Walking in Heels

Before I moved to New York City, I spent a good deal of time and money trying to find the perfect pair of shoes. They couldn’t be brown. All of my shoes were brown. They couldn’t be flat either. Cool urban femmes didn’t wear flats, right? They would probably be made of leather, even though this complicated my position as an animal rights activist and sometimes vegan.

When I finally found my dream shoes, I didn’t buy them. Naturally. When something is going right in my life, I tend to run away. There must be something better out there, I think to myself. And I end up barefoot in the cold, dreaming of what could have been…

Maybe it isn’t so surprising that I also happened to find these shoes in the first place I looked. Another pattern in my life. I met my first girlfriend the first day of college, but I didn’t have the guts to kiss her until three years later. Here’s hoping that my shoes, unlike my relationship, will last the year.

When I first saw the shoes, I almost walked away. They were so… sophisticated. I couldn’t possibly wear shoes like that. I wasn’t sophisticated. Was I?

I took a picture, knowing that this was a decision I couldn’t make alone. I sent the snapshot to all of my stylish femme friends, soliciting advice from coast to coast. Some raised concerns about the color (somewhere between beige and gray). Most, however, were quick to show their enthusiastic support.

There was the question of money, of course. As a grad student and a long-time thrift store/back-room-of-the-Gap shopper I felt a surge of guilt at the thought of dropping $60 on a pair of shoes that were not, for all intents and purposes, highly practical – i.e., they did not contain orthopedic arch support, nor did they boast a sensible tread.

But… when my feet slipped into those beautiful heels, it seemed that I was never meant to wear anything else – not even Danskos.

After two weeks spent comparing prices, visiting other stores and studying the picture before I went to bed at night, I finally returned to the store. What if they weren’t even there? What if I had missed my chance?

I could describe it as a mystical experience when I saw them for the second time, perched jauntily on top of the shoe box at the end of the aisle in DSW. They were just as beautiful as I had remembered them. I had strategically worn a dress this time instead of jeans, to ensure their versatility. I put them on one last time, and it felt like coming home. It seemed that we were meant to be.

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I walked around my room at home, dreaming of all the adventures we would have together. Long walks in Central Parks, languid afternoons reading in dimly lit cafés, late nights dancing at the Cubby Hole…

It was my first day of grad school, and I slipped on my new heels defiantly, giving myself extra brownie points for the fact that my bag matched them perfectly.

My Dad, who had helped me move into my new apartment, needed to run an errand in midtown. No big deal, I thought. We’ll be in and out in five minutes, and then we’ll catch the subway downtown and I will dance my way into a glittery new life.

That’s all fine and good, but this is my Dad we’re talking about. Nothing with my Dad is ever quick.

We must have walked twenty blocks looking for this place. I quickened my pace angrily, thinking how embarrassed I would be to arrive late to my first event. My shoes clacked on the cement, my nails driving into the hard shell of those beautifully rounded toes. My heels rubbed against the unforgiving leather, and began to bleed.

By the time I got home that night, I could barely walk.

My love had betrayed me.

*

Fast forward to October. I’ve been in the city for one month, and I haven’t worn the shoes once. I’ve been invited to a housewarming party in Astoria – a housewarming party swarming with attractive young queers. This is no time for orthopedic arch support and sensible tread. It is time to pull out the big guns.

Listen, I tell my shoes before we head out, I don’t want any bullshit this time, okay? No blisters, no bruises, no sore toes. Behave. I mean it.

On the way there, I feel like a million bucks. I walk to the beat of Laura Marling, in defiance of the painful memories of our last outing together – in defiance, too, of all the ladies in my life who, like these shoes, had betrayed me.

I would show them.

Several hours, and many glasses of apple cider mimosa later, I am dancing at the Stonewall Inn. I’ve been wearing my heels for hours now, and there isn’t a blister to be had.

“You look fierce,” says one of my friends as we dance. “I’m intimidated.”

At last, I’ve made it.

So my story has a happy ending. I may not have found anybody to go home with that night, or really proved anything to my ex, who has never seen my awesome new shoes and probably couldn’t care less.

But at the very least, I finally learned how to walk in heels. And that is a victory worth celebrating.

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