I’ve never been a person who wears heels. I’m far too clumsy to try and walk around on my tiptoes all day and just never really saw the appeal of wearing uncomfortable shoes when I could just be wearing sneakers.
Really, I wore high-top black converse to the one dance I attended in high school.
However, I recently went to an event where I wanted to feel like I was the one in charge. It was a newspaper conference and award show for all of the college newspapers in Illinois and, as one of the top editors at my school paper, I wanted to show up looking like a real professional.
So I steeled myself, went to Payless, and bought a pair of sleek black pumps. I even bought little pad inserts for the toes of the shoe and practiced walking in them around the apartment; I went the whole nine yards.
Then on the day of the event, I stepped out into the Chicago winter in my nicest pair of black jeans, a blazer, and the heels and immediately felt powerful and in charge. I strutted down State Street feeling like some savvy businesswoman who had her life together.
I even imagined a little montage of me, in the heels, walking in slow motion with the wind in my hair and sunglasses perched on the bridge of my nose — you know, like out of any rom-com set in New York City.
Within five minutes my feet were killing me. Every step made the shoes rub up against the tops of my feet and the sides of my toes. I was sure that my shoes were filled with blood and my toenails were falling off.
And, despite the fact that the rest of my group kept having to stop and wait for me to catch up with them, slowly trekking along in my death trap shoes, I still felt powerful. I still felt like that businesswoman who did the montages and had her life together, foot pain and all.
And now, even after developing blisters on my feet that took weeks to heal (and thankfully, all of my toenails intact), I still kept the heels, just in case I needed to feel powerful again.
After so long of writing high heels off as a stupid garment that shallow women wear, I can honestly say now that I get it. I get the whole thing. I understand the reasoning behind putting yourself through pain and suffering for a fleeting feeling of having it all together.
The whole experience really made me think about how much meaning certain fashion items can bring into our lives. Although painful, those shoes allowed me to walk into the conference feeling like I deserved to be there, like I was just as good at my job as everyone else in the room (despite our years-long losing streak). I felt more confident and like I could take any of the snobby Columbia kids head-on. It was marvelous.
Even after getting home and taking off the heels and letting out a loud sigh of relief, happy to find that my feet had not been replaced with bloody, aching stumps and that I still had all ten toes, I immediately felt worse. I went back to being a college student who had an exam to study for and a nap to take. I was almost sorry to change back into my hippo slippers, my usual attire around my apartment. It was difficult coming back to real life. Like a 13 Going On 30 in reverse.
The older I get, the more I realize how many hard-wired judgments I have set in my brain. As much as I hate to admit it, I often take one look at a person and assume that I know who they are and what they value in life. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve always thought less of women who were concerned too much with what they were wearing or their hair or their makeup. This, of course, is a very hypocritical thing for me to say as I almost usually change shirts a few times before finally leaving the house.
Regardless, this thought is something that has always been there in the back of my mind. When I saw a woman in heels or with a lot of makeup on, I would immediately assume that she was conceited and that I was much smarter than she was. Even in school, at dances when the girls I came with would complain about their feet after just a few minutes of dancing, I’d roll my eyes at how frivolous they were and suggest they wear sneakers next time, like me.
And that’s not fair at all.
Wear whatever makes you feel powerful. If that means spending two hours on your hair, do it. If it means spending a little extra money on a nice shirt or a dress, go for it. Even if it means blistering your feet and slowing down the group in a pair of rickety heels, you deserve to feel as much of a badass on the outside as you are on the inside.
I will no longer underestimate the power that a great pair of shoes has, although I might get a boot heel next time.