Mirror Mirror: On High Heels

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Fairest shmairest! Let’s get real about beauty and body image. Mirror, Mirror is a column running every other week on The Frisky. It is written by Brooklyn-based columnist, freelance writer, and bagel enthusiast, Kate Fridkis who also writes the blog Eat the Damn Cake. You can follow her on Twitter at @eatthedamncake.

I lead services at a synagogue, and I need to dress up for my job. Nothing over the top—just business-y, tailored clothes paired with nice shoes. For the longest time, my mom was my workwear fashion consultant, because none of my friends were working somewhere that required a suit, and she advised that I go with padded shoulders, long skirts, stockings, and thick, low heels. So I did, because I am oblivious. Then I moved to NYC, and I was like, “Oh! THIS is how people dress.” And I bought some pencil skirts and some legitimate heels. And then those heels wore out, and then, stay with me, because this is about to get really interesting: I went to DSW.

And I tried on heels.

And I began to ask some existential questions like, “How do women wear these things and not fall down the subway steps and kill themselves?”

Because not only are the heels very, very high, but they don’t have any tread. I kept turning them over and staring, baffled, at the bottoms. Sleek and smooth and slippery. I couldn’t imagine paying $120 for a shoe that would almost certainly end my life. I don’t get it. I haven’t gotten it since way back in my teenage years, when I bought lace-up moccasin boots instead of platforms. When I wore heels to ONE dance and my feet hurt the entire night.

Who is buying all of these shoes? I wondered, thankfully not aloud, standing in the middle of the store, surrounded by six-inch stilettos. And why? There must be some logic to it.

I decided to ask an expert—my friend Rachel. She is tiny and dramatically beautiful and won’t be seen in public without heels. Huge heels.

Apparently, she has always loved them.  “I love heels for the same reasons I love everything in fashion—it’s about looking outlandish,” she told me, adding, “Wearing six-inch wedges for me really helps bring the whole thing to the next level.”

I am not sure how I feel about looking outlandish. Would I be good at that? I feel like probably not.

Rachel told me that she bought her first pair of enormous heels at 18. By 21, she could run and dance in them. “I like feeling tall. I’m 5’1”, but I’ve never felt like a short person.”

I’m 5’5”, exactly average, and with heels I feel imposing. Especially around a bunch of little Jews. I wondered if I bought very high heels I would slouch, to compensate. I wondered if I’d look like a cavewoman in very high heels.

Rachel said, unprompted, because now she was thinking about the whole thing: “I think I really like the fetish-y aspect of wearing high heels. I like that feeling of nearly tipping over … of having to go slower.”

“But aren’t they bad for your feet?” I asked. “And, you know, your back? Are you worried about that?”

“I don’t care,” she said, with her usual laughing recklessness. “I smoke cigarettes.

I drink too much wine. I’m not worried about my feet. I’m more worried about getting ovarian cancer or something. I’ve always hated that back argument. It’s like, let’s be honest — it isn’t about that. People hate heels because they see them as a beauty standard. And I get that.”

“But they also hurt,” I said, a little timidly.

“You’re thinking of stripper heels,” she said. “I’m talking about wedges.” Then she explained that it’s important to understand the limits of stripper shoes, which are really fun, but you need to make sure you have flats in your bag.

I’m a wimp. Sometimes there are flats in my bag when I’m wearing boots. But when Rachel sent me a photo of some of her favorite heels, something weird happened. I felt almost a little … turned on. They just looked so hot. And I went back to DSW and bought a pair of Guess electric blue, velour stilettos. Probably only four inches high, but dripping with sex appeal. Very much on sale. And I wore them to perform a Bat Mitzvah service.

I resisted the urge to glance down a lot at my own legs, which seemed suddenly lithe and long. When I walked through the congregation during the Torah procession, I felt acutely aware of my stride. I was taller than almost everyone, but in a good way. My movements seemed slightly seductive. Nothing scandalous, but with a certain potential for mischief. The blue heels made my black pencil skirt and plain, silk blouse look more exotic, more clever. I was totally synagogue appropriate, but my feet were triumphant.

After the service, people were talking about my heels. Some women came up to me to tell me how much they liked them. “I couldn’t keep my eyes off them!” someone said.

I was starving. I drove to a local pizza place and ordered a slice in my heels. I felt like everyone was probably looking at me, even though, actually, they were busy talking about sports. I got home and walked around for a couple minutes more before taking them off.

Aaahhhh…..Yes. That was better.

They were comfortable, for stilettos. Surprisingly so. I loved every moment of wearing them. But there is still something to be said for the moment when you take your heels off. Now that is heaven. And then, shortly thereafter, into the sweat pants and the stained college t-shirt! Yes!

Maybe I’ll try wedges next. Rachel has offered to take me shoe shopping, show me the ropes. But if they don’t have tread, I’m out. I take the subway a lot. Those steps are treacherous.

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