Amongst many things I am struggling with in the transition process, finding shoes that actually fit Katie’s ginormous, male feet is one of the more baffling mysteries so far. It is very, very difficult to find shoes that are feminine and made for larger feet. Try it. Go find them and tell me what you see. I didn’t think I would have as difficult a time finding women’s shoe’s above a size 11 as I am. Tom’s, UGGs, Vans, Converse, Nine West, Timberlands: all of these are brands that do not make women’s shoes in a size 13.5. You cannot even special order them above a size 11, which I find so shocking. I know that Katie can wear men’s vans and “get away” with them coupled with women’s clothing. Heck, I do that stuff all the time! That said, there is a difference between the way a women’s sneaker is designed when compared to men’s. Women’s sneakers are made smaller. The soles of the shoe are thinner. The colors and patters are lighter in both shade and boldness. Men’s shoes rarely have light teals, pinks, florals, or polka dots. There is also a difference in me “borrowing” men’s fashion versus her “borrowing” men’s fashion. I have been and plan to be a woman by sex and gender. Katie is just starting this journey. It matters that the shoes are feminine. Compromise on style due to the inaccessibility for her size is not as easy.
I’ve heard rumor that Nordstrom Rack carries larger shoe sizes for women. When investigating, they carry up to size 13. This is unique in the shoe world, trust me. In an attempt to surprise Katie and try and figure out her size, I ordered two pairs of shoes online to see if they would fit. Were they cute? Not really, but for first pair of women’s flats and a first pair of women’s boots, they would do. Unfortunately, when they came, the shoes didn’t fit. Katie said they felt “a smidge too tight”. Part of me doubted that Katie fully understands how most women’s shoes are always “a smidge too tight”, but I didn’t push back. Moments like Katie’s mascara smudging, her shoes not feeling comfortable, hair falling in her eyes, and razor burn near her bikini line always beg the phrase “welcome to womanhood” in my mind. I know this makes me less of a compassionate human, but I find some solace in it. This shit is hard and it’s nice to be reminded of how long it took me to figure it out. Shoot, I didn’t even know to fill in my eyebrows until a couple years ago and I barely understand what a proper skin routine should look like. I still have things to learn! While I feel somewhat victorious for these teaching moments I can bring to my wife, I also have to remind myself what a difficult road this will be for her as she learns what so many women are trained to learn from the time they are born. In one of our early therapy sessions together, our therapist pointed out how unique it is that Katie will have both perspectives. I had never thought of it like that, but she’s right. Katie will know what it feels like to walk with confidence down the street at night as a 6’1″ white, blonde male and also the fear felt as a 6’1″ white, blonde female. What a unique and beautiful perspective.
After realizing the shoes didn’t fit, we returned them in the store so we could look around. There is a certain awareness I now have of how we shop together. I feel like I can’t leave Katie alone in the women’s department. I’m worried that she will get stared at or judged and I don’t want that for her. If I’m there, even in the wrong Size section, at least to others a woman is shopping in the women’s shoe section. I know that’s something I just need to get used to, but I haven’t yet. The Size 13 section of Nordstrom’s Rack is one, four-foot section. Just one. For comparison, the size 8.5 section (mine) is at least 48 feet, if not 96. Katie tried on several pairs of shoes, but they were either hideous, or didn’t quite fit right. (Queue Bitchy, Internal Natalie: Welcome to womanhood!). There was a woman shopping in the same section. After sashaying around each other a couple times, I introduced myself and asked her where she shopped for shoes. Carol, our new big-foot shoe guru, confirmed it’s really hard. She said sometimes Payless has them. Most of her shoes she special orders online through sites like the Long-Tall Sally. Amazon and Zappos. Carol told us to just keep looking. Eventually you find the right ones. This message is so on par with my entire experience in this transition so far. “Just be patient, Natalie. Eventually this will be less stressful, less weird, and less hard. Eventually, you will adjust to being married to a woman. Eventually, you will find the right pair of shoes.” Some days are harder than others. Sometimes you go shopping, and don’t find the right pair of shoes. Every day, I still wake up married to my best friend. Life moves forward.