In many of Donoghue’s stories, the May-December relationships are somewhat obvious. However, the relationship in “The Tale of the Shoe” just seemed a lot more striking to me than the other ones. Maybe because the girl specifically states that the older woman figure is old enough to be her mother? I mean, we are never really told how old the young girl is. But the fact that she’s romantically and potentially sexually(?) involved with someone her mother’s age is a bit troubling. I guess it goes along with the typical narrative of the homosexual young adult who is coming out of the closet. They are usually depicted as being coerced out of the closet by an older homosexual person – like we see happening in this story. The older woman doesn’t outwardly coerce the young girl to “be gay” but in a way, she actually does. The older woman repeatedly asks the girl if she has had enough, and also seems to be “playing hard to get” in order to pique the young girl’s interest.
In the end, however (as we all should know), no one can be “turned” gay. So, I would say the older woman helped the young girl realize her true sexuality by giving her the freedom she needed, and also by playing a role in the girl’s life that she obviously needed someone to take (the older women served as somewhat of a maternal figure, which probably helped the girl feel more comfortable being with her since she evidently didn’t have a mother, and wanted missed hers). No matter how much the older woman played mind games or tried to coerce the young girl, if the shoe didn’t fit, it just didn’t fit. And in this case, the “straight shoe” didn’t fit. But the “gay shoe” did.