It was a time of my life that I fondly called “the terrible year.”
I was living with my parents in a post-graduate bid to figure out what the hell to do next. I drowned my sorrows in syndicated television shows and a lot of eBay. Also grape soda, but that, while delicious, is neither here nor there.
I wish I could tell you that my online shopping dressed up as bidding was as varied and kooky as my thought process at the time. (“I’ll go to medical school! Or clown college! OR RUSSIA.”) But instead I bought one type of item, over and over again with the laser-focus of a true obsessive -- I bought high heels. And I haven't stopped since.
I came to fashion later in life. Well, that’s not entirely true -- I always had an eye for fashion. To what end my frequent donning of my grandmother’s bright red polyester leisure suit printed with navy-colored cats on it, if not fashion? It was style I lacked. That ineffable assurance that comes when a person dresses as themselves, not as some flaky, funkytown projection that they think they want to be.
I think this is true for most of us. Even if we’re aware that our clothes act as a canvas on which we can accurately share our personalities, it’s not like we’re born knowing how to do it. (SURI CRUISE, I AM LOOKING AT YOU, GURL, EXCEPTION TO THE RULE.)
To this day, when I think I’m being my toughest, my hardest-to-read self, when I am so sure that every person in the room thinks I’m probably the baddest motherfucker they’ve ever met, my clothes can still act as a tell, offering up my need to please and impress, giving voice to the part of me I like least. Nowadays, this tell falls squarely on my feet.
When I was 18, this voice expressed itself in old lady’s leisure suits and handmade bell bottoms. I shudder at images of my former self. “Lady you are trying way too hard -- and also no wonder you need to use so much Proactiv -- WHY ARE YOU WEARING ALL OF THE FOUNDATION AT ONCE?”
And then I cry. In the past and present. It’s weird.
During my terrible year, while I had for the most part banished the linen diapers (that is literally the best description of an article of clothing from my past -- I’d take photos but I’m 99% sure I burned all evidence of this time along with my copy of the Spin Doctor’s Pocket Full of Kryptonite) and lace daisy dukes (Oh, good lord the lace daisy dukes, who did I think I was? Lady Miss Kier?), my biggest tell was still my sweet, stinky footsies.
You see, then as now, my body rebels against the high heel. I have square hobbit feet, hair and all.
My best friend and I were once puppy piled on a sofa watching crap television (the BEST kind of television) when she began gagging. Suspecting her of gagging at her own fart (because of how we are classy) I began mocking her.
She shook her head. “No, man,” she said, “I didn’t fart -- it’s just, ugh, look at your feet?”
They are funky and monstrous and now act as a weapon to have her potentially give me rides places.
You’d think that given their size, shape, coloring and general air of menace that my feet would be equally tough, able to wear every shoe you hurl at it. The opposite is true. It’s like when the Great Matthew McConaughey in the sky conceived of me, he was all, “And verily, shall her feet give the appearance of great fortitude but in fact have onion skins where human skin should reside! And lo, there shall be swelling!” *cue celestial bongos*
Flat, high, wide, narrow, natural materials, Astroturf -- my feet do not want to be in shoes. They demand constant freedom, and if it is denied them, they are all, “Oh, hey, man, don’t mind us, we’re just giaaaant blood blisters hanging out in places no blood blister should ever be!”
This is shitty -- for a wide variety of reasons -- but mainly because with some types of shoes, it’s worse than with others. High heels definitely fall into the “close your eyes and pretend you're the Little Mermaid and that while every step is like walking on knives, you are doing it to be with your prince -- wait that is very fucked up, no wonder she -- spoilers -- turns into sea foam -- IDIOT” category.
It’s no surprise that I wear them anyway. Because while my feet now look like I’ve got a case of the ol’ stigmatas, the rest of me looks fine as hell. Heels make us all look hotter -- see?
This article reports that both men and woman found other women more attractive when they were in heels. Scientists speculate that it’s because heels tend to exaggerate shit like your butt and boobs. They give your giggle a wiggle, as it were. I know it’s something I’ve bought into for a long time.
I know why they’re supposed to work. In addition to sexing up my regular old self, they make my legs look long and lean, and also I can’t do many practical things like run or walk at a reasonable speed for long periods of time. It’s kind of -- no, it’s really fucked up that this thing that’s supposed to make us feel sexier kind of, um, immobilizes us? Nothing hotter than a creature that can’t get away, amirite, boys? Barf.
Maybe this is just the case for some of us. I know that Mariah Carey swears by using the Stairmaster while in heels, and then there’s Posh Spice who straight up seems to do things with greater ease while standing atop spikes so spiky they make my ankles weep sympathy pains.
Every so often I swear them off, promising myself, and the world of online auctions that I just won’t do it anymore. But then I cave, and buy some “practical” Cole Haans that allege to have Nike Air technology.
“They were expensive,” I purr, "but it makes such a difference!” No. These are lies. They hurt, like all other high heels.
Plus I lost the game of pick-up basketball I played in them. Psych -- I won. Psych -- I don’t ever play pickup basketball. Whatever I may say, I’m going to keep buying them. I am going to keep trying to find that perfect pain-free pair that changes everything and then maybe the Prince will smooch my face and my gams won’t turn back into fins, and I can avoid my fate as a mid-morning sea foam.
Conversely, I could just start taking more cabs, and acknowledge that I have caved to societal pressure and the least I can do for penance is fork out more taxi dollars. I am conflicted -- what about you? Should I give up the heel forever? Should I hire someone to carry me? What’s the most you’ve ever spent on a pair of shoes?