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Blahnik's Bag
by David Israel

Manolo Blahniks did for Carrie Bradshaw what the generic canvas tennis shoe did for Mr. Rogers: they helped define a personality. That they cost an average of $600 gave Bradshaw's character certain panache -- a flair that basically said: I may be an underpaid weekly newspaper columnist (can't you tell from my apartment, clothes, choice in restaurants?) but my feet are worth the very best.

The shoes also gave her confidence -- confidence that men found irresistible (23 men over the course of six seasons, but who's counting). And perhaps that's why gals covet the shoes so. Maybe slipping into a pair of $600 shoes gives women that extra little lift, which, when compared with a $9,000 boob job to achieve the same effect, suddenly seems cheap.

As a guy, it had been hard for me to relate to the Blahnik phenomenon. I once dated a girl who owned a couple pairs. But to me, she was just as attractive in her Manolos as she was in her bejeweled $4 Chinatown slippers.

What made Bradshaw attractive, in my opinion, was anything but her shoes. Her wit, her ability to turn a phrase, her loyalty to her friends, her capacity to emote and her generous smile (to say nothing of her phenomenal knockers) kept me tuning in. I refused to see how a pair of pumps that cost twice what a "Today's Man" suit cost (including alterations) made anyone more desirable. That is, until something happened recently while strolling through Central Park -- something so singularly powerful that I was converted from Manolo naysayer to Blahnik poster child all within the space of a few city blocks.

I had been shopping for a special gift for my girlfriend -- earrings or maybe a necklace. It was a Saturday, the first nice weekend of the year.

The better part of the afternoon slipped away and I had nothing to show for it except frustration. (Honestly, when it comes to shopping, I'm about as clueless as Mr. Magoo.) By 4:30 p.m., exhausted and hungry, I gave up on the search and decided to take advantage of the weather by picking up a newspaper and heading over to the park. I walked along, carrying the complete Sunday opus that is The New York Times before stopping at a concessions stand to buy a Coke and Italian hoagie.

I was sitting on a bench in the shade of a large Japanese maple, my nose buried in the Week in Review, when suddenly, out of nowhere, a couple flew toward me on their rollerblades. Covered head to toe in thick black protective gear, they looked more like hockey goalies than rollerbladers -- arms flailing, legs buckling like newborn ponies. Two things were abundantly clear: This was their first day on rollerblades (at least it better have been) and I was going to get nailed.

The girl, who was trying unsuccessfully to stop the guy, spun out of control, landing hard on her rump before reaching the bench.

I jumped up -- partly to cushion her man's crash, partly to avoid being sat on. In the end, we all had a good chuckle, but my poor New York Times was now covered in soda.

I didn't want to invest another $3.50 in a new paper, so I decided to take this one home to dry out. But I needed something to carry it in. As good fortune would have it, there was a large shopping bag in the trash can. As I pulled the bag out, I noticed this was no ordinary shopping bag. It was very well put together: firm yet supple and malleable, heavy-duty -- you could haul bricks in it -- yet simultaneously lightweight with a rich, beautiful beige sheen. I turned it around to see the brand name:


Dumping the sections I wanted to read into the bag, I continued my way down through Sheep's Meadow, cutting through the baseball diamonds and exiting at 7th Avenue. Then I began to walk southeast, toward 57th and 6th for the subway home. And here's where my entire opinion of Manolo Blahnik changed:

As I walked, I began to notice women -- gorgeous, hot-bodied women, checking me out, for perhaps the first time in my life. Some smiled, others looked at me from the corner of their eyes. One, a leggy brunette in a polka dotted skirt, even winked. It was as if I were suddenly Brad Pitt. No, it was as if I were suddenly Brad Pitt, naked.

I couldn't believe what was happening. Everyone was impressed with me and my bag. I imagined them thinking: Ahhh, now there's a guy with class. There's a guy who knows what women want. Or: Manolos huh? Who's the lucky girl?

I imagined one of them stopping to ask me for a smoke: "Excuse me, but would you happen to have a cigarette or a free evening next week?"

Of course, little did they know, the only thing in the bag was an Arts & Leisure section dripping in Coke.

But so what! Between the azure sky, the gentle breeze and the Manolo bag slung over my shoulder, I felt like I had power over every woman within a ten-block radius. My eyes, never considered my best feature, must have looked radiant in the midday sun. My thinning hair suddenly felt full and revitalized as I ran my fingers through it.

People were looking at me like I was royalty -- and not just women, also guys a little light in their canvas tennis shoes. It was outstanding! Even taxis stopped at red lights to let me cross the street. Who needed Prozac? Who needed Rogaine? Who needed reservations at Nobu?

As for my girlfriend's gift, not only did she get a new pair of shoes (I spent the next day in the Blahnik store) but she got a new man, as well. Such was the effect that bag had on my self-esteem.

In an episode during the third season of Sex and the City, Carrie is mugged at gunpoint and her Manolos, along with her purse, are stolen. When Miranda meets her at the detective's office and brings a pair of running shoes for her, Carrie says: "I can't wear those with this dress." It was a silly line I didn't appreciate until the Blahnik bag came into my life. Now I empathize wholeheartedly. Now I know exactly how she felt. Now, when I go to the grocery store and the cashier asks, "Paper or plastic?" I always say, "I've got my own thanks," and head home toting my bananas, my OJ, my eggs and my mojo all in one bag.

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