When they turn the Marcos Palace into a museum, I want to be appointed the curator of Imelda's shoes. Let someone else have the Gucci pocketbook collection, and the dresses and the 500 black brassieres. All I want is the 3,000 pairs of shoes.
I hereby promise to keep them catalogued and color-coded. I promise to keep them polished and lined up: left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, . . . Oh, I know what you're thinking. I'm just another bleeding heart who doesn't understand how she could buy 3,000 pairs of shoes while the people went barefoot. According to my calculator it would have taken more than eight years just to soil the soles one day at a time. As Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.) said, "Compared to Imelda, Marie Antoinette was a bag lady."
So you assume I'd use my post to paint her as a sicko, a compulsive shopper, a woman who had her gold cards made out of real bullion, whose political philosophy fit on a bumper sticker: "When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping."
Well, as curator, I would be compelled to write a short text on narcissism, to be offered visitors. I would quote the former beauty queen explaining her sense of duty: "I have to look beautiful so that the poor Filipinos will have a star to look at from their slums." I would, as matter of historic record, repeat her attack on Cory Aquino: "She doesn't do her nails."
But deep in my heart as I lined up the shoes each morning -- left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right -- I would think of myself as manager of the ultimate display case of the last great torture instrument of 20th century fashion: the shoe.
After all, if the shoe fit, Imelda might have worn it more than once.
The Iron Butterfly of the Philippines is the most outrageous, the most notorious slave to fashion in modern history. But I am convinced that for most women, the shoe is the ball and chain they willingly attach to the end of their leg.
There is, for example, the laughable matter of size. I don't know how big Madam Marcos' feet are, but it doesn't really matter. Sizing in shoes bears about as much resemblance to reality as did Imelda's campaign predictions to the results: "Filipinos who love beauty will vote for Marcos."
In the years since Imelda was dubbed the Rose of Tacloban, the world's shoe business has adopted the Ugly Stepsister approach to fit. The customer has to fit the shoe. If you have narrow feet, wear socks. If you have mismatched feet, find yourself a great looking pair of boxes. If you have large feet, let me recommend surgery. Somewhere in the shoe world, I am sure, there is a manufacturer planning to introduce one-size-fits-all.
Imelda may be the only woman who ever owned 3,000 pairs of shoes. But I know a lot of women who have to try on 3,000 pairs to find one they can wear.
More to the point, there isn't a shoe in the Marcos collection that is actually made for walking. That isn't all that unusual. Women have stopped wearing corsets and girdles, long sleeves in summer and miniskirts in winter. In China they have stopped binding feet; and in America, Yuppies now dash from one appointment to another in running shoes.
But for the most part, women still spend their social lives hobbled. No one has yet designed a shoe that looks like a spike and feels like a sneaker. So, we go along putting round toes in pointed shoes, flat feet on heels. What we want most to do with shoes is take them off.
In my new role as barefoot curator of the most extensive collection of shoes in the world, I will keep everything just the way she left it: Ungaro, Gucci, Jourdan, Beltrami, Pancaldi, Steiger, left, right, etc. But if you see me humming happily as I dust the monument to the queen of shopping, first the blues and then the reds and then the blacks, it's because I'm planning for the day when shoes such as these are museum pieces, just as extinct as Imelda.