my Blackberry Pearl (anyone? anyone?) for two years.
My between my sophomore and junior years, I studied abroad in England at Oxford University. One of the weekend trips I'd scheduled was for me and two girlfriends - just a day trip into London. We would arrive, shop, eat, see Les Miserables (my all-time favorite Broadway show) and then come back.
Little did I know.
The girls, Alexis and Elizabeth, had seen the background photo on my phone and had recognized the shoes immediately.
"I wonder if there's a Manolo store here," Elizabeth asked.
I hadn't even thought of this possibility and grabbed my phone to Google.
There was. It was a stand-alone Manolo Blahnik store - not inside a mall, but a real-deal, floor-to-ceiling Manolo store. We all squealed.
"Call and see if they have your shoes!!"
I frantically clicked the number listed underneath the address I'd found online and waited.
"Manolo Blahnik, how can we help?"
"Um, hi!" I was painfully Southern and PAINFULLY uncool, but I was trying my hardest to sound adult and professional. "I'm looking for the 'Something Blue' pumps with the rhinestone buckle. Do you have any in store?"
"We have one pair."
"Really?? Oh my gosh, thank you!!" I practically screamed. Then hung up.
The girls stared at me in anticipation.
"They have a pair. I can't believe it."
"Are they your size??" Elizabeth was being practical. In my spazzy panic, I hadn't even asked.
"Oh. Right. Okay. Yes."
So I called back and asked.
"The shoes are a 39 1/2."
I quickly thanked them and hung up again.
"And??" the girls said.
"They're a 39 1/2," I reported. I had absolutely no idea what that meant.
I Googled (man, Google really came to our rescue in this story) to discover that the single pair of my dream shoes in all of London - maybe even all of England - came in my size. I relayed this information to the girls.
"We have to go. Right now." Alexis was determined to get us there before the curtain rose for our show later that afternoon.
And so we did.
Alexis, in her brilliance, documented each leg of the journey. First, we took the tube to the stop nearest the store:
We literally ran out of the subway and, panting, hailed a cab we'd soon realize was being manned by the slowest driver on this planet.
"Sir, I hate to be a bother, but could you speed it up just a bit? We're really trying to make an appointment."
The whole ride over, all I could think about was whether I was about to put my foot into a shoe I'd been dreaming about for years. It was more than just a shoe - it was a connection with this person who'd always been aspirational to me. It sounds silly, I know, but Sarah Jessica Parker is more than just a celebrity I love. She's someone whose candor and example have given me something to strive for. I have plenty of wonderful female role models in my real life, but she and I have a special relationship. I wanted to have my very own Carrie Bradshaw moment.
Finally, we arrived. I remember pulling up like it was yesterday. Vines grew along the edges of the marble awning where the subtle words "Manolo Blahnik" were carved in small letters.
I felt light-headed. Suddenly, I didn't feel old enough to be here. Did you need parental supervision at Manolo?? Would they let us in? It felt sneaky - rebellious, even - to waltz into this store at 20 years old, accompanied only by other 20-year-old's. But I was on my own in another country, and everything, even going to the food truck outside our college, sent a bolt of electric independence through my chest.
"I'm only going to try them on," I told the girls. I didn't want any expectations raised that I'd actually be purchasing these bad boys.
We took our first steps into the small store and I quickly realized we were the only people there. The salesman immediately recognized me (I'm sure the accent was a dead giveaway) and led me straight to the shoes, which were sitting on top of a box, waiting.
"Will you be trying them on?" he asked.
I sat down in a chair and the salesman slipped the shoes on, one after the other.
Few times in my life have I been speechless, but this was one of them. I couldn't believe I was here. I couldn't believe these shoes were on my feet.
I stood up and looked in the full-length mirror. Suddenly, standing before me was the reflection of a grown-up girl. These shoes completed the transformation that study abroad had begun: I was an adult now. I was my own woman. I was the agent of my own happiness. For that moment, the person I always wanted to be and the person I actually was merged together. It wasn't the shoes - it was what the shoes represented. Tears filled my eyes, and I heard myself say,
"YAY!!!" My precious friends were celebrating and clapping - they'd secretly wanted me to buy these shoes all along.
It was, to date, the most expensive purchase I've ever made and will probably be the only one of its kind. I won't go into cost details (cough, way-too-expensive, cough) except to say that I paid my parents back for the loan they made. But what choice did I have? These shoes were more than shoes.
We ran sprinting down the streets of London, breaking a tiny sweat, and slid into our seats during the overture of Les Mis. It was a Top 5 day in my life then, and still is.
I knew when I bought them that I'd keep them unworn until I got married. These were no ordinary shoes - not shoes to tout around at parties or wear to random dinners. No, these shoes were sacred to me - they would be worn for the first time down the aisle at my wedding.
(Except for all the times I'd "practice" around my house, of course.)
When I put these shoes on to walk down the aisle in 2014, years later, to a man I hadn't even met when I tried these shoes on in that store in London, I felt a funny wrinkle in time.
As I looked in the full-length mirror in my wedding gown, I realized that part of what made that moment 2009 so transcendent is that that Mary Catherine, the 20-year-old version, knew somewhere deep down in her bones that these shoes would accent not just that one, but two moments of formative importance. My past self and my current one connected across time and space, both of us standing in our favorite shoes, both having traveled miles and learned lots of lessons to be standing right there. It almost felt like, if I stared hard enough at my reflection, I'd see myself in that yellow dress, smile bursting off my face. Without that girl, I wouldn't have been this one, I thought. They took me down the aisle to the love of my life, then out the door with him as we started our new adventure together.
I've only ever worn the shoes again to my second anniversary dinner with Jordan. They sit in the now-tattered Manolo box that has been moved from house to house to house, and every so often I peek inside. They wink at me from their box, still inside, still magical, wondering what adventure is around the corner.
Whatever it is, they'll be along for the trip.