Strapping on Some AttitudeNinety percent of women may find this hard to believe, but I’d reached the ancient age of 47 before I acquired my first pair of high-heeled shoes.
That’s not normal, really, is it? A friend just bought his daughter her first pair of heels for her 13th birthday, but somehow the whole sexiness of shoes had eluded me completely.
I blame the genes – my internal genes, not the tight jeans that look so hot with heels. When I was 12 I shot up like a magic beanpole to a towering pre-teen 1.8 metres. And standing at least a head taller than all the boys in class is a sure-fire way to make a teenage girl self-conscious.
I was the baby giraffe who never had a partner at school dances. The one who felt gawky in her gangly body and got relegated to the back row in school photos.
To balance out the height I take a size seven shoe, because the laws of physics dictate that tall things will fall over unless they have a good solid base beneath them. But the laws of fashion back then dictated that any fashionable footwear stopped at size six. Bigfoots like me may as well have shopped in the men’s section, because all we were offered were dowdy brown or black insults to attractiveness.
Not only were they flat, they were unsexy in a way that instantly made the wearer feel she had slipped on a pair of barges. Haute couture in those days was a long way short of haute.
Besides, I found that few men – with the exception of supremely confident celebrities - are comfortable with a taller woman on their arm. And I wanted a man I could look up to, anyway.
It’s a miracle I didn’t develop an apologetic stoop to go with all this emotional shoe-initiated baggage, but I’ve always walked with an attitude that says here’s me. Take me as I am. Just don’t make me any bigger.
Supermodels are taller than me, but I didn’t want to see the disappointment on someone’s face if they mistook me for a supermodel from behind, then realised from the front there’s a tiny chance they’re mistaken.
So flatties became a way of life. Until I met a staggeringly tall and stunning public relations lady whose towering heels make her an absolute showstopper. “I like looking down on people, especially men,” she laughs, raising an eyebrow into the stratosphere.
The change finally happened when alcohol was involved, as so many changes do. It was my birthday, and I was dancing with one of my shortest friends. I admired her Gladiator stilettos that added at least four inches. She was still a short-arse, but a short-arse with style. She peeled them off and handed them over. Size six, but I squeezed them on, stood up, and felt magnificent. I tottered a little, but that may have been the champagne rather than the vertigo.
The next day she sent an SMS: “I have a pair of size 7 shoes with your name on.”
I put them on and drew up to my full impressive height. Wobbled around her lounge trying not to fall over. My whole posture became more elegant as the balance of weight shifted.
I went out in them for the first time with a tall male friend. He held my hand to give me some balance as I brushed my hair against an overhanging branch. In the toilets I had to bend down to reach the door handles.
I still peer down at the pavement cautiously, worried a stiletto will jam in a pavement crack and I’ll topple over like an ungainly tree being felled.
For women who have worn heels for a lifetime this must sound ridiculous. But for the first time I finally realised there is something undeniably ego-boosting about wearing sexy high-heels.
I’ve been an unnoticeable wallflower for too long. Safe clothes, safe shoes, barely any make-up. Bugger that!
I belatedly want to feel sexy and be noticed, even if only a few men have the chutzpah not to feel intimidated. The face and the figure may not be as fine as they once were, but this is me. In your face – or above your face, unless you’re as tall as I am. And I’m loving it.
Some people look up in bewilderment, especially when I team up with my glorious six-foot friend and we stride out together.
Soon I may even strap on my stilettos and totter off to a beauty salon for a professional make-up lesson. Goodness, I’m finally becoming feminine.
First published in Longevity Magazine.