Staying Grounded: My Love-Hate Relationship With High-Heels
I didn’t watch the Golden Globes over the weekend. But if I knew how entertaining they were going to be… I was just about to lie; I still probably wouldn’t have watched them. But anyway, on Monday when clips of the most memorable moments from the show were being played, I noticed that there was a clip of Girls creator Lena Dunham hobbling up the stairs and across the stage to accept her award. As my coworkers and I watched the painful footage, someone mentioned something about the matronly nature of her dress; but all I could think about was her walk. No bueno.
I shook my head, knowing that the dress and certainly the shoes were just not Lena’s style. And not because I would argue heels aren’t her thing– but because if you’re visibly uncomfortable and uncoordinated in a shoe, then it’s not for you.
Aaah but as I write about Lena Dunham, I also speak to myself. As a woman who’s just over 5 feet, heels can seem like a necessity more than an accessory. When you’re as short as I am you don’t want to go to the club to be bumped and bruised as people, who can’t see you, try to move past you. So what’s the solution? Throw on some heels. Yes my toes will be a little numb by the end of the night but at least that way I can be at least shoulder level with most patrons, even if I’m teetering the whole time.
Wearing heels for long stretcches–and maybe alcohol–is the reason we women have watched in horror or embarrassment as so many of our girlfriends, or we ourselves, have made contact with the sticky club floor or the unforgiving cement on our way home. Heels, unlike boots, are not made for walkin’.
And yet we still love them.
I remember the debate I got into with one of my male friends one night. We were on the subway one evening when we noticed a group of girls in short freak em dresses and high heels. He looked at them and sized them up before leaning over to suggest that women who step out in high heels were somehow desperate for attention, even at the expense of being unstable and therefore unsafe in case anything popped off.
Even though I can recall several instances where I almost busted my face open walking down cement steps in heels, I found myself getting very defensive. Because sure heels aren’t the best in a pinch but just because a woman chooses to wear them on a night out doesn’t mean she’s desperate. It means she wants to feel pretty. It means she doesn’t want to be the short one in her circle of friends. It means that she wants her freshly shaven legs to glisten when the street lights hit them. It means she wants to feel powerful. And yeah, she might even want to be noticed. I was defensive even though I knew and my feet confirmed that heels have never really been our friend. Instead heels are like that girl you call a friend who’s not so secretly jealous of you. You can’t stand her but you keep her around and always defend her because she’s fun and you need someone to hang out with on the weekends.
That’s probably what Lena told herself as she slid her feet into the $945, black, peep-toe Louboutin pump that had her wobbling last night. I want to feel pretty. I want to feel powerful and that’s what women are supposed to wear.
Honestly, for a lot of women, myself included, there’s a sense of unspoken shame about not being able to walk in heels. It’s somehow unladylike. A true lady knows how to not only walk but strut in heels. It’s a skill we’ve tried to master since childhood. Beyoncé brags about having her first pair at the age of 13. Men ask us to keep them on in the bedroom and shoes with no heels are often regarded as casual, dressed down. Comfort be damned.
I remember during my senior year of college, in my African Literature class, we read this book, Praisesong For The Widow. If you’re not familiar, basically it’s a book about Avey Johnson, a woman in her sixties, who has to disconnect from her pristine image and adherence to societal constraints in order to find her roots and discover who she really is. Several times throughout the novel, they make mention of Avey’s high heels and how when she’s wearing them, she’s really not herself, not really seeing and relating to the world as she should. “”Freed of the high-heels her body always felt restored to its proper axis.”
If you’re one of those women who is as comfortable in heels as you are barefoot, then by all means continue to do you boo. But for the rest of us, let’s not always give in to the pressure to wear heels just because we’re expected to. There’s nothing wrong with staying grounded every once in a while.