The cost of growing up



The first time I met someone with Google Glass, it was at a tech conference in August 2013. She began by saying, “They’re really cool, but they don’t do much.” Over the next three months, I got the chance to try on a pair and talk to a few other Explorers, one of whom was already ready to put his away for good. But the heart wants what it wants. My heart wanted Glass. Even at $1,500 a pair.

When I was 21, I lived in New York, working for Condé Nast, doing graphics for SELF Magazine’s marketing department. My best friend, Phoebe, lived down the street and we often went out together. One afternoon shopping in Century 21, I was fretting over whether or not I could afford to get a skirt I liked. 

“How much is it?” she asked.

“$40,” I replied.

“How much do you make an hour?” she pressed.

“$25,” I said.

“So get it,” she said. “You’ll work it off in less than two hours, and you’ll wear it plenty.”

She was right. At the time, it was a huge purchase because I was used to thrift store shopping. But I was ready to start buying more grown-up clothes. I wore that skirt to pieces.

A few months later, I noticed a pair of heels in Vogue magazine. Working for Condé Nast, we got copies of all the magazines they printed monthly, so I often paged through them as I was waiting for a large file to load or for something to print. I don’t remember what I was waiting for that day, but I remember those heels and how they affected me. They were ankle booties, but the back of the boot was cut away, exposing the heel of the foot in a very sexy way. The look was edgy, unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I was captivated by how something so simple could make you feel so daring.

Before I go on, I should explain that all through high school and college I’d been a Birkenstock/Doc Marten/duck boot/cleats/mouse slippers in public kind of gal — shoes either had to be comfortable or useful. But there was something about those heels. 

Over the next few weeks, I started seeing the shoes on mannequins in store windows. On the way to work from the Metro or on my lunch break, I’d stop to take in how the bootie’s strap bound the ankle, yet left the heel of the foot bare, unencumbered. I liked the shape of the shoe’s heel too: tall, slim, strong, rectangular. It was a nice counterpoint to the toe of the shoe, which was elongated, almost aggressive. On a few occasions, I even went into the shops to get a price, maybe even buy a pair, but the shoes were for display only.

One fateful day, as I was killing time before an audition, wandering aimlessly through Macy’s Herald Square, I found them in the ladies’ shoe department. I picked up the display model and admired its lightness. I fondled the soft black suede like a cautious lover. I probably spent five minutes under its spell before I peaked at the price tag, which was upwards of $200. All of a sudden, I got a giddy “what the hell” kind of feeling. I asked to see a pair in my size. They added three inches to my height, which felt amazing. The suede uppers hugged my feet like a blanket drawn tight against the wind (which only my heels could feel). It was delightful. They looked sophisticated, sexy. The salesman didn’t have to work hard. “When have you ever had a pair of real, grown-up shoes?” I asked myself. That’s what sold me.



Nearly 20 years has passed and I still love (and wear) those heels. But when I was a single girl, making my own money, paying my own bills, I never had to think about what things cost or how I’d pay for them.

I have a family now. My money isn’t only for my enjoyment or expenses. There are four of us to cover, so it’s like a being part of a very small socialist experiment where there isn’t much that I can truly call my own. That’s true of money as well as time.

Perhaps that’s why I was so determined to get Glass. Having a pair would allow me to capture my thoughts and experiences to archive or share as I wanted, without having to share the medium with anyone else, the way my kids lay claim to my paint and iPad. (Under 18s can’t wear Glass, I read, heart racing.) 

The idea of technology that would allow me to create and discover the world in a new way was intoxicating, freeing. I didn’t see Google Glass everywhere. They were as unusual as those backless boots were in 1999. When compared to how much I get paid per speaking engagement, they were as affordable as the Century 21 skirt.

Only problem was, I didn’t currently have the cash on hand.