Big shoes to fill

Yesterday morning I was astonished to hear, along with the rest the world, via my AP News app on my phone that Benedict XVI is parking the Popemobile — permanently.

It seems unreal. Popes don’t resign! Popes pope until they poop out. There’s HISTORY here! Not since 1415 has one of them just decided, “eh, I’ve had enough of this gig. I no longer wish to preside over my own country and live in the Freaking Vatican.”

“Also, I wish for my head to be removed from the Pope Room tables at Buca di Beppo.”

Seriously, how could you give that up?

And then there’s the red shoes. I know, I know. I’ve made this point before. So sue me — shoes are an absorbing topic. And look what I found at the Pope Shoes Tumblr. (Can you believe it? a Tumblr devoted to Pope shoes?)

HOLY HUARACHES, BENEDICT! Sandals or slip-ons, textured leather to smooth, St. Peter’s throne shall never run out of options!

The pontiff was given this selection when he was touring Mexico last March. I ask you — how does one literally walk away from a job where people give you rooms full of shoes just for showing up?

All kidding aside, it’s because of his advanced age that Benedict has decided to give up the Holy Ghost. Early speculation had it that he determined that Pope John Paul II’s long years of decline were not a history he wanted to repeat. Sayeth the Associated Press:

Declaring that he lacks the strength to do his job, Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he will resign Feb. 28 – becoming the first pontiff to step down in 600 years. His decision sets the stage for a mid-March conclave to elect a new leader for a Roman Catholic Church in deep turmoil.

The 85-year-old pope dropped the bombshell in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, surprising even his closest collaborators even though he had made clear previously that he would step down if he became too old or infirm to carry on.

In Benedict’s own words:

“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited” to the demands of being the pope, he told the cardinals.

“In order to govern the bark (ship) of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary – strengths which in the last few months, have deteriorated in me,” he said.

Now that everyone’s read The Davinci Code, there’s going to be several weeks of intense interest in Rome. Will plots be hatched? Will the fate of the world hinge on a decision of the College of Cardinals? Will Tom Hanks be involved?

We’ll all just have to wait for the other shoe to drop.

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Love and the application of lipstick

Like a good many women, I like to look my best.

Therefore, I spend an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom each morning, applying lotions, makeup, hair-styling products, and other mysterious unguents in a (more or less successful) attempt to make myself look slightly better than I would in the natural state. Which in my case would be a pale face accompanied by tired freckles, less-than-luminous eyes, and thin, non-luscious lips.

It’s the lip portion of my face that I’d like to discuss today.

My lipstick-wearing has changed and evolved since becoming a mother lo these many years. In my teens and twenties, I slathered on the lip color with abandon, never worrying about its potential effect on others. Sure, I was careful not to unintentionally give cherry-red lips to the men I loved (or at least smooched), but other than that, I lacquered up the lips anytime I felt the kaleidoscope that was my eye-shadow palette at the time — we’re talking The Cyndi-Lauper Eighties here — needed the balance of some glossy hues.

Then came the nineties, and my entry into The Childbearing Years. Once I’d produced an infant, I gave up wearing not only lipstick but also perfume, after experiencing the shock of receiving back perfumy infants when I’d allowed them to be held by over-scented female relatives.

But mainly I kissed my sweet babies so often that there never was time to even think about lipsticking myself. Occasionally I’d dab on some Carmex to ward off winter chappiness, but otherwise my lips were completely au naturale.

Later, with preschoolers around, the high-volume kissing tends to be reciprocated. You love to kiss them, and now they’re kissing you back. Double the smoochiness and lipstick-wearing its pretty much down to zero.

Then there’s the period in the middle years where they don’t seem to want you to kiss them all that much, say from around the age of 9 until about 14. Oh, they’ll put up with it a little, if there is no one important around — that is, one of their friends, someone around their age, or anyone who remotely resembles a human — and you get to sneak in a good-bye kiss now and then. But by and large, during these years, kissing your offspring is over.

Then come the teen years where they seem to crave it — then abhor it on alternating days. But never, ever, kiss them and leave your lipstick behind! That’s a death sentence from a teenager, right there. They will rub their face until it’s raw rather than having something as embarrassing as Mommy Lip Residue on their cheek, forehead, or whatever part you can snag before they flee. But oh how they hug and kiss when they themselves are in need of affirmation and affection! Mama’s need to kiss ’em and show these ingrates how much she loves them? Fuggedabowdit!

The only good thing I can conclude about these many-changing periods in the life of a kissing mother is that is spreads out the cost of purchasing cosmetics. Right now, with kids at the 8, 15, and 17 levels, I’m doing a moderate amount of kissing, and thus only remember to apply lipstick every third day or so. I’ll probably make it until Spring with this tube I’m on right now.

With no female relatives either in the possession, or in the manufacturing phase, of an infant currently, I don’t envision having babies to kiss on the regular, so my lipstick-wearing will doubtless increase.

But whatever the state of my lips may be, I’m happy to report that I am the satisfied owner of a husband who allows me to kiss him whenever the mood strikes, and I don’t remember any complaints as to whether my lips be lacquered or bare. He seems to appreciate any and all affection I throw his way, irrespective of whatever the state of my war paint may be.

A news nerd in an ‘Avengers’ world

Several years ago I was appalled when I kept hearing what seemed like to me, lighthearted reviews of a new film. There was even talk of it being a musical, which I simply could not believe. How, I wondered, could you make a musical about war starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor?

The movie in question was, of course, 2001’s Moulin Rouge!, a far cry from the musical I had imagined depicting the atrocities committed by the notorious Cambodian Communist Party led by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge.

Not a Khmer in sightReally, how could you even make that kind of a mistake? Even given that I’m a semi Broadway geek, at that? I chalk it up to a life more or less in the news business. As a former reporter and college political science major, it’s just in my nature to keep up with current events, even when I’m not particularly keeping up with current events. This happens frequently during Big News Stories. After a solid week of tsunami coverage, though something like this is intensely interesting, important, and grave, I still get on overload and take a break from daily NPR, CNN, and Facebook friends’ updates. Consequently I miss other stories that they manage to squeeze in between Snooki and Tan Mom updates.

So recently I began to hear about the new movie, The Avengers. I don’t actually go to the movie theater all that often any more. A month or so ago we ventured out to the art-house cinema here and saw The Artist, the Academy-Award winning silent film. Loved it. Before that — eh. I can’t remember. Probably something Cohen-related.

But the point is when I heard “Avengers,” my mind again went totally elsewhere. Namely, to cat suits and bowler hats. Yes, I was expecting a remake of the 1960s British television series with the awesome clothes. If I could be said to aspire to anything when I was under the age of 10 years old, I probably wished I could be Emma Peel in skin-tight clothing, dangerous-looking boobs, and a gun. When I wasn’t wishing I had my own horse, naturally.

Like when reality finally dawned and I didn’t expect to see Nicole Kidman in the jungles of Cambodia, at some point I realized that this new Avengers movie wasn’t going to be about Mr. Steed and a lady with the awesome rack. No, there was too much yapping on the Internet about it. Oh sure, I do have plenty of geeky friends online, but “avengers” seemed to be a bit too prominent on a bit too many lips. I wasn’t hearing anything like “the new Diana Rigg” for instance.

She's got man appeal. Emma Peel. Get it?

Then the teen crowd began to get involved and I knew my assessment of the situation was rather, shall we say, off base. Midnight showings? Tickets purchased in advance? Behavior for The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, maybe. Not the revival of an ancient (to them) TV series featuring English eccentricities with a side of science fiction, fantasy and fighting crime.

But hey, it more or less pegs me for who and what I am, when I make these hare-brained assumptions. I know pop culture, but it’s my pop culture. Call me if you need market research on the nerdy preferences of a Southern/midwestern white lady of a certain age. Just keep me out of the jungles of Southeast Asia if at all possible.

* * *

And yes, I totally want Diana Rigg’s boots. As if you didn’t know.

These boots were made for barfin’

You don’t have to tell me about it. I know.

I freely admit that I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at shoes on the several zillion Internet pages devoted to footwear.

I write frequently about the absorbing topic of shoes. I wear shoes — every single day — and notice, every single day, the shoes upon the feet of everyone I know and nearly everyone I encounter.

And since I like shoes so damned much, I rarely find a shoe that I absolutely abhor. Oh, I have tried to be a H8ER but somehow I’ve managed to round out my shoe wardrobe with Crocs and clogs alike … and so that you know I do have taste, let me state that they in no way make up the bulk of that wardrobe.

So anyway, it was with great surprise that a couple days ago I ran across a boot that was so hideous, so repellent, so transformationally butt-ugly that I not only gasped in horror when I saw them, I (and I do not say this lightly) I actually had a nightmare about them.

Run. Run for your lifeIt is true. Just look at these things, would you? They are the Vivienne Westwood Regent Boot and they retail for a whopping $725. Now, despite my professed love for shoes, I am truly not a haute couture shoe maven extraordinaire. No, those fashionistas who really know their stuff would no doubt laugh at my provincialism when it comes to high-end footwear. Oh, I would generally know a Christian Louboutin when I saw one, and for a while I got a weekly email from Ferragamo just so I could sigh over beauty that would never be mine. But honestly, I know very little about Vivienne Westwood, and a little Googling shows me that most of her stuff is a tad funky and even appealing, speaking as someone who strives for a look beyond the boring normal.

There’s nothing normal about the Regent Boot.

I can’t find a photo online of someone actually wearing this thing, but I have to believe the Caucasian-buff leg tone would make any wearer’s own gams look like East Germany female weightlifters’. I shudder to think what … what … toe would be conjured up by a startled onlooker to a gal garbed in the Regent. It is also amusing to think of what an African American lady might look like clad in these numbers. (Not that any black woman with taste would be caught dead in these boots — even with an appropriately shaded suede calf.)

The 4-inch heel, while interesting apart from its configuration as some sort of frightening faux-mule, just makes my blood run cold. Who wants the appearance of their very own heel to resemble that of a young orangutan fresh from the jungle?

So while most of my nightmares are much more run-of-the-mill — you know, a zombie here, a haunted house there — this boot was able to transcend such normal nightmare fodder and give me an actual footwear night terror. Which is really saying something given, as I say, how much I think about shoes.

I’m probably going to have to go back to that weekly Ferragamo newsletter to get over it.