Even as I write this post, I can’t decide if I’m writing it with pride, humiliation, or both. You see, I’ve been living in Israel for nearly
10 years now, and I’ve never purchased shoes in this country. I know that sounds somewhat awful, like I’m eerily dependent on DSW and Target, despite the fact that they’re 6,000 miles away. I know it sounds like I’m snobbish and materialistic – but that’s not actually it at all.
For starters, I seldom buy shoes for myself at all, unless some that I own happen to break (which only happens about once every 2-3 years). Secondly, I’m a very overt anti-shopper, and avoid stores like the plague. As it is, my own wardrobe comes nearly entirely from hand-me downs from my sisters-in-law and gifts from my generous mother and mother-in-law who both know that I have basically no fashion sense as well as a pathological anxiety related to spending money on things that aren’t 150% necessary. It’s an illness, I know…certainly one that deserves an entire blog post in its own right. But that’s for another time.
I do have less trouble buying things for the kids, but since I work full time, I find that I barely have time to get to the grocery store or the doctor, let alone the shoe store or clothing store, or seamstress or bank, or anywhere else. It seems much easier to ask my very helpful (and devoted) mother to just swing by the children’s shoe section at Target next time she passes by, and to bring next season’s shoes next time she comes (yes, I do pay for them…most of the time). Co-dependent? Definitely. Convenient? Absolutely!
But though we just spent two months in New York and I managed to buy shoes for the four big kids, the one thing I didn’t get was shoes for Itiel, who wasn’t quite walking when we left. He does walk now, however, and I thought it might be a good idea to get him some shoes. So, for the first time in my parenting career, I packed him up into the car and took my child for a shoe fitting. (Yes, I know you’re theoretically supposed to do that for every kid. But don’t worry, the older four seem to have survived just fine despite the fact that they didn’t have proper shoe fittings).
Since I’ve never been to a shoe store around here, I figured that I’d head over to the local store, where I’ve heard a lot of people shop. It’s called the Naot outlet, and outlets are supposed to be affordable, right? RIGHT?!
I got some help from a salesman who looked about 12, who informed me that the cheapest first baby shoes are 200 NIS, and the most are 260 NIS. That’s about $56-$72. But they didn’t have any of the 200 NIS shoes in Itiel’s size, so the best he could give me was some for 240 NIS. I don’t think I have a single pair of shoes in my closet that costs that much. Who pays that much for shoes for little, tiny people whose feet are growing quicker than their hair is?! And we’re not even talking about designer shoes here. Just plain old baby shoes, very similar to these that cost a mere $19.99.
How many nights have I held my babies close, whispering in their ears that I’d do anything for them? If that’s really true, why on earth couldn’t I bring myself to buy my baby shoes for $70? I just said, I’d do anything! And so, the breakdown began. It involved a serious amount of deep breaths, a few tears as I called Mordecai in a panic and then an overzealous scroll through my phone book trying to figure out who would be the next commuter I know coming from the US who could potentially bring back some baby shoes. All while Itiel cried in my arms, traumatized at having to stick his feet in these strange, uncomfortable new shoes. It was certainly not the highlight of my day.
I left the store feeling defeated as a mother but proud as a price-conscious shopper (not to mention extremely grateful that I have a way to get the things that I need without selling my firstborn). I was (IE, am) also rather baffled as to what regular Israelis do when they can’t just run to a discount store? A few friends have subsequently told me that there are some bargain basement options around here – there’s even a Payless now…but that the quality isn’t worth even the discounted price, and that you’re still paying more – way more – than a comparable store abroad.
An hour after I left the shoe store empty handed and entirely bereft, I got a call from a woman I know from around town, who happened to be in the store at the same time as we were. She said that the store was having a sale – buy one pair, get the second for 50% off. So for 180 NIS, or a paltry $50, I could have the shoes for Itiel, and she could save on the shoes for her daughter…was I interested in going in with her?
And so, this is how I agreed to overpay for shoes while still managing to ‘save’ $20. I’m not going to lie – I still feel like a sucker. But on some level maybe I’m more Israeli now. Or maybe only Itiel is, as he’ll be sporting the latest in Israeli shoe fashion while I’ll still be wearing American sale rack fashion from 2009. Either way, I’ve learned a lot from this experience, and I hope nobody will judge me if it takes another 10 years for me to head to an Israeli shoe store.