As a woman, I have had a troubled relationship with shoes.
(Can I hear an amen?)
I have been way more step sister than Cinderella.
That long, slim, elegant shape that most shoes are designed to fit, in no way resembles the spatula-shaped tootsies that I received from my potato farming, shtetl-dwelling, Eastern European grandparents. My feet meet the earth, surface to surface, like a deep embrace – no elegant arch to separate us. These feeties defy shoes to contain them. They want to be free to sink into the mud, the sand, the dirt of their beloved Mother.
Have I cared much about what they wanted? Not in the least.
I cared about fitting in, conforming, and perhaps, most importantly, appearing attractive to the eyes of men and women. Attractive was a Manolo. A Louboutin. A Spatula? Not so much.
So I systematically spent years trying to do the thing we often do as step sisters – stuff ourselves into shoes that in no way, shape, or form, have anything to do with what fits us. And here is another piece to the crazy pie – we all feel like we are the only ones doing that.
We think the world is full of Cinderellas who fit easily into those exquisitely expensive, agonizing shoes.
Shoes that bring power, magic, spectacular parties, dreams fulfilled, and beautiful princes (or princesses) who want us.
Let’s get real.
Who wouldn’t want a chance to go the fucking ball for fuck’s sake? (All I have to do is cut off my heel and/or toes right now? No problem.)
Shoes provide access to way more than parties. In The Devil Wears Prada, the heroine is befriended by a gay male colleague who teaches her about fashion and gives her a pair of designer shoes, instilling new confidence so she can get ahead in the very competitive career of fashion magazine editor. (I’m ready! Hand me the knife!)
I could probably purchase a significant portion of Necker Island for all the money I have wasted on shoes that don’t actually fit. (OK, maybe not Necker. Maybe a weekend trip to the Jersey Shore. But still…)
My gay designer best friend would not let me leave for my first book tour without Manolos. He explained that people who know would know that I was not the real deal, unless my shoes were the real deal. He said it doesn’t even matter what you are wearing – you can wear jeans and a T-shirt as long as your shoes are hot.
And you know what? I learned to wear them. I learned to not feel the pain I was feeling with every footfall. I learned to dance in them, to injure and damage my feet so I could be the real deal.
Last night I was at a fundraiser for a charity that I love to support. Shoes were an undercurrent to the top current. Imaan Hammam was there, supporting the fundraising. About an hour into the party, she kicked off her gorgeous, bright blue, Cinderella slippers and spent the rest of the night barefoot. Later, the president of the board announced that her speech would be limited because of the discomfort of her high heels. Everyone laughed in recognition/empathy. We knew. Either we have all been there, or we were actually all there, right now.
But this really awesome thing has happened to me recently.
My feet are speaking up, and I have handed them the microphone.
They are no longer willing to be stuffed or tamed. After a lifetime of bondage, they have set themselves free. They are now running the show, and I am paying attention. They are no longer willing to tolerate any discomfort. They ask for one thing, and one thing only: hiking boots. With sturdy arch supports.
My feeties have become my advisory board. They think hiking boots go with everything. They love the way they look with strapless dresses. Evening gowns. Bathrobes. Track suits. T-shirts and jeans. They love the way they feel. Like little jeeps, they are on the ready for whatever: highways, off roading, rain, snow, dancing, parties.
This is what being a (fairly) new crone has taught me: they are right.
All the years of trying to stuff myself into a culturally-acceptable fashion vision was actually cramping my style, not enhancing it.
There are vastly diminished rewards in life, when your body hurts, and you ignore it.
I am only learning that now, because of this amazing freedom that I feel upon listening to them. When I throw a pair of hiking boots under an evening gown, I feel so badass. And for me, there is no better feeling.
Badass never happened in glass slippers.
The best I ever got to was ‘looking good’.
Now, I feel good. Every moment of the day, strutting around in my freedom boots.
It took me a lot of years of looking good, to get to feeling good.
And I am enjoying every second.
What are you going to put on your little feeties, today?
Listen to them. They are ready to take you places.
With so much love and pleasure,
Regena Thomashauer, aka “Mama Gena”
The School of Womanly Arts
Regena is a feminist icon, a teacher, a speaker, a mother, a best-selling author, and creatrix and CEO of The School of Womanly Arts.