Perceived Sexiness vs. What’s Really Sexy

26 03 2015
Courtesy of my closet.

Courtesy of my closet.

You see those shoes up there? They seem innocent enough, right? Don’t let them fool you, though. Not too long ago, they were the cause of one of my most embarrassing moments yet. But to their credit, they also helped reveal a crucial detail about what I find sexy in a man. So I guess I can’t shame them too much.

Let me back up a bit to give you guys some background.

Remember when I talked about how I recently attended some black tie events? Well, for one of those events, I decided I wanted to wear my black tulle a-line ball gown. And even though most would not be able to see the shoes I wore underneath, I also decided that I wanted to wear the shoes shown above with this gown. This plan (wearing the shoes with the gown) was perfect, as far as I was concerned, for several reasons: these shoes are hawt; I knew they’d compliment my pedicure quite nicely; I knew I’d be able to keep them on for a long period of time (if not the whole night); and I’d only worn them a few times previously, so I figured it was time to let them out of the closet and get some shine.

Well… what I hadn’t counted on, of course, was the fact that I would be eating and drinking my way through a city known for eating and drinking for 5 1/2 days before I needed to put the shoes on. What I hadn’t counted on was my feet swelling up to look like I was 6 months pregnant.

And I think you can tell by the photo that those shoes are absolutely not meant for swollen feet.

Yet, there I was, gown on, make-up done, hair done, trying to squeeze my sausage feet into those shoes. It was by far the most embarrassing thing to happen to me in quite some time, but you know what made it worse? A guy that I like, who was looking very sexy in his tuxedo, ended up being the one to help me put the shoes on. That’s right. Instead of me standing in front of him, looking regal, giving him my best flize, watching him as he mouthed “damn you look good” and blushing because I knew I did but it was still nice to see him acknowledge it, I was struggling, twisting on the bed trying to get my damn shoes on when he walked in.

Just picture this: Him literally holding each leg up (right, then left) while I’m desperately trying to push my feet in further, as he is simultaneously working his magic (and using all the strength known to man) to zip the shoes up from my heel to the top of my ankle.

I wanted to die.

I wanted to take those shoes, use the heels to dig a whole in the ground, bury myself in that whole, and never come back up again.

When I say I was embarrassed… y’all… whatever word you can think of beyond embarrassed still wouldn’t be able to describe how I felt. Mortified? Humiliated? Disgraced? Nope, still not enough.

But once I got over the embarrassment (kinda, you really can’t get over that), I started feeling something else. Something unexpected. Something tingly. Something surprisingly great. Because while yes, I was uber embarrassed about my feet, there was this very sexy man in front of me offering to help me, with no judgment, with no jokes (until later lol), showing up when I needed him. He was kind, and he was calm, when I was two seconds from crying and freaking out inside.

And if how he looked in the tuxedo hadn’t already done it for me, that move right there certainly sealed the deal.

It showed me that I can perceive sexiness as fulfilling all of these physical preferences I like (straight white teeth, great smile, broad shoulders, etc…), and a guy can do all the perceived sexy acts I like (hugging me from behind, kissing my neck, etc…), but what’s really and truly sexy is when he just shows up and supports me, without me asking for his help. Even when it just involves the silliest, most embarrassing thing. Especially when it involves the silliest, most embarrassing thing. Because that lets me know I’ll have his support when it’s doesn’t.

What about you all? What’s something that you find sexy in a guy or girl that’s not typically thought of as sexy?


On the Midnight Train (from DC): A Shoe Story

2 09 2014

Coming down the escalator, I looked at the monitor in the train station to see just how long I’d have to wait for the next train.

Sigh. Twenty minutes. I must have just missed the last train, I thought.

I stepped off the escalator with purpose and care, making sure not to let my cobalt blue Jessica Simpson pointed toe pumps hit the ground too hard, but also letting anyone watching know that I was no punk (even with my stilettos on).

It was midnight in DC after all, and I was by myself heading home from a longer than needed to be Happy Hour situation. All of this meant that I was extra aware of not trying to look drunk and/or like a fragile, demure little girl who couldn’t handle herself. But I also didn’t want to ruin my shoes just so no one would bother me.

I quickly scanned the platform and found an empty bench, plopping my body on the concrete slab since I had so much time to kill. I glanced up at the monitor again. Great — nineteen minutes left. I couldn’t believe only a minute had passed by, but that just meant that I needed to find something to occupy my time and hopefully make it go a little quicker.

Figuring the best way to do that was by writing, I pulled a pen out of my purse, along with my trusty journal and began scribbling down thoughts of mine for later blog posts. I was in a zone. I was writing furiously. I was minding my own business… that is until I suddenly realized I had company.

“Hey, what are you writing over there,” he asked, as he sat down, just a little too close to me.

He’d walked up right as I’d finished about a 1/2 page worth of material, but since I wasn’t really in the mood for chit chatting, I’d tried to ignore him. Clearly, he hadn’t received the hint.

“Uhhh, nothing really. Just some thoughts,” I said, slightly picking my head up, but quickly returning my attention back to my pen and paper.

“Oh ok. Must be some really interesting thoughts. Can I read?”

“I’m sorry, what?” I looked up again, brow furrowed so he would know that I was in no mood to entertain his fancy.

“I was just hoping maybe I could read some of your thoughts,” he replied, backing off slightly.

“I don’t think so.”

I was determined to get this dude to leave me alone, and so finally, I locked eyes with him.

He smiled.

“Listen,” I said, softening up my stance a bit. “I’m not trying to be rude. But I’m just not in the mood, so whatever you were thinking might happen here. It’s not going to. Okay?”

“Okay, cool. I get you,” he said. “And I appreciate you being straight forward. I’m not trying to bother you, promise. I just… well… I saw you coming down that escalator with your serious face on and your blue shoes sparkling on the ground, and I just was caught off guard. And then I saw you sit down and start writing and I was like, man, I need to get to know her.” I could tell he was speaking from a sincere place as he slightly ran his hands over his jeans a few times trying to combat his nerves while talking to me.

“So you just admitted to watching me for the past few minutes, you know that right?”

“Yea I did,” he chuckled nervously. “I guess that didn’t really help my case.”

“No,” I laughed. “It didn’t. Look, you seem like a nice guy and you’re attractive, but I’m just not trying to go there with anyone right now.”

“I understand,” he said, sitting back onto the bench, away from me. “I get it.”

The next few minutes passed by as I continued to write in my journal, still aware that he was sitting next to me and probably still watching me. His obvious stares made me nervous but also a little excited, and that caused me to begin tapping my heeled feet on the ground over and over.

“Am I making you nervous,” he finally asked me.

I turned to face him. “Yea, a little bit.”

“Oh ok, well I don’t want to make you nervous. But I was just thinking about what you said earlier — how you’re not trying to go there with anyone right now?”


“Well what if we just became friends? I don’t know, there’s something about you that just tells me I need to get to know you — in whatever way you’re comfortable with.”

“Ummmm…” I looked at the monitor again. I was tempted by his request, but thankfully the train was now only a minute away. Saved by the incoming train, I thought.

“I don’t know. I mean, it doesn’t really sound like you’re looking for a friend,” I finally said.

“I’m not. But I’d be willing to be your friend. If that’s what you wanted.”

I looked around again and noticed the lights flickering on the platform, signalling that the train was imminent.

“Hmmmm… I don’t know. I just don’t know,” I said, hesitating, but also beginning to pack my things back into my purse to be ready for when they train came. This guy had no way of knowing, but I’d just recently ended things with someone and just wasn’t in the right place to try and date again. But he was cute… I was torn!

“Come on,” he said — smiling brighter than I’d seen him smile the whole time. “You don’t have to think too hard. How about I just give you my name and number and you can decide later if it’s something you want to use.”

“Okay,” I said. “I could do that.”

He quickly scribbled his name and number down on a piece of scratch paper he found in his wallet and handed it to me as the doors to the train opened.

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll think about using it.”

“That’s all I ask for,” he said, smiling like a guy who knew he’d just given himself a chance.

“Wait — what’s your name,” he called out right before the doors closed. “I don’t want to just know of you as the pretty girl with the blue shoes.”

“Darby,” I said, giving him a slight smile.

“Okay, Darby. I look forward to hearing from you.”

GUEST POST — Dancing the Night Away: A Shoe Story

29 07 2014
Photo: black patent leather pumps from Nine West

Photo: black patent leather pumps from Nine West

Today’s guest blogger comes to us from the blog, Cake and Eggs. Brenda is a an aspiring author, occupational therapist, introvert, foodie, voracious reader, and someone I’ve been wanting to get on here to do a guest shoe story for quite some time now. (So glad she finally agreed!!) You can check out her blog by clicking the link attached to it and/or follow her on Twitter @cakeandeggs.


By Brenda, Guest Blogger

“Hey, I’m Martin.”

“I’m Brenda.”

We met the night before at River walk. He was the groom-to-be’s friend and too damn cute for his (or my) good. We didn’t speak much past the basic pleasantries, but I spent a lot of time looking. He was tall with broad shoulders and impressive biceps, a football player’s body. My favorite part though? His smile, it was almost shy.

I was not supposed to go to the wedding reception; I was simply on vacation and roommates with the bride’s cousin. Last minute — and I mean super last minute due to flaky guests — I found myself at the reception, seated a few tables away from my new crush. I was dressed a bit casual for the wedding, the dressiest thing I had with me was a short black and white flowered dress with a deep V-neck that I paired with my black patent leather nine west heels.
Back then, I wasn’t a big dancer, not in public anyway, but surrounded by my roommates I felt more uninhibited.

Plus this girl was trying to catch the attention of a certain man.

It’s hard to remember which song brought me to the dance floor but while going wild to Justin Timberlake’s Sexyback, I whirled around mid-shoulder shake and found myself face to face with my crush.

A slow smile spread across my face before I could stop myself. We stared at each other for a long moment until I blurted, “I love this song ” over the music.

“Me too!” he yelled back. This was our entire conversation that night. It was not about the words, it was the connection and the dancing.

After a spirited dance session, things slowed down a bit for the bouquet toss. I have always been an overly enthusiastic participant in this tradition because why not? I was a hopeless romantic .

The bride tossed her bouquet in the air and without even trying; I caught it.
Guess who caught the garter? It was like a scene straight out of my favorite Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy. We posed for pictures, his arm draped around my waist, and later, I danced with him while winking at my roommates over the vast expanse of his shoulder.

Three hours later, the DJ announced the last dance of the night.

Before this wedding, I could not even tell you who sang this song but on this particular night, they were reading my mind. He put on (I’ve Had) The Time of my Life, and I danced with Malik as if it was my last, belting the lyrics at the top of my lungs. I was sad to see the night end knowing I might not see him again.

Once the song faded, I walked over to the table slightly limping after hours of dancing in heels and began gathering my things. I pretended not to watch him greet his friends and saunter out of the room without saying goodbye. I swallowed back my disappointment and pretended not to care.

That is until I felt someone tap my shoulder, and I turned around thinking it was one of my roommates.

Instead it was Martin. He smiled that shy smile of his again.

“Can I have your number so I can call you sometime?”

My Pink Suede Shoe Fantasy

10 01 2014

“Did you have a good time tonight,” he asks, as we rush into his house, still giddy from leaving the gala early like two little kids on a secret mission.

“I had a great time,” I respond, now leaning on the front door we just closed behind us.

I look at him in his eyes, letting him know without saying a word, that the night was by no means over. We stare into each others’ eyes, neither of us wanting to be the first one to give in, smiles slowly curling up on both of our lips. Because we just know.

“You had a great time? As in the past?”

I laugh. Clearly he wants to be certain that he’s taken in the right message.

“I had a great time, yes. But I’m hoping to have an even better one now.”

“Oh yeah,” he asks, walking closer to me and putting his hands on my waist.

“Yea.” I catch his eyes again and bite my lower lip this time, my tell-tale sign that I’m looking forward to licking his teeth and maybe other things. Within seconds, I lunge forward and begin kissing him only to be pressed back into the door from the weight of his body pushing into mine.

He turns me around so that my back is now facing him and slowly releases the zipper from my black and white gown until it reaches the small of my back. He kisses me from the back of my neck down my spine, lingering just slightly in the middle of my back as he begins pulling the shoulders of the dress down as well. I giggle, because it tickles a bit, but also because it feels really good.

Before he has a chance to really get a good grip on my dress, I turn myself around and lightly push him off of me.

“No,” I say. “I got this.”

I stare at him while removing one shoulder and then the next, letting the dress fall gently down my body until it rests at my feet. I step over it, finally showing off my hot pink suede pumps that had mostly been masked by the dress that flared out at my waist and hit juuust above the ground.

“Wow,” he whispers, as I now stand in front of him — pink bra, pink panties, pink shoes, and brown skin.

I smile, but don’t give him a chance to take me in too much before I walk past him, making my way to his bedroom. He follows behind closely, and I can feel his eyes watching my cheeks peek through the lace fabric of my Victoria Secrets.

At one point, he tries to grab me, but I make my intentions clear. “No touching,” I say. “Not yet.”

I’m in the zone and have him right where I want him. Just don’t fall Darb, not in these heels, not in this moment.

As I continue to walk, I glance back every once in awhile, letting him know I know he’s still there. Still following behind me. I’m still in control.

It’s a drastic change from what had just occurred on the dance floor at the gala where I was undeniably in his trance, my arms around his neck, the world around us a mere blur, our bodies swaying with the music, as he sang Luther Vandross’ If This World Were Mine in my ear.

If this world were mine, I would place at your feet

All that I own, you been so good to me

If this world were… miiiiiiine.

I’d give you the flowers, the birds and the bees

And it’d be your love beside me

That would be all I need

If this world were…. miiiine,

I’d give you anythiiiiiing.

At that moment, I was his for the taking. I closed my eyes and just listened to him, his and Luther’s words ebbing and flowing, ranging from soft whispers to bolder declarations. Occasionally I chimed in with Cheryl, but really, I was far too happy to sing very much. I followed him while on the dance floor, with no cares at all to anything else going on around us. We moved at his pace, his will, his breaths. I, honestly, probably wouldn’t have heard a fire alarm going off it had then.

But that was 45 minutes ago.

And now… well now… it was his turn to follow me. To follow my light… steady… slow steps in my heels, to watch me as I guide us to our next destination.

When I finally reach the door to his bedroom, I open it and turn around to face him.

“Hey,” I say.


We stand there, staring at each other again, both of us trying to restrain ourselves. I notice that in our walk he’s removed his jacket, tie, shirt, shoes, and socks. He now stands before me with just his tuxedo pants on, and I can see the deep breaths taking place through the rise and fall of his chest. Sh*t, no way I’m going to be able to stay in control now.

I lean into him once more, bringing my lips to his neck. But before I can do anything, he scoops me up, throwing me over his shoulder.

“Touching is allowed now, right,” he asks, not really waiting for an answer.

“Uh huh,” I whisper back, as he places me on the bed and slides off my underwear in one fell swoop.

He briefly considers taking the heels off as well, but changes his mind.

“Let’s keep these on a little while longer,” he says, tapping the bottom of the right shoe. “I like how the pink looks on you.”

“Well there’s other things on me that are pink that can stay on to replace the shoes,” I joke.

“Nah. All that other sh*t is coming off now.”

I smile. I didn’t really want the shoes to come off just yet anyway.

A Failed Seduction Scheme & a Crash Landing: A Shoe Story

13 09 2013

The idea was easy enough to carry out, or so I thought.

He’d come over. I’d open the door in bra, panties, and my 5 inch fire red pumps. Before he had a chance to even say hi, I’d pull him into the apartment, close the door behind us and plant a passionate kiss on him.

After that, I figured he would have his hands all over me and we’d walk each other to my bedroom, barely coming up for air, tearing off his clothes and what little I had left in the midst of our walk – until we both stood in front of my bed, naked. He’d tell me to keep the heels on for an extra spice, and boom – we’d go at it.

Yea, that was the plan.

Except as it drew closer to the time he was actually supposed to come over, I grew more and more panicked about everything that could go wrong with this plan. I’d never considered myself a seductress, so what if I screwed it all up? What if, on this one night, he had decided that sex wasn’t on the menu? How embarrassing would that be then?

Nonsense, I finally decided. In the course of our 6 year on and off friends with benefits relationship, he’d never not been up for sex with me. It was just that he was always the one who initiated, so this was going to be very new for both of us.

I looked at the clock again.

He’d be there in 20 minutes, so it was now or never. I’d put on my make-up already, being careful to put on just enough that it looked like I naturally had this glow. I laughed while doing this, because clearly he’d seen what I looked like when I woke up in the morning, but still, I wanted to wow him when he walked through that door.

Next, I decided on a black and white bra/underwear combination. Paired with the bright red shoes, I figured these would be the perfect way to let him know I meant business. Breathing out a sigh, I looked in the mirror at what I’d put together. Yep, I could do this, I thought.

I could seduce him.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed it was only five minutes left. And then I heard my text message ringer going off. I bounced over to my phone and saw the message, “Be there in 5 minutes.”

It was time.

I slid on my shoes, combed my hair with my hands one last time, and prepared myself – staring at the clock as the time wound down. Restless, I moved to the door and began trying out poses. Would I just stand there? Should I unlock the door and just tell him to come in and see me posed on my foyer wall, one arm over my head, the other hand on my hip? Or maybe I could just open the door and stand there holding onto the door, staring him deeply in his eyes.

It would be a game time decision, I finally decided.

Just then, my phone rang. It was him, asking to be buzzed up to my apartment. I pressed the code to let him in and then looked down at myself with impending fear. What was I doing, I thought?

With seconds to spare, I kicked off the shoes near my bed and threw on some shorts and a t-shirt. I wasn’t quite ready to be the seductress those shoes required. When he came in to the apartment, we went through our regular routine, sexy hi, great big bear hug, followed by idle chit chat about our day and what we’d been doing since the last time we saw each other.

An hour into his visit, he started looking at me like a man who hadn’t eaten in 3 days. And as we sat on the couch in my living room, he leaned over and kissed me, enveloping my lips with his.

Ahh yes, there it was. Normality had taken over again, and he was the one taking initiative.

We stood, almost simultaneously, not taking our lips off each other, and began making our way to my bedroom. He grabbed my hair, I held onto his back, and there we were – standing in front of my bed like I’d envisioned before, but this time with our clothes on.

I jumped onto the bed, standing at the edge so that I could stand slightly taller than him and began to help him take off his clothes. Our eyes were locked onto each other until he tripped over something and noticed the shoes I’d kicked off laying there in all their candy red glory right next to his feet.

“What are these doing right here,” he asked, laughing. “Were you planning to seduce me?”

I looked at him like a little girl caught doing something she knew she had no business doing.

“Yea, I kinda was,” I said, sheepishly.

“Oh shit, for real? Put ’em on then!”

Clearly he was excited about the idea.

I rebuffed him though, opting to put on a little dance as I stood there on the bed right then.

“How about instead, you lay here,” I said, pointing to a spot on the bed. “And you just let me take over.”

“I think that’s an excellent idea.” Clearly, he was also easily distracted.

He lay down on the bed, readying for a show. And so I began, awkwardly prancing around my bed, attempting to keep my balance but also give off a sexy and confident air. I moved my hips from side to side and wiggled my booty. I teased like I was going to slide my shorts down and then pulled them back up. I bent over one way and then wound my body down the next, all while making the most of my bed-stage.

I continued, kicking my way from one side of the bed to the other and shaking my chest at him like a girl in a Vegas show. I was on fire! Kinda. Well, regardless of if it would actually be a good enough show for public consumption – he was into it. And so was I. I was in the zone, biting my bottom lip and shaking my body from my feet up – attempting to do some kind of expert belly dancing routine.

I wiggled around one more time, figuring that the show should probably end soon, and of course, lost my footing on the edge of the bed, tumbling to my demise. Falling in the least sexy way possible.

In slow motion.


And right onto those damn red heels.

My First Protest: A Shoe Story

19 07 2013

Photos: Aldo sneakers worn by me

We woke up that morning feeling like we were going to change the world.

It was my second week at Howard University and already, I’d started getting active in student government, jumping right into the role I’d seen for myself when I came to visit just 5 months before. I wanted to be a part of change. And so when I heard about how many of the Black students were being mistreated at Penn State University, I knew I needed to be on the bus leaving Howard to go protest.

That was the Howard spirit after all. Even while visiting and noticing the Greek organizations probating on the Yard and seeing the students playing games in the grass, I also noticed that there was a protest going on as well not too far away from that scene. In fact, the protesting element was always at Howard. It was a part of its legacy, and the students were proud of that fact.

So on the morning we were supposed to leave the school, I woke up with an air of expectancy. It was one of those mornings when you barely even needed an alarm because the excitement woke you up. This was a good thing since I needed to wake up before the sun in order to make it to the bus on time. I quickly showered and dressed, then found myself debating on what shoes I was going to wear (per usual). “Well,” I thought, “we’re protesting… so it makes sense to wear comfortable shoes.” Problem was, I didn’t have many of those!

After careful consideration, I finally picked out my Aldo fake-me out sneakers, as I called them. They were comfortable and kind of looked like a tennis shoe, but really weren’t. For goodness sake, they had velcro straps instead of laces, so it’s not like they were meant for doing much more than walking.

Either way, they were my final pick. I velcroed those babies on and practically skipped to meet up with my friends before boarding the bus. I was ready. I needed to take on this injustice occurring at a somewhat nearby campus.

When we boarded the bus and everyone had a chance to sit next to their faves, we finally heard from the HUSA president and vice-president, both reiterating the importance of why we were making this trip and thanking us for deciding to go on this journey with them. They spoke about precautions and how it was expected to be a peaceful rally, but that we should be prepared in case that changed. How we should be sure to stick together. And how they were proud to stand next to us in this moment.

I was over the moon. I’d certainly never done anything like this before. Sure, I was active in high school government, but traveling to another state to protest? Yea, this was new territory. But it felt right. And despite the precautions they gave, nothing was going to stop me from standing up for what I believed in.

We all settled in to our seats, getting ready for the 3 and 1/2 hour ride, some people taking naps, others choosing to play games with their fellow bus riders, and still others staring off into the windows (presumably thinking of the magnitude of the moment). I was doing a combination of the last two while tapping my shoes on the floor nervously when my phone rang, startling me from my thoughts of us and what we were headed to do.

“Hello,” I said, answering the phone.

It was my mom.

“Hey, what’s up?”
“Just calling you to see how you were doing. What are you up to?”
“Oh, just on a bus, heading to Penn State to protest the way they’ve been treating their Black students.”
“Wait, what?”

I did kind of say that to her like it was nothing. Like I didn’t know how my mom’s brain operated and that all she could see now was her little 18-year-old daughter being dragged away by police for inciting a riot with a protest.

“Mom, it’s okay. It’s going to be very peaceful,” I said, trying to calm her.
“Okay,” she replied. “But you do know it’s your second week there, right? Most students are still partying or trying to figure out how to manage their class load… and you’re…”

She paused.

“Mom, I promise. It’s going to be okay. I have on velcro shoes… how bad could it possibly be when I have on velcro shoes?”
I was attempting to lighten the mood and calm her down.

“You’re right, you’re right. Velcro shoes don’t exactly scream violent person.”
“No, no they don’t.”
We both laughed, and I was happy she’d calmed down.

We soon finished our conversation, and I went back to half-listening to my group of friends sitting next to me. Mostly, I just anxiously waited for the moment we would step our feet off the bus and show that we were standing in solidarity with our peers.

Weekend at the Mecca: A Shoe Story

26 06 2013
Photo Credits: Clockwise from left - New Balance shoes worn by me,,, and

Photo Credits: Clockwise from left – New Balance shoes worn by me,,, and

“Welcome to Baltimore, Maryland. We hope that you enjoyed your flight and that you choose us when you make plans for your next destination.”

Who knew those words would be the beginning of an amazing collegiate journey? I certainly didn’t. At the time I heard them, I was still an impressionable 17 year old, on her way to visit THE Howard University to see if the school they called the Mecca of Black Education would make me change my mind about attending either USC or University of Miami in the fall.

When I finally stepped off the plane, walking into this large airport, I was immediately keenly aware of how different if felt flying without my family. Suddenly, the whole world seemed to open up, and it felt like this was going to be a transformative trip. It was also kind of scary. Luckily, I had one of my friends from high school with me, but we also had the unenviable task of making our way from Baltimore to Washington, DC without a clue as to how to do so.

We eventually found out about and decided it was best to take the MARC train – a regional train that only cost $7 to get to the District. But, of course, that also meant we had to lug our bags as we ran through the airport to catch the next train. I was particularly happy I’d worn my blue and white New Balance tennis shoes (even though I didn’t really consider them very “me”) at that moment, because I would have been miserable with any of the shoes I’d considered my faves, attempting to clumsily clunk through the airport looking cute.

Funny enough, these same sneakers would end up being the shoes I wore the most while on our trip despite the fact that I’d managed to pack about five different pairs into my suitcase. And while they were great comfort wise (which is the main reason I wore them so much) while trying to traverse those hills at the school, when we stepped onto Howard’s campus, I knew just how much my shoe game would have to come up if I actually decided to attend the university.

It was a truly a sight to see! All around me, I saw history – buildings named after the men and women who fought and achieved as African-Americans in the United States and pictures of those same innovators and poets, protestors and free thinkers dressed to the nines. This history also shaped the present state of the campus, because in front of me, I also saw so many people with their own individual ways of expressing themselves through their footwear. Some wore designer heels and sneakers (!) even when walking on the Yard, while others wore more eclectic styles – stuff I’d never seen or heard of before but that definitely made me want to know more. You could also see the differences in what the people from varying regions of the country wore and the variety displayed in the shoes worn by the students who came to Howard internationally.

That was just the tip of the iceberg! I saw color combinations I’d never dreamed of putting together. I saw stilettos and platforms, sandals and loafers; and while the hipster thing wasn’t quite in fashion yet, I saw what I would call the beginnings of the trend on campus. But that was Howard, I would soon learn, a school full of diversity and expression, that thrived on both individual and communal displays of it, and prided itself on not just being the Mecca of Black Education, but the Mecca of Black Fashion as well.

And what did my New Balance tennis shoes say in the midst of all this? Nothing. They expressed not a thing.

I continued walking around that campus for days, looking at the men and women around me, admiring their intelligence and their spirit. And especially the way their style completely expressed who they were before they ever said a word – from their head to their shoes. On the last day of my visit, standing in the middle of the Yard and looking down at my New Balance shoes that had no spirit, no expression behind them, no feeling of “me,” I called my parents to tell them that I’d be attending Howard in the fall.

I’d realized in that short amount of time that I was part of the reason my shoes were so bleh, because I hadn’t found me yet. And I certainly hadn’t cultivated my own sense of style and expression. It was time to change that, though, and I knew Howard was going to be the place for me to begin that change.

I still remember that moment. I still remember knowing I’d never be the same because of that decision. And I also remember knowing that I was ready to toss those damn tennis shoes away as soon as I got back home.