The shoes fit, but can I wear them?

The shoes fit, but can I wear them?

A while ago, I was browsing in the shoe section at TJ Maxx when a friend spotted me and came over to say hello. But before she offered a loving greeting, she exclaimed, “OMG, you’re NOT going to get those, are you?”

I was holding a pair of high heels. Eyes glazed over with lust, I said, “They’re so beautiful. Just look at them.”

“Yes. Beautiful,” replied my friend, as she gave me a hug. “And potentially dangerous.”

She knows my history of falling. I was knocked over by a couple of dogs several years ago while walking on the beach and got a compression fracture in my spine. A few years later, I stepped off the bottom tread of my stairs and went sailing through the air, ending up with more than two dozen stitches in my head and a mild concussion. A word of caution if you are in the boomer stage of life: It happened because I was looking through the bottom of my trifocals (they’re meant for close-up vision) and the bottom step was distorted.

Needless to say, I am terrified of falling. So I usually wear flats. But I can be swayed. Take the party I went to a few years back. The theme was a summer picnic, French bistro style. I decided to dress in my version of casual French – black Capri pants, a long-sleeved fitted dark purple T-shirt and black flats. Should have taken a selfie!

My 20-something daughter was living with us at the time and I was in the habit of running outfits by her before leaving the house. Each time, I knew I risked humiliation, but she has given me invaluable advice and claims to have saved me many times from public humiliation on a much grander scale. She nodded slowly as she sized up my outfit and then stopped cold when she hit my shoes. “Not flats, Mom, you should wear heels.”

I told her I don’t wear heels anymore. Flats are safer. She said, “Mom, you were walking barefoot on the beach and wearing sneakers on the stairs. It’s not the shoes you should be worrying about. Try these on.”

She handed me her pair of canvas heels from L.L. Bean, which looked great with the outfit and were a perfect fit.

I wasn’t convinced – felt shaky and unsure – but I practiced walking in them. Down the stairs I went (NOT headfirst!) slowly and carefully. I asked my husband if he thought I should wear the heels. He didn’t say yes or no – such a diplomat. Instead, he suggested I bring the flats just in case. I stuffed them into my purse and strutted out the front door. In a good way. Not pompously, but proudly. I paid attention to how I walked, which actually improved my posture. I felt stronger, straighter, younger. OK, yes, I admit it, I felt younger.

On the way to the party, I found myself reminiscing about high heels I had loved. There was the pair of rust-colored high-heeled ankle boots I bought in the 1980s. I saw them and just had to have them. The word impractical never even entered my mind. All I saw was “hot!” Then there was the pair of red stilettos that matched my fabulous red dress with the cap sleeves and wide belt. When I wore that dress and those shoes, I thought I owned the universe. And I remember sprinting across a field in my black patent-leather, sling-back pumps with a microphone in my outstretched hand trying to catch someone I wanted to interview. Never occurred to me to take off the heels. I still have them, only these days it never occurs to me to put them on. But on this particular night, I threw all caution to the wind and went to a party wearing high heels and didn’t even trip.

Good food, good wine, good people, and a good time for both my husband and me. When we walked back to our car, I was grateful that it was just around the corner and that the crosswalk was paved with bricks instead of cobblestones. I slid into the passenger seat and, because the shoes were feeling tight by then, took them off and propped my feet up on the dashboard. We cranked up the radio and all the way home my feet and I danced with joy.

The next time I saw my friend, I told her that I had dared to wear high heels again and survived. No scolding, just a hug and off we trotted off in our flats to enjoy a good meal, a tall glass of wine and a sinful dessert. Now that’s what I call dangerous!

These days, Diane Atwood’s shoe collection consists mostly of flats. Photo by Diane Atwood

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