One day I fell in love with one of my readers.
My clog blog was such a perfect outlet for my passions. It was such a perfect excuse for spending my time scouring the web for shoes that caught my eye. It gave me the chance to write at length about a topic that I loved to contemplate. It put me in the middle of a community of kindred spirits who could relate to my obsession. It validated my fascination for footwear by letting me see I wasn’t alone in my approach to life. It’s no surprise that I attracted someone who felt the same.
Each day on Every Clog Has Its Day I would put a little bit more of myself online. And every so often I’d hear from another shoe lover somewhere in the world who shared my interests. One day I might write about sighting high-heeled Miu Miu clogs on Jessica Simpson. The next day I might talk about the new wood-soled styles from Sanita. The day after that I might feature an assortment of oil paintings depicting Europeans in wooden shoes. And then the day after that I might offer an interview with a contemporary clog maker. My blog was not only a place to broadcast my fervor for fabulous footwear. It also provided me with a much needed outlet for my creative energy as well. I wasn’t content to simply revel in the shoes I lusted after on a daily basis. I was driven to express myself as inventively as possible. I set out not only to create a blog about shoes, I wanted to make it a blog that I would want to read.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.
Early in 2010 I made the e-acquaintance of Mark Casperson, clog maker from Portland, Oregon, and owner of Multnomah Leather Shop. He had basically inherited the business from his father who in turn had learned the trade from a Norwegian craftsman who had brought his skills to the region in the early 1900s. His clogs were a delightful combination of contemporary colors and textures and stolid wood-soled tradition. Best of all, he made everything by hand...to order. I interviewed Mark for the blog and published a number of custom clogs he had assembled for his clientele. I began eyeing these unique Multnomah Leather Shop styles and started toying with designs for my own one-of-a-kind shoe. But then unexpectedly, Mark sent me a photo of a new lace up clog boot he had just dreamt up, and I immediately knew it was just the sort of shoe I wanted to create. I sat right down and designed my own pair of clog boots. From the cap toe to the two tone combination of pebbled leather and plain to the thicker lug sole to the boot loop in the rear of the upper to the whimsical contrasting leather circle at the ankle, this was a pair of clog boots that came out of my own head. And Mark, the clog craftsman, patiently guided me through the permutations of what was and wasn’t possible. It was a heady experience bringing a pair of shoes to life. And in typical blogger fashion, I documented the whole process in one monster post that included my original mockups, Mark’s photos of the shoe being built in his workshop, and the requisite blogging climax: the unboxing of the finished design.
“Applause, applause,” commented one regular reader. “Yep, I’d be staring at my feet all day in secret (or not so secret) delight. FABULOUS!!”
“Oh, wow! These are so great,” wrote another.
“Oh, my goodness. Fantastic!” said a third.
And then a comment tumbled in from someone I had never heard from before: a reader who signed her name as Melissa.
"I have been following your blog every day for quite a while, and it is wonderful---but this has to be the best post ever! How extraordinary are your new clog boots---I am off to order a pair of clog saddle shoes, having lusted for them ever since you originally mentioned Mark's work on your blog. Walk tall in your awesome boots, ma’am!"
Just a few short lines. A bit of praise. Some personal warmth. The acknowledgment that my passion had inspired her. It was enough to make me sit up and take notice. Yes, I noticed she assumed that because I was blogging with such intensity about women’s shoes I must necessarily be a woman. But I could still appreciate the compliments. And since I felt that by keeping my gender undisclosed I was helping my blog, I didn’t see any need to correct her.
"God bless you for writing! I was just having a rough afternoon at work in front of my computer today, and your message made the clouds part and the sun shine. Thank you so much! (And when you receive your saddle shoes, be sure to send a picture or two!)"
One of the great delights of overseeing Every Clog Has Its Day was finding myself unexpectedly at the center of a community that was evolving around it. Already I had a handful of regular visitors who would chime in from time to time about this style or that or some new shoe that had caught their eye. But this woman said she genuinely enjoyed what I was achieving. She touched me with her very first compliments. And then she went on to make me smile with her enthusiastically appreciative comments on a regular basis.
In response to a post in which I expressed amazement over how so many twenty-somethings on street fashion site Lookbook.nu were posing in $400 shoes, Melissa commented,
"You wonder how these young women can afford such expensive shoes? Well, obviously they don't eat...."
In response to a post describing my ecstatic anticipation of the new Jeffrey Campbell high-heeled Charli-C clogs I had just ordered from Nordstrom.com, Melissa wrote,
"OMG indeed! I followed your link to Nordstrom and saw these Tory Burch clog boots. [link supplied] I may have damaged my keyboard by drooling on it...."
In response to a post celebrating my fondness for actress Kate Beckinsale in her chunky high-heeled Chanel clogs, Melissa observed,
"Holy crow! I too adore Kate! She comes across in interviews as a smart, sassy woman, and she is my idea of gorgeous. There was an interview with her in Esquire last November that I actually tore out of a doctor's waiting room copy because I loved the pix! My bad."
In response to one weekly review of the latest clogs to reach the market, Melissa contributed a link about a new style she had just discovered on the Sanita website,
"And as long as we are sighing over autumn previews, I am mad for Sanitas and mad for gray suede: given gray suede Sanitas, I must surely have died and gone to heaven!"
In response to a post that merely previewed the soon to be released line of high-heeled lace up clog booties from Jeffrey Campbell, Melissa exclaimed,
"ZOMG! The boots in pink! THE BOOTS IN PINK!!! (I hear angels singing "ah AHH ahhh wheeee"!)"
In response to a post detailing a variety of the specific styles in that Jeffrey Campbell line, Melissa simply wrote,
"I just swallowed my tongue."
What was going on here? The women I knew didn’t talk like this. My fondness for this regular reader of my blog could not be contained. Eventually we struck up a conversation outside of the Comments section. Keep in mind that I was still closeted to my readers and had no intention of stepping from behind the curtain just yet. It seems a little naive in retrospect, but I wasn’t particularly eager to find out how my women readers were going to respond to finding out that their blog mommy was actually a blog daddy. Still, the energy of her personality was irresistible.
In an e-mail just a month and a half after her first appearance, I wrote,
"You have such a refreshing way of expressing yourself in the comments! My daughter and I both look forward to reading something you've posted. Even something as simple as your "Holy Crow!" makes me smile. Thanks so much for dropping by so often. You bring an additional satisfaction to my little web hobby."
"Well, thank you! I can be rather enthusiastic about the things I love! And shoes would certainly be one of those things!"
Was I dreaming? Here was another human being who felt about shoes the same way that I did. I could so relate to her passion for footwear and her fearless drive to express it and embrace it. I was fascinated. I would have loved to have gotten to know her better. And from what I could tell, Melissa was feeling the same. Consider her post on the occasion of Every Clog Has Its Day’s first anniversary:
"Thank you for making every day clogfully delicious! I look forward to all your hard work, I learn from you, and I spend money on shoes because of you—without ever having met, you are my BFF!! Yours is one of only four blogs I follow every day and the ONLY one about shoes! You rock and so do your clogs! Cheers!!"
I mentioned the unexpected community that a blog can build. But what of the friendships that a daily interaction over a shared interest might inspire. We clog lovers found common ground as together we gazed upon the objects of our desire. And from that starting point, we began to offer bits and pieces from the rest of our lives as we grew to know each other better. I certainly had gotten curious about what sort of people my readers were. In the summer of 2010 I held a Jeffrey Campbell giveaway. I was able to award five pairs of JC wood-soled shoes to five winners chosen at random. Content hungry blogger that I was, I had to ask the winners to send me pics of their shoes in action. I knew it was good business to follow up the contest with photos of happy new shoe owners. But I was also just plain curious what some of my readers looked like and how they lived.
As Melissa repeatedly delighted me with her comments on Every Clog Has Its Day, I found myself wondering about her, too. So much so that I couldn’t resist doing a little browser based detective work. Not that I could turn up much. Her e-mail address seemed to be related to a music production website. Ooo! Maybe she worked in a creative field like mine. There was someone apparently on staff there with the same last name. But no listing for her. Oh, dear. She’s probably some young twenty-something who’s married to one of the co-owners. My heart sank. Around the same time, one of her posted comments made reference to how much her husband appreciated her footwear. Lucky guy. But all my vaguely swirling fantasies of what this rare breed of woman might be like were instantly packed up and filed away.
Of course, I should know better than to trust what I read on the internet. Especially when a lot of what I’m reading is between the lines. I was wide of the mark on a number of things I thought I dug up about Melissa. But it would be a few months before I actually learned the truth. I contented myself with having a new e-friend to get excited about shoes with and tended to other romantic pursuits.
Still, I couldn’t overlook how smitten I was with such comments as:
"I cannot get enough of color, and anything in the pink-purple family grabs my heart and my wallet in equal measure, shouting BUY ME! WEAR ME! And I, of course, being the polite southern belle that I am, gracefully comply."
"Ooh! Sweet footwear! I have often "posed" my shoes and taken group shots! And I don't think I've ever gotten rid of a pair that I didn't snap a pic for the memories. I say "good on you" Lindsey, for recognizing what you love and going after it. Cheers!"
"OMG OMG OMG OMG!!! The aviator shearling clog boot in beaten brown! I am dying!!"
"ZOMG! I am so giving those to one of my fanfiction characters to wear!"
One fall day, I found myself debating a recent purchase. Jeffrey Campbell’s successful series of Lita platform booties had included a thigh high variation named the Ivka. I had long ago learned that when it comes to shoes in my size, he or she who hesitates is lost. The Ivkas appeared on the Solestruck website in a size 11 shortly before lunchtime one day. By the middle of the afternoon they were gone. But not before I nabbed a pair for myself even though my budget could ill afford it. I hemmed and hawed over the boots for a couple of weeks, and then decided to take the sensible path and return them. Before I dropped off the box at UPS, though, I turned to someone I knew would surely understand my indecision. I wrote to Melissa to say,
"I actually ordered those Ivka lace up platform boots from Jeffrey Campbell even though I can't really afford them. I figured I'd try them on, take some pics of them for the blog, and then send them back. Only...now that I've got 'em all boxed up, ready to go with the return label on the package, I'm flipping through the photos I took and thinking, "Damn. Those do look fine!" I'm starting to wonder if returning them might be a mistake.
"And to complicate matters, I did recently meet someone who just might enjoy me owning this pair."
Melissa replied sympathetically with just the words I needed to read:
"I hear your SIGH and return it.
"If there was one of those "buy ten, get the twelfth FREE" cards for shoes like there is for pizza or burgers, they'd be sorry they offered me one!
"And as for keeping shoes that someone else will appreciate, I'm a bad influence: if that person likes those boots and makes you feel beautiful/desirable/yummy for wearing them, I'm afraid to report that the boots are worth the money—even if you have none—ain't no price to be put on desire!"
Could this woman be any cooler? She absolutely gets where I’m coming from. At least as far as shoes are concerned. And as you’ve read, my relationship to shoes is a facet of my personality that was feeling sorely under appreciated. I so wanted to reach out to this mystery woman with the fascinating personality. At the same time, I had to ask myself what I truly hoped to gain. An occasional pen pal? A co-conspirator in the search for fabulous footwear? A person who had the potential to become a close friend but for the fact that she lived 12 hours away. She was married, too, for Pete’s sake! We clearly wouldn’t be meeting at Starbucks anytime soon. What was the point of trying to get to know her better?
Strangely, life had other plans. In 2011 I made a decision that changed everything. I decided to bring my blogging days to an end.
[On my feet this past week: I played a set of Rod Stewart and The Faces music with my friends from the Old Town School of Folk Music last Friday night. And since it was a snowy night, I took my new Medina rubber boots from Sorel for a spin.
Then Saturday night we went out with an old friend for tapas. And I did my best to give people at the next table something to talk about with my blue and yellow Mia lace up booties from Miista.
Today, on the other hand, I wanted to wear my blue Marlo booties from Kork-Ease. They came in a vivid color called Bosforo Blue, but wouldn't you know it, the style didn't catch my eye until that color was completely sold out in my size. So I bought the booite in the Natural Vacchetta color (a pale neutral leather) and took them to my favorite shoe repair shop in Chicago to have them dye them. They did a great job as always!]