When I take my teenage girls shopping for shoes they inevitably wind up in the clearance section trying on every pair of high heels they can find. And if you’ve never been in the clearance section checking out the heels, they tend to be a) the highest heels legally available in this country, b) made of animal print, neon shellac coating, or woven straw, c) adorned with zippers, chains, lace, leather straps, whips (No, no whips, that just came out), and d) so pointy in the toe you could open a can of cream corn with them (if you had that inclination).
They parade around in these shoes, well, actually, they kind of shuffle around, showing them off to each other, laughing, posing in mirrors, and then finding higher, more outrageous looking heels to try.
At times it reminds me of when they were little and played dress up. My youngest in particular loved this and lived in a Little Mermaid costume her entire third year. Other times they look strangely like drag queens, doing something they simply can’t resist with hyped up attitude, daring, playfulness and an underlying sense of crossing into forbidden territory.
I know I am supposed to hate high heels. They were designed by a sadistic man. They are terrible for your feet, legs, back, shoulders, boobs, ear lobes, frontal lobes, well, everything. You can’t really run in them or walk quickly or sometimes even walk. Just because you see it on TV does not mean it is so. And after a few hours in them your feet need CPR and an oxygen tank. And maybe they are even a feminist issue, adding to the objectification of women, placing beauty over pain.
Yet there’s something about them. And it isn’t just because they make your legs sexy, which they can do (but don’t do for everyone, buyer beware). They represent things or maybe just the possibility of things. Sex. Youth. Power. Beauty. Mystery. Elegance. Class. Femininity. Can shoes do all that?
Women are labeled by their love of shoes. Every women is supposed to be obsessed with them. I actually had a neurologist tell me to go buy myself a nice pair of shoes to take care of my foot pain (this was before someone smarter than him found out that the bones in my feet were eroded by Rheumatoid Arthritis). Men use this as a put-down. You women and your shoes. It falls into categories like: women are obsessed with shopping, woman have to have their pedi-manis. Translation: women are silly, not serious.
But shoes can be empowering. Shoes can make you feel happy, sexy, strong, balanced, put-together, in-the-know. It could be a pair of heels or a pair of hiking boots. I am never going to own a coffee mug that proclaims “shoe love is true love” or have a glittery high heel dangling from my key chain, but I respect the shoe. The shoe is full of stories. Complex, beautiful, cautionary, amazing stories. What’s not to love?