Ana Veciana-Suarez

Killer heels: We complain but wear them anyway

Women can have a love-hate relationship with heels.
Women can have a love-hate relationship with heels.

When it comes to shoes, I must confess that my wardrobe choices are rather uninspired. Alas, I veer not from the boring and humdrum. I own bland brown and black shoes, a tan pair and a white, as well as sensible sandals. I’ve yet to add a pair of red shoes to my closet, though it’s been on my list of resolutions every new year. I think a spiffy scarlet or a rousing ruby would make anything I wear pop.

I draw the line, however, at stilettos. I do not, will not wear them. At most I’ll don a pair of “kitten heels.’’ They’re dressy but hardly dangerous. (Plus, don’t you just love the name?)

Granted, my distaste might have something to do with the fact that, at five foot seven inches in seventh grade, I towered over the boys in my class. I wasn’t interested in more elevation. Eventually the gents caught up in the race to the top and some shot past me, even as I continued to inch upward. But now that I’ve come to appreciate that towering perspective, I still won’t wear cockroach-impaling heels.

They’re bad for me. They make the balls of my feet ache, the muscles of my calves bunch up and that tender spot in my lower back feel as it were being crucified with pins. Not worth the sacrifice.

Heels, or actually the lack thereof, made international news a few days ago, when security at the Cannes Film Festival reportedly turned away women because they were wearing flat shoes on the red carpet. Gasp! What a public relations nightmare!

Scrambling to respond, Cannes issued a statement that “there is no specific mention about height of women’s heels [in the rules].’’ Whatever. Fact is, this brouhaha should come as no surprise. Media cover fashion on the red carpet as if it were a presidential race, with color commentary that borders on the insipid and sexist. We love that kind of thing and a trending who-wore-whom can make (or break) a designer. Yet, you will rarely read or hear entertainment reporters remark on the cut, the fabric, the designer — or, for that matter, the heels — worn by the dashingly tuxedoed men at cultural events. That’s because men are measured with a different yardstick.

Can you spell objectification? (Well, no, but I have spell-check for that.)

Let’s be frank here. We women have a love-hate relationship with heels. As little girls, we stagger around in our mothers’ shoes, pretending to be all grown up. I did. My daughter did, too, and now my granddaughters are, literally, following in those footsteps. We continue to wobble and teeter long into the future. As we get older, heels — the killer, vertiginous kind — symbolize sexiness and sophistication. Too bad they’re so dang uncomfortable.

For all the public indignation over Cannes, the overwhelming majority of my friends love heels. Love, love, love them to such an extent that they will endure bunions, blisters, hammertoes, corns and calluses. They will wear killer heels with long dresses and short dresses, with jeans and suits, to galas and to baseball games. I’ve seen women at stadiums in heels so high that they could qualify for their own nose-bleed section.

So yes, we complain and we whine. We express outrage over the silly sexist dress code at the Cannes Film Festival. We blame outmoded versions of beauty. And we slip on the cape of feminism as needed. But all the while we’re shopping for Christian Louboutin pumps that will shoot us up to the stratosphere.

We ladies do protesteth too much, methinks.

Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.