I was raised in a house of heels. And now I’m done with them.
High heels were a family thing. Dad bought them. Mom wore them. And I adored them. Many came from Frederick’s of Hollywood, a catalog company carrying sizes large enough to fit mom’s feet, with a selection not available at our local shops.
They were usually stiletto’s, tall and sparkly, with a heel strong enough to be used as a weapon. For me, they were real versions of Barbie’s peep-toe mule sandals. When mom and dad were going out for a night of dinner and dancing, these are the shoes mom would wear to finish her outfit.
I loved watching her get dressed up. I loved watching her glow as she slipped on the magical shoes to complete her outfit.
She’d come down the stairs and swirl before dad. Her full skirt would rise, revealing a bit more of her long legs, their curve enhanced by the heels. Dad, watching appreciatively, would emit a low whistle. Mom beamed.
For an evening out, most of the other mother’s also wore heels. Not as well as my mom rocked hers, but heels were the style.
When it was time for me to attend my own dress-up parties, I embraced heels. I felt sexy in them. I accepted them as part of dressing as a grown up.
Sometimes heels came with problems: a heel stuck in a city grate; an ankle nearly twisted because of limited support; general discomfort from walking on your toes. But those problems seemed like a small price to pay to look good. And the heels were pretty; they were always pretty.
So when going out, especially in a dress to something fancy, I wore sexy, high-heels. At work, in a business office, I wore practical, low-heels. When I took up social dancing in my 40’s, I bought shoes with heels. All different heights, but still heels.
Then, seven years ago I went to work for myself. A lot of the time I operated solo in my office, where comfort was queen. I lived largely in flat shoes or comfy slippers. On the occasion I needed to see clients, I’d pull out my old office shoes. They fit, but whatever comfort I used to believe they had was gone. I’d kick them off as soon as I could.
Little-by-little, my heel-wearing declined. I gave a few pairs away. I bought some new ones, but much lower, with a solid base, ensuring greater stability while still allowing me to dress up a few outfits.
I still wanted to wear pretty, high-heels. Even while part of me recognized their impracticality and built-in discomfort.
But one day, the price got too steep.
It was a Christmas party. I brought my heels into the party before putting them on. I ate, danced, and socialized all night in them, slipping them off before heading back to the car. It had been fun. My feet ached, but no injuries.
Until two days later, when my back went out, like a twig-cracking. I buckled, and collapsed to the floor.
I couldn’t help but connect the shoes to my back. I had already grown suspicious that heels weren’t working for me anymore. This felt like confirmation. I found myself wondering, have I hit that ‘no high heels’ stage of life? I used to wonder why older women wore flats so much. I think I’m starting to understand.
I held this no high heels possibility lightly. I observed friends older than me still tripping the light fantastic in heels. My back recovered. Maybe I’m not done yet, I thought. Giving them up felt like another admission I’m getting older, an admission I resisted making.
The next party came, and I slipped some heels on, walking around the house for a test run. It took just a few steps before I felt my back stiletto me a warning. I changed into flats.
I may have been raised with a character that strongly identified heels with beauty; but life is suggesting it might be time to retire that character.