It could be said that most people who move to New York do so for some greater purpose. Perhaps they fantasize about becoming a billionaire stockbroker and scoring a trophy wife, becoming the next Gisele Bündchen or simply achieving world domination. I came as many others before me did: to work in fashion.Growing up in the suburbs of South Jersey, the closest thing I had to anything remotely fashionable was the store Contempo Casuals. This was before nearby Philadelphia became the “sixth borough” and trendy boutiques started popping up there like weeds.
So when I moved to New York to live the life of a glamorous fashionista, the last thing I expected to be was broke.
When I first moved to New York, bonuses were aplenty, I got a fresh mani and pedi every week and my wardrobe received a fresh infusion at least once a month. But with the economy tanking faster than a body in the Hudson, our bonuses had all but disappeared and we received across-the-board pay cuts.
Being broke and working in fashion is like being on a diet and working at Krispy Kreme. So when the annual Stella McCartney sample sale rolled around, I knew I was in for trouble. There’s nothing a pescetarian fashionista likes more than McCartney’s vegan-friendly designs.
But still, I was broke. So I told myself, I’m just going to look. It would be research for future purchases.
Once inside, I made a beeline for the shoe section. I inhaled the sweet smell of faux leather and plastic. There were orange fishnet kitten heels, lime platforms with acrylic, pink-and-black crisscross sandals and gray basketweave heels.
Nothing could be better than this. I felt like a starving Ethiopian seeing food for the first time. Just because I hadn’t planned on buying anything didn’t mean I couldn’t try on a few pairs of shoes. I tried on one pair after another, but none of them seemed right.
Then I put them on. It was love at first sight. They were 4-inch wood, t-strap platforms in a denim blue, but what really made them was the cherry appliqué. I stared down at my feet, which were now glowing.
I walked over to the mirror to get a better look. As I stared at my reflection, I began to imagine all the fabulous outfits that would now be complete with the Cherry Bomb shoes. I pictured myself walking to work while rainbows beamed out of me like rays from the sun. People would stop in their tracks and ask themselves who that fabulous vision was. Word of my amazing shoes would travel wide and far across the land—even to places like New Jersey and Oklahoma.
I snapped out of my reverie. I was going to look amazing in these shoes. Fuck it, I’m going to buy these shoes. I scampered over to the line, eager to buy them.
That’s when it started: the voices.
“Um…. you can’t really afford these, even if they are on sale.”
“It’s people like you who are responsible for this shitty economy!”
“Ahhhh! SHUT UP!”
My palms started to sweat. I didn’t want to give them up. I loved my Cherry Bomb shoes. We had bonded, like the time in 1st grade when I picked out my Dressy Bessy doll from Kmart. How could I have given her back after I had picked her? It would have been like giving a child up for adoption.
I began to feel like I was in a chick lit novel, like Confessions of a Shopholic. Next thing you know, I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills and I would be out on the streets. I would start tap dancing in the subway—Union Square, of course—to make some extra cash. I would be too embarrassed to use food stamps so I would only eat once a day, allowing me to lose that last five pounds I’ve always wanted to lose. Before I knew it, I would be hanging out with that crazy schizophrenic man who hangs out on Bedford Avenue.
The line moved forward. I gulped. There were five people in front of me. I took a deep breath and ducked out of the line. “Oh, I’m just getting another pair!” I would shout in case anyone asked. I couldn’t let anyone know I couldn’t actually afford the shoes.
I glanced around furtively and pretended to walk confidently back to the shoe section. Were the salespeople looking at me? What about that security guard? When the coast was clear I quickly put the shoes back. I hurried out of there shamefully.
When I got home, I knew I needed to drown my sorrows quickly. How could I call myself a true fashionista when I couldn’t even afford a pair of heels? I should have just called it a day and moved to L.A., where I could dress like a cheap whore and pretend it was fashion—ahem, Uggs.
But I couldn’t give up on my relationship with New York. Not yet.
I pulled out a tub of low-carb, sugar-free ice cream. I didn’t even measure out the serving size. I’ll show that damn economy. When everything turns around, I’m going to buy those shoes at full price, damn it. Or at least at half price on eBay. In the meantime, I still have New York.
Rachel Khona is a writer and sometimes performer living in Brooklyn. She has written for Cosmopolitan, Inked, AskMen, American Way, Richardson and Vaga, where she is a contributing editor. She has also been featured as a dating aficionado on the radio show Broadminded and Los Originales, as well as the website How About We. For more, please visit rachelkhona.com.
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