I am not a well heeled person, least of all a high heeled person.
In fact the prospect of wearing high heels fills me with a little dread, a feeling of no way, I can’t pull this off, and maybe, with a slight nod to my former days as a placard wielding feminist, (ok maybe not placards but at least rape crisis membership) why should I pull this off?
Really, high heels, like other accessories designed to discomfort women for the sake of attracting male attention, are so off limits and UN – NECESSARY.
But, as I learned through quite a few years of partnering with Cheryl in business ventures, the adventures of raising unwieldy children together etc, it is very difficult to hold your own in the face of her enthusiasm and enthusiastic she was – about a pair of red shoes.
I listened to her account of their life changing qualities, all the while reminding myself that she has the added advantage of being an actress no less. – some other kind of human who is able to “slip into something more comfortable”, ie another identity and parlay that identity out into the world. I have no such attributes.
I am solidly locked into my identity: artist (a reasonably down to earth one I like to think); mother (read saggy breasts); middle aged (undisguised grey locks cut every now and again by a teenage daughter because I can’t justify $70 haircuts); woman. Ok this is the part that is important – as a woman – Am I not entitled to ‘celebrate’ (that brings to mind riotous naked new agers – amend that to ‘enjoy’) my physicality and, now here’s a hackneyed word: sexuality…. ???
Once I put those red shoes on, I don’t stop to analyze why a pair of high heels make you feel more sexual, but it is palpable (later I confer with my brazilian samba teacher for whom this is not a revelation: Of course, high heels push your “bundas” out – you’re saying, I’m available…Oh my!)
And so it is that I guardedly and almost seceretly put them on the back seat on my way into the city (since I have not yet figured out how to drive in them) – my destination is Club 560 to which I am making a little pilgrimage in order to catch a one time performance of “Staff Benda Bilili”. A rag tag band of polio victims from Kinshasa who I have been following online.
I happen to know that Club 560 is a pretty trendy spot and while I have gelled my hair I am still very aware that it is distinctly grey so it is with some relief that I walk into a dark and crowded hole in the wall of Seymour street and find a huge mishmash of demographics.
In my red high heels – stripey and actually distinctly bad ass, I circumvent the folk music afficianados (still dressed in hand embroidered Tibetan stuff) and saunter around the periphery to the bar and order a beer. I feel audacious enough to fuse with the dreadlocks and leather, merging into the all standing, bopping around crowd. – AND THEN I realise this HUGE advantage.
I am at least 4 inches taller than everyone else around me which affords me this great view. Unlike the petite thing in lace draped around some tattooed biceps, next to me, I CAN SEE – the way aggressive and passionate wheelchair confined musicians are able to mobilise (physically mobilise) the music they have composed, and the vocalist, whose right leg has been rendered useless by polio and which swings around his crutches like a clipped wing, is able to project a vocal force across the room.
With an unobstructed view, I make mental/visual notes, knowing that tomorrow; in my studio I can translate all these gems into drawings or paintings that will sustain me – as an artist, a mother and a middle aged woman, actively pursuing her own passion.
RED SHOE Reminiscing
I wore the red shoes to my Book Club but not for long. There was a general clamour to try them on and although the literary discussion centred on the civil war in Lebanon, there were a few asides aimed at the red shoes. Finally, the book was laid to rest, food eaten and with undisguised delight, the topic of the red shoes could be returned to.
Marlene related a story from her 20s – crashing at a friend’s small apartment in New York where the only available sleeping space was the corridor, she was awoken in the middle of the night and at eye level – 2 red shoes attached to 2 long legs.
Looking up it became apparent that the red shoes were the only item of clothing being worn by a gorgeous woman who was doing a late night dance down the corridor hand in hand with a fully clothed man. Red heels will forever conjure this dream like memory for her.
Harriet, now unmistakably owning the shoes commented on how perfect they would be for carnival in Brazil – and she maintained – comfortable enough to wear for the requisite 3 days solid that one has to stay awake and dance in the streets.
General reminiscences of days gone by in heels followed with small sighs of regret. One last round of trying them on and then they were admiringly returned to me. To do justice to the attention they had garnered, I did my very best catwalk to the front door – oohs and aaahs.
Only on the way home did we realise the shoes had eclipsed the more prosaic business of choosing another book but I seem to recall there’s one out there called “The Red Shoes”…