Forgive me, but it’s the end of the semester, and I want to talk about shoes.
I’ve just started wearing heels regularly. Indulge me while I explain why it’s taken almost 35 years for me to actually wear heels, willingly and gladly.
I was a teen girl during the Grunge era, so my dream pair of shoes were a pair of Doc Martins. Then I started having knee problems at swimming, and found out that I had flat feet, knocked knees (that were also hyperextended) and an over-arched lower back. In other words, I needed to trade the flip flops I wore on pool deck with expensive orthotic sandals and shoes. In other words, flats. Lots and lots of big, clunky flats.
Anytime I did wear heels, I wore cheap heels (my shoe budget was spent on the expensive specialists and custom inserts and orthotic shoes), so they hurt my feet, my ankles, my knees, and my back. And, I have a really poor center of balance, which means I fell a lot when I wore heels. Once I started teaching, I discovered that I walked a lot while lecturing. Heels were banished. I’ve also taught pregnant twice, limiting both shoe (and clothing) choices.
I never realized how fortunate I was to have always worked at jobs where heels weren’t a job requirement . In fact, there is such a thing as being too fashionable in higher ed , especially as a woman. Can’t appear to care about fashion too much, as it would appear that you are distracted from what really matters (research, teaching climbing the career ladder). Then again, we can’t appear too casual, lest we not be taken seriously. Where I work right now, I actually stand out when I wear really nice clothing (accumulated from the time I spent in Southern California living near an outlet mall). It’s been hard to strike a balance between fitting in and dressing up.
A recent formal even on campus forced me to reconsider my footwear. It might have been ok to show up at prom wearing flats (everyone knew I was a tomboy), but this was different, a more professional setting which not only reflected back on me, but on my husband, who is on the tenure-track. A spur-of-the-moment shopping trip with some female colleagues (I didn’t think that would ever happen again!) led to me trying on the most comfortable pair of heels I have ever worn. Black patent leather heels. On sale.
Now, I wear them everywhere. With jeans. With dresses. With skirts. I stand straighter. I knees don’t hyperextend. Putting on those shoes in the morning helped get me out the door during the last two weeks of school. If I’m sad about one thing with the end of the semester this week (and, let me tell you, it’s only a little sad, and only about this one, admittedly trivial, thing), it’s that I won’t have an excuse to wear my new shoes regularly.
It’s really is all about the shoes.