As I stagger into the house after a night out with my husband, I scarcely make my way to the couch before collapsing onto it. I am in agony. Sleek, sexy, sophisticated torment….with a buckle. How much did I pay for these heels, again? I tug the glamorous torture implements off my throbbing feet and silently calculate how long I was able to wear them comfortably. Four hours. “So,” I think to myself, “next time I wear them, I’ll just make sure it’s a quick date. If we do dinner and a movie, I can sit through most of it.” My husband, bemusedly watching the familiar routine, asks, “If heels are so uncomfortable, why don’t you just wear something else?” And just like that, he proves his utter ignorance of women.
It’s a sensible solution to a man, but to a woman, it makes no sense at all. Women don’t just put on shoes; we put on a persona. We don’t dress to look like who we are, but to look like who we want to be. The shoes we wear are pieces of our personality that tell others about us. You can ask hundreds of women why they like wearing heels, and almost every one will answer with a variation of, “because they make me feel sexy.”
That’s why we don’t wear our stay-at-home-mom uniform to go out with the girls. A Cheerio-encrusted t-shirt and snot-streaked jeans say, “I haven’t slept for two years, my sneakers squeak on every other step because I slipped in a puddle of syrup this morning, and I’ll probably speak to you in an excessively cheerful falsetto because I’ve forgotten how to talk to grown-ups.” If you want to feel sturdy and sensible, then, by all means, put on your old brown clogs. You know what they’ll say? “I just escaped from my farm in Holland where I’m supposed to be milking my goats.”
When was the last time you wanted to feel sturdy or sensible? Never! Women want to feel sexy and desirable. This can easily be accomplished with lingerie, but prancing around the grocery store in a revealing negligee is not widely acceptable. Wearing shoes the right size, however, is generally insisted upon. And because there are so many styles to choose from, you can easily find a pair of shoes that will say whatever you want. You can take that same t-shirt and jeans outfit, minus the Cheerios and snot, and with a sexy pair of high-heeled boots, it can say, “I’m so hot, you can hear me sizzle. My lips are surgically formed into a perpetual pout and my butt is mechanically wired to sway exaggeratedly. Men drool when they see me and women hate me because my legs go up almost as high as Mount Everest.”
Last month, I bought my sister a pair of ravishing, suede, knee high boots with a fur cuff and cute little buckles . At eight months pregnant, she was disheartened with her ever-expanding figure. When she put on those exquisite boots, she couldn’t stop staring at her reflection in the mirror and adopting different poses. She thanked me profusely. The funny thing was that she thanked me more for how she felt wearing those boots, than for the boots themselves. She said they made her feel sexy. What was it about them that could make an extremely pregnant woman feel sexy? It is something which every woman understands, though few can explain it.
I have loved heels since I was about eight years old. Having none of my own, however, and my mother’s shoes being less glamorous than I desired, I spent about a year walking on my tip-toes, fantasizing about the stunning heels I hoped, someday, to possess. Now, at a pitiful 5’3″, I lust after the precious elevation they add. I love how they make my somewhat saggy backside look a little perkier and slenderize my generous birthing hips. I love how they improve my posture and my mood. I love the way my husband gives me a subtle, sidelong once-over, then smiles appreciatively when I’m wearing them. They make me feel powerful and feminine and seductive; feelings that have long been buried under five children, a husband and the chaos of everyday life.
That’s why we wear heels. That’s why we endure the pain. Heels make us look good and feel even better. They cast a spell that gives us an extra dose of confidence, poise and allure. For a little while, they transform us from our mild-mannered alter-ego, to an exotic enchantress. Their power to invoke such feelings and to bring forgotten pieces of ourselves to the surface is the essence of a woman’s love affair with shoes. Perhaps the reason men will never understand this, is because men wear shoes so their sole isn’t bare, and women wear shoes to bare their souls.