I admit, I’ve been a bit obsessed with footwear lately, and not in a good way.
I’ve researched Chinese foot binding, have had a running commentary in my head about women’s fashion and how across cultures and continents women’s fashion has served to decrease our mobility. I’ve been thinking that even despite recent “equality” and participation in sports we expect each other to be “bad-ass” with the constraints of clothing that limit or alter our movement. In the old days we weren’t supposed to do anything but now we’re supposed to do everything — in heels.
Raising children has got me thinking as well. I’ve seen them all take their first toddler steps, learn to run, to play, and to compete in sports, but I realize that soon, though my boy will continue in this path, my girls will likely do the same tasks as my son — while standing on their toes. When they are older and allowed to, they may choose to re-learn how to walk in heels that are getting ridiculously high. I acknowledge that men’s ties and jackets, especially in Summer, are uncomfortable, but they usually don’t cause actual pain like some women’s fashions can. And even if men are hot and bothered, they can still walk and stand — even in grass or sand. (Rhyme unintended.)
When writer, director, producer and actress Lena Dunham won her Golden Globe, she literally hobbled up to the stage, needing help like an elderly lady. This woman is taking Hollywood by storm, but on her big night, she was unsteady. Hugh Jackman, on the other hand, had the flu — but he could walk.
The thing is, Lena’s shoes didn’t even show, yet she chose to wear what, six-inch designer heels? See Fashionista.com. The fascination we have (and I’m not completely immune) with shoes is beyond the scope of this post, especially since, as I’ve said, I’m obsessed . . . but let me offer a true shoe story.
The night before the Golden Globes I attended a fundraising event. It was a dressy affair. As a volunteer organizer, I knew I’d be on my feet the whole evening. I also knew that parking was a problem and I’d likely have to walk blocks across a college campus to get to the affair’s location. So, I made a bold decision.
I did not wear dress shoes.
Instead, my shoes were clog like, the kind normally worn with jeans. Still honoring “cocktail attire” I wore dress black pants and a sequined top. Since, however, the pants were dressy they were longer than they needed to be (I’m assuming to compensate for the heels that women usually wear). My feet and my comfortable shoes were practically covered. And if my shoes did peek out, since they, too, were black they did not make a statement. No bows, no ribbons, no sequins, no sparkles, no spikes, no red bottoms, no color — no — nothing — on the shoes.
I deliberately chose not to call attention to my feet.
Are you thinking I went the old lady route? Are you gasping in horror? Are you laughing at my fashion faux-pas?
Well, I was no old lady. Au contraire, I was — sexy. I brought the attention north, you see. My top was the statement. It had spaghetti straps and silver sequined triangles draped over the breasts which accentuated “the girls” and my shoulders quite nicely. The blouse had a slightly see-through bodice with a sequined edge going all the way around the bottom hem. I’d just had my hair highlighted and wore it out with in waves of loose curls. I wore full makeup, including great lipstick/gloss and left my eye-glasses at home. Shiny earrings hung from the lobes but I left the neck naked — again to accentuate “the girls.”
A funny thing happened. I was complimented more than I had been in — in — I can’t even remember. Men and women told me I was “beautiful,” “elegant,” “lovely” . . . repeatedly. (Quite nice for my ego.) Drinks were flowing at this event and I received a few slightly inappropriate compliments and appraisals from married men. Since this was a fundraiser for high-schoolers they were there to perform and serve the adults. It bears mentioning that I even got a direct compliment from a 16-year-old girl along with looks of approval from her brethren — me, somebody’s mother! I told my son how his teacher, an attractive, recently divorced man who barely acknowledges me normally, stopped me to tell me (repeatedly) how beautiful I looked. After a moment of silence my son’s response was, “I’m sick of you.” Ha! — high praise for a mom in teen boy world.
All this, and it had nothing to do with the shoes.
Except that, because my feet did not hurt, I felt good. I danced and I didn’t have to take my shoes off to do so. And even though I was on my feet for six hours, I wasn’t fatigued or sore. You see, when you feel good, it’s easier to look good — sexy. I didn’t need the Barbie feet. I didn’t need the clack, clack, clack of the stilettos. (And yes, I own some.) But without them I could confidently cross the room without worrying about slipping, falling or hurting. I could even do stairs, all while being “elegant.” It was liberating, yet I still felt very, very feminine.
By all reports and stolen glances I must have looked damned good . . .
And it wasn’t the shoes. (Or was it?)
Just Me With . . . a true, shoe story.
For a fictional shoe story, see my Dressed for Success at The Indie Chicks.
Update: The Indie Chicks has closed its doors.
For an earlier decision to call attention to the girls, see The Summer of Cleavage.
If Lena Dunham had worn sneakers under that long dress (and had it hemmed accordingly), we wouldn’t have been the wiser and she could have taken the stage under her own considerable, impressive power.
Oh well, enough about her shoes. It ain’t about the shoes all the time. Congratulations Lena Dunham, Best Actress in a Comedy Series! Much respect.
She is thin. I’m no expert, and I’ve never seen her in person, but to me she seems almost dangerously thin. But again, I’m not her doctor. I don’t know. She’s a gorgeous woman, by normal people standards and by Hollywood standards? — she’s still gorgeous, but she’s skinny. No doubt, she’s skinny, even by Hollywood standards.
However, let’s step back a minute and take a quick look of the Psyche of an American woman, a movie star mother, no less.
Angelina is in her thirties and has, what, a gazillion kids? Some adopted but some to which she has given birth. She is in a relationship with a movie star, a sex symbol. She herself is a movie star. She’s got to keep up appearances. Really, it’s part of her job. The camera doesn’t lie, except that it, I’m told, adds ten to fifteen pounds and magnifies every line and wrinkle.
Angelina is a mother and getting older every day in an industry that worships youth and chases perfection. Women naturally gain a few pounds over the years, a medical fact to which I have no citation. Also, pregnancy and childbirth can wreak havoc on the body. I’ve had children. This is something I know about. Some changes are publicly visible, some not. Some changes are temporary, some not. Yet despite these truisms, Hollywood stars are often paid to show the world that having children does not change a body at all. “Here, let me pose in a bikini after having twins.” (Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey). It becomes a race as to how fast a bare midriff can be publicized after childbirth.
But that’s Hollywood, folks. So given these biological strikes (age and childbirth) against women who strive to maintain their high school look, it’s no wonder that it can cause some kind of weight loss hysteria.
And speaking of high school, ladies, think back to your last high school reunion, your Ex’s new woman or your Ex-Best friend. I hate to say it but to many of us, the best revenge against a woman and the sweetest music to our ears is to hear that so and so has “gotten fat.” (Gasp) Or ladies, after your man dumps you for the younger, skinnier version of you, many silently think, “Just wait until she drops a couple of kids and gets fat.” Men do it too, whispering to their slim current girlfriend after seeing an Ex who has put on a few pounds, “Whoa, I dodged that bullet.”
What if you are that girl who stole somebody’s boyfriend or husband, or whose looks are often envied by other women– it may seem that the world wants to bring you down by seeing you “get fat.”
So, what can a woman do? We stay thin if we can, and get even thinner. That way, no matter what, nobody can say we “got fat.”
But does this apply to Angelina Jolie, a freaking beautiful movie star? I say hell yeah. I think she personifies what women go through daily and over the years. We are not supposed to change. We are never supposed to change, except maybe if we lose weight.
Even if you are Angelina Jolie with Brad Pitt on your arm, one might ask? Hell, yeah, I say, Hell yeah.
Angelina has it rough, I say. She’s beautiful — but because of her job, her public persona, she simply can’t “get fat” — and in her industry, “fat” means size 6, or 4. Plus, she’s the girl who got (stole?) Brad Pitt from the beloved ex-wife Jennifer Aniston. Now Angelina has all these kids, she can’t possibly get fat, then she’d no longer be the sexy siren, the other woman. She can’t possibly be the frumpy mom while slim, healthy, and free Jennifer Aniston is out there because in “Girl Wars” this would appear to be a loss. (And I know how ridiculous this may sound, but on some level I believe it happens, ridiculous or not). No, gaining weight is not an option for poor Angelina. She has to be thin. And, I guess, thinner. Unnaturally (for a mother and woman in her mid-thirties) thin. Still, my guess is that she’s naturally slim and smaller proportioned anyway, but society may generate extra pressure to go beyond that.
It’s sad, but sometimes, as a woman, it seems that regardless of our accomplishments, all we can do is “not get fat.” If we got the guy and the kids, remaining thin and/or becoming even thinner becomes the only guns in the arsenal of an adult woman. We can’t control our age, once married we can’t collect men, and once we become mothers so many other things get out of our control — but we can control our weight, or at least try to. And people make millions off of our desire to do so.
So if I could peak inside Angelina Jolie’s mind, I could hear her saying:
Yes I’m still the same size.
Yes, I have many children but I’m still thin. I’m still cool. I’m still sexy. I can still play a non-maternal female protagonist.
I ain’t mad at her. To quote Chris Rock, “I’m not gonna say it’s right, but I understand.” Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman. (Insert country twang here.) I just hope Angelina is healthy, appearances aside. I also hope that girls and women don’t starve themselves to be as thin as Angelina Jolie. I also hope that, as a whole, we can learn to accept that keeping or gaining a few pounds over the years is not evidence of failure in life, or conversely, that being as thin as possible is not proof of success.
And I just want to tell Miss Jolie — woman to woman,
“Psst, if you become too thin, it will make you look older, Angelina, and it can cause osteoporosis. Just remember that and take your Vitamin C. Your acting, producing and directing chops will be wasted if you waste away to nothing. And if you become a hunch-back old lady before your time, the plum roles will pass you by anyway. Have some broccoli.”
Just Me With . . . my right leg and my two cents, though nobody asked.