Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Shoe Whore


"Women have a higher pain threshold," he said. "Men would not do this."
-Simon Doonan, the creative director of Barneys New York, had a simpler explanation for women's ability to wear the shoes they love.

Here is the thing. Like many girls, I find it hard to resist the persuasive pull of pretty shoes. In fact, walking by sweet smelling shoe stores, such as Stella, is nearly impossible to do. Just looking at their window display causes my mouth to salivate and my head to swim. Before I know it I am down the stairs and deliriously man-handling every pretty pump within range.

Now that it is spring and everyone is peeling off their layers and parading down Church St in all their naked glory, I find the pull of Stella too hard to resist. I have been good all winter, and even saved a little dough. It was time for a spring treat. So the other day I gave in to my addiction and bought some new shoes (at Stella as fate would have it). While walking around the store in my top 5 picks, I was amazed by how soft and comfortable they felt. Were these high heels or clouds?

"Wow," I thought to myself, "I thought heels were uncomfortable! But I could walk around in these for days! I'll never wear flats again"

I was in the middle of a shoe buying haze. The colors, shapes and styles were overwhelming me, I was frothing at the mouth, my head was cloudy and everything smelt like roses. My feet looked fabulous in the mirrors, I had to own these shoes! Must have them, have them all! Cha ching.

Moments later I was wearing the shoes down Church St.

"Ouch, ooch! Ow!! Oh my, this can’t be right." Clump, clump, clump. "Ooooow, oooch, owww!"

What had been a smooth, bed-of-roses-jaunt inside the store was like walking on stilts once I was on the cobblestones of Church St. I clomped along at half my normal speed to avoid breaking an ankle. It seemed like any moment I might hit a big cobblestone and topple over. Normally I walk quickly and sturdily, with a bit of a bounce. In these new shoes I felt precarious and vulnerable. If Church St was a jungle, any lioness worth her salt would have sensed my weakness and attacked me first. I would be dead meat in my pretty new high heels.

"How in the hell do women walk in these things on a regular basis? How can they navigate the streets of New York wearing these ridiculous things?? This is insanity!"

And the next day when the blisters popped up and lasted all week, I knew it was worse than insanity - it is sheer madness. How has the fashion industry managed to convince women that beauty can only be attained through suffering? Worst yet, I love these beautiful stilt shoes as well! I am infected with the beauty myth virus!

When I was growing up, my feminist mother made it very clear that high heels were awful for a woman's body and nothing but trouble. I grew up thinking everyone knew heels were bad for your body. Mom wore no make-up, jewelry, new clothes or high heels. She was about as traditionally feminine as an eggplant. We all wore hand me downs and thrift store fair. It never bugged me much when I was a kid. After all, I was a tomboy climbing trees and wandering the woods all day, what did I care about high heeled shoes for?

In my teens I longed for clothes from the mall and department stores. My first big purchase was a shiny white bubble dress (now back in style again, damn it, wish I still had it!) and white high heels with circles cut into them. I had no place to wear these clothes to in rural Johnson, Vermont. But I dressed up in them and wore them around my house and imagined one day I would have pretty places to wear my pretty shoes to.

In my 20s I indulged my inner girl to her utmost. Since my mother never taught me how to be a girl, I picked up bits here and there. Brandy taught me how to die my hair and pluck my eyebrows. Joy taught me how to apply lipstick and Robin taught me how to do it without a mirror. Nessa taught me about toenail painting and Jen showed me how to scour the thrift stores. I amassed bits of jewelry, lingerie, shoes, make up and other girlie fare.

Now that I'm in my 30s, I try to indulge my inner tomboy and my inner girlie girl. It's sometimes tough to balance them but somewhere in the middle is where I am most at ease. I guess that is part of the growing up process, finding exactly where your own style preferences reside.

In China, women once bound their feet to attempt to attain a higher social status. There is no easier way to make someone powerless than to take away their power of movement. Even more extraordinary is when women choose to bind their own feet, by choice. And yes, I mean you and your Manolos SJP.

Oddly enough, I still love my high heels. I love to look at them and fondle them and sometimes wear them out in public. But the other 95% of the time, give me flat, secure shoes that I can walk tall, proud and confidently down Church St in. Cause I know when the jungle comes to town, the lioness will be far more attracted to the teetering high heeled ladies than to my solid frame.

5 comments:

Q_Monroe said...

ah, the sacrifices we make for beauty. i have always been a strong believer in keeping the shoes on. ever since i started wearing heels to my high school formals, i vowed not to take my shoes off till the end of the night. it just seems undignified to dance in your stocking feet. i've got the shoe fetish as well! don't all women? and if so, then what is that lioness wearing?

The Le Duo said...

sometimes I wish I could wear fancy lady shoes. do they make them size men size 13 wide?

Eva the Deadbeat said...

funny you should ask JB cause THEY DO! i think you should start a new trend. but i bet after 1 hr in these painful beasts you will throw them out the window. i am telling you, it kills to be a lady!!! ouch, ouch, OUCH!

and i think the lioness stalks the jungle in her pawpads, naked as the fresh morning dew...but wonderwoman wears heels so...it is tough...

Brooke said...

Oh, the struggle between beauty and pain! Depeche Mode must've written a song about it at some point. I haven't worn a *real* pair of heels since I was in high school. I always get the clunky kind that don't give you blisters. But now that spring has arrived and I have a new job that will require a more formal presentation, I, too, have felt the pull for a new pair (or two) of shoes. And I'd like to get the girlie kind, the kind I disdained for so long due to impracticality, expense, and pain. But throw in the fact that I want a pair that's not made of leather (on top of not giving me blisters) and I'm at a loss. There has to be a way to combine beauty and comfort besides the Dansko clog. I've been wearing the same pair of Dansko's for nearly ten years. I want something fun!

Eva the Deadbeat said...

Yes! That should be, and probably is, a Depeche Mode song: "Pleasure and Pain" or something like that! Dansko shoes are things of beauty and comfort (as are Bjorns and Simples, my other favs) and, sigh, high heels have the beauty and none of the comfort! i keep buying them because i figure, this pair will be the one that doesn't cut my feet up and make me feel like a stilt walker (ridiculous, right!?)...but, alas, I have yet to find that magical pair (could the super expensive $400 Manolos be the comfortable ones??) so I continue to wear them as little as possible but admire their beauty in my closet on a more regular basis. perhaps i should build a shoe shrine? But to find some leatherless, comfortable, beautiful, non-blister causing shoes...that might be a tough one...hmmmm...