My feet are two different sizes…by a size and a half. The why isn’t important here. I’d have to tell you a much longer story involving some Puerto Ricans, several surgeries, and a twelve-year-old singing “we’re off to see the wizard.” Let’s save that for another day.
Having two different sized feet has been a challenge most of my life, but my family and I have come up with some unique solutions over the years. In the early ’90s, we used to shop at Stride Rite. They had a great selection of shoes for kids, and had a large selection of velcro shoes; a great option for those of us with wide feet. However, being a size and a half different, my mom would have to buy two pairs of shoes for every one of mine: one in the smaller size, and one in the larger size.
This got expensive. So we started shopping at places like Payless. With the serve-yourself atmosphere, we did a naughty thing. We switched the shoes I needed into one box, and put the mismatched sizes I didn’t need in another. Haven’t you ever wondered why they check the sizes of your shoes when you checkout? It’s because of people like me. That’s also how I know there are quite a few of us out there. You don’t institute a company policy because of one little girl in southern California.
As I got older, there were more complicated purchases. When I was twelve, I asked for roller blades for Christmas (don’t judge me, roller blades were the thing in ’96). How on earth was I going to get roller blades that fit? My mom and grandmother plotted to make it happen. Each of them went to the sporting goods store separately and bought one pair of roller blades in a size I needed. When I opened both boxes and tried on the corresponding sized blades, they put the sizes I didn’t need back in one box. My innocent-looking, 100-lb grandmother returned it with a straight face.
Then we found Nordstrom. It was a magical experience. You see, Nordstrom has a policy called Intentional Mismates. For no extra charge, they will let you buy ONE pair of shoes in only the sizes you need, provided that your feet are at least one size different. It’s amazing! Granted, their shoes are a bit more expensive than many places. However, their shoes are higher quality, and it’s still less expensive than buying two pairs of shoes at the cheaper stores.
And so began my lifelong relationship with Nordstrom. Each time I went in to my local store, the employees at the shoe department had one of two reactions to me: total avoidance due to my very particular shoe needs, or constant hovering because the smart ones know I’ll buy several pair if they all fit.
Occasionally I got blank stares.
“Can I get you a particular size, miss?”
“Yes, please. 6 1/2 and an 8.”
“Oh, yes. I’ll be right back.”
Now that I know at a glance which shoes will fit my feet and which won’t, I have branched out into some of the other discount stores like DSW and Off Broadway.
Since those places don’t have policies for people like myself, the conversation can be a little awkward.
“So which one would you like?”
“Both the 6 1/2 and the 8?”
“Yes, I have two different sized feet.”
“Oh, ok. but you know you’re going to have to pay for both of them.”
“Yes, I know.”
[at the cash register]
“So do you want me to put both boxes in the bag?”
“Um, yes. Unless you guys can do something with the sizes I don’t need.”
Oh well, they don’t get paid enough to think.
For the record, I don’t switch boxes anymore…although it’s tempting. Also, take a moment to imagine my disappointment when shopping the discount racks. In the 6 1/2 section I find a really cute pair of shoes only to discover the size 8 section doesn’t have the same pair of shoes. After a few of those experiences, I started passing the sale racks out of hand.
It’s interesting being an intentional mismate, but I never claimed my life was boring.
Capacious (adj.) 1. capable of holding much 2. spacious or roomy
I imagine searching for capacious shoes, like a women’s size 11, would be even more difficult than my intentional mismates.