I bought a pair of fierce high heels yesterday to go with an amazing silver satin dress I’m going to wear on New Year’s Eve. Check ’em out:
I look at that photo of my feet, and they seem to be resting peacefully in their temporary satiny home. To those of you familiar with heels, you may notice the 1/2 inch platform under the ball of the foot and think, slightly erroneously, that it will help with balance and comfort. It is partially true that a platform is great in a pair of four inch heels. The shoes are not, actually, uncomfortable. There’s no binding or cutting into the flesh anywhere, and the platform does indeed provide a bouncy cushion to my foot. What’s uncomfortable is having my feet in this unnatural position for longer than ten minutes.
Which should be enough to have me hightailing it back to the store, receipt in hand, to demand a refund. But I look at my feet in these shimmery, pale satin heels and I feel glamourous, beautiful, lovely. And I want them to work for me; I want to work them the way the diva they conjure up in me would work them.
So, I parade around the house in them, turn up the volume while playing my favorite tracks from the B-Side Players (they’re the headliner at the party I’m going to), dance a little bit, do some dishes, make some food, and then ten minutes later (fifteen has been my record) I’m ready to have my feet lay flat against the floor again. But twenty minutes or so later, I strap them on and do it all over again, hoping against hope that I can last a few hours in them on New Years Eve.
I must ask myself: where does this desire to do something this silly and vain come from? I know the line between defining (or redefining) beauty on my terms and simply adopting standards of female attractiveness is a thin, ephemeral line, but it’s an interesting one to follow, it turns out.
I stumbled upon a “History of High Heels” (http://www.randomhistory.com/1-50/036heels.html) in which I found this juicy tidbit: Catherine de Medici, who was quite short and not considered a beauty, is widely recognized as the inventor of high heels. She was 14 years old and knew she’d go on to become the Queen of France through an arranged marriage, to a man who had a taller and more attractive mistress. She put on high heels in order to “dazzle the French nation and compensate for her perceived lack of aesthetic appeal.” They gave her a more “towering” posture and an alluring “sway” to her hips. Note that the historical record doesn’t say that she put on heels to win over her husband, but to win over her future subjects. Pretty savvy woman, if you ask me — screw the husband, as long the people liked her, she might have some leverage in her hands. Heels did indeed become wildly popular in France, for both men and women. I’d like to think that young Catherine derived some sense of power and influence over her own affairs at a time when women’s lives were quite circumscribed by controlling men.
So, though high heels came about as a way to increase attractiveness, it wasn’t necessarily about being more attractive to men. And though aspiring to be attractive can be a trap, beauty is not inherently a bad thing to cultivate. Life is suffused with a beauty that in many ways makes life meaningful.
Will wearing these fabulous heels on New Years Eve bring sunstantive beauty into my life? For months I have been struggling to feel at home in my body, to feel as beautiful as I have at other times in my life, to feel sexy in the body I have, not the one I sometimes want. When I put these heels on, and zip into my svelte, silver satin cocktail dress, the elusive sense of feeling gorgeous settles into my skin. For me, that makes it worth the effort of learning to walk and dance and sway alluringly in my platform party shoes.