I just want to yell this once in a while, “High heels are bad for you! Why do you keep wearing them?” I know people love high heels. As someone who has never been able to walk gracefully in sneakers I have struggled to relate to high heel wearers for most of my life. People in my town wear heels to the grocery store. I am lucky if I am wearing actual pants to the grocery store. I may have a bias towards women who manage to get gorgeous before leaving the house each day. That is not really the point I am trying to make, but I just want to put that out there. It’s not just a bias, but an insane jealousy because I can’t seem to pull myself together most days. Anyway, I am sure some other blogger is at home, right now, writing about the frumpy woman she encountered at the grocery store. That blogger is likely wondering why other women don’t put more effort into their appearance and why they don’t change out of their yoga pants and sneakers before heading into town. This is not lost on me. I am not saying frumpy is better than looking like a hot mom or vice versa. I am a mostly frumpy mom who fantasizes about being a hot mom, but who, for whatever reason, can’t seem to pull it off very well.
Today, I am just wondering why footwear, that causes pain and squished toes and often encourages arthritis to develop, is embraced so widely. This is all about the shoes. Shoes I sort of view as torture devices. This is not a judgment on moms being glam or frumpy or both or neither. This is more about a culture that says heels are best even when all of the evidence says otherwise.
In my twenties I experimented with wearing heels. I wore them to the grocery store once. I thought I was pretty chic. I was reveling in my moment of fashion right up until I fell down in front of a mom and her eight year old daughter. I just sort of stumbled and then slid into first base right at her feet. I could practically hear the mom using me as an example of “what not to do” as she silently explained (with her eyes) my humiliating moment to her surprised eight year old daughter, who was staring down at me as I rested at her feet, on the cold, dirty linoleum. It was embarrassing, but the mom had kind eyes and I could tell she felt sorry for me. Here I was, 20-something, trying so hard to seem grown up and perfect in every way, but really I was uncoordinated and hadn’t fully embraced my non-heel-wearing ways yet. I hadn’t accepted myself, not really. I still had hope that I was a fashionista and that my heels symbolized my power as a woman. That one day I would be discovered by a Hollywood mogul and become a Super Model Actress Star in a magazine article on what to wear to the grocery store. I think believing all of my power resided in my footwear was probably the biggest fantasy I had about myself at the time. Maybe this is a fantasy a lot of young women engage in. Or, maybe they think their power lies in their hair, their breasts or even their eyelashes. I don’t know for sure. I just know that I was trying to find my identity outside of myself at the time. More specifically, in my shoes. As I age I realize more and more how little of my power does in fact come from my shoes or my hair or even in how white my teeth are. My identity is developed from the inside out and not the outside in.
After falling in the grocery store I got up quickly and ran off hoping to avoid the mom and daughter duo staring at me with pity. When I say “run” I mean walked as quickly as I could without falling again and trying not to look like someone who had just wiped out in front of an audience. Unfortunately, the mom and daughter caught up to me at the registers. The mom tapped me on the back. When I turned to look at her she handed me my keys, “I think you may have dropped these.” she said with a knowing smile. That was the last time I ever wore heels to the grocery store. I decided the experience was just too humiliating to endure again, and given my track record for tripping and embarrassing myself, was likely to be a regular occurrence if I did not change my ways. That day at the grocery store, I just came across as a foolish, immature young lady trying to be something I clearly was not: a high heel wearer.
I haven’t really worn heels much in the last decade or so either. I have an aversion to pain. I want to be as healthy as possible. I want to be able to run and jump and get some traction on the ground when I need to. I wear heels when I must. If I am going to a wedding or some other dress up function I will wear heels if it is necessary, but I try to avoid them otherwise. I see a lot of women talking about their heels and corporate jobs and power and beauty and the importance of their shoes. I’ve never had a corporate job, so I probably don’t grasp the culture well. I just wonder why something that causes pain, deformed feet, or shrunken leg muscles gives a woman power? Why is our power determined by our footwear? By the amount of pain we endure? It doesn’t make any sense. Shouldn’t we be more focused on other ways to gain power and respect? Maybe through our ideas and abilities? Our talents? Why are we focused on shoes instead?
With all of the information out there about how bad high heel shoes are for your body, I wonder why women continue to wear them at all. Why don’t all of the smart women at the top take a stand against something bad for their feet? Why do women still believe their power comes from their footwear? I was talking to a kindergarten teacher about this one day. She wears heels every day to work. She wears three-inch heeled, black boots in the winter. I was questioning how she stayed upright during the day and how she chased the kids around on the playground. I am sure I sounded like an old fuddy-duddy, but I couldn’t help myself. I was in awe of her ability and her desire because I would have traded in those heels five minutes into the job. I’d be terrified of stepping on little fingers, or not being able to chase kids and catch them before they ran into the parking lot, or that my legs would ache all night long from standing in heels on cement floors all day. She told me she wanted to look professional. That she wouldn’t be taken seriously or respected if she didn’t wear heels to work. She had career ambitions that could not be attained by wearing flats. I understood what she was saying, but I also thought it was really sad that your career success could be determined by footwear. That your shoes, that made you uncomfortable and caused you pain, were a determining factor in reaching your career goals.
Maybe I am missing something important, but I find this disappointing. Women shouldn’t have to sacrifice their health in order to have a successful career or to be treated with respect in the work place. I keep hoping that women become known more for their problem solving abilities, innovative ideas, and incredible skills instead of for their footwear. That power is earned through hard work and brains instead of through high-heeled shoes. What do you think? Do you wear heels? Do you ever think about why you wear them? Am I missing something? Educate me! I am not grasping this cultural phenomenon, obviously.
Curious about my bias towards beautiful women? Read about it here: I’m Prejudice Against Beautiful Women.