Today I gave 12 pairs of shoes to charity. I threw one pair away. Then I sat down and cried.
A couple of days ago I finally got the orthotic braces I've needed for years. But braced ankles don't wear high heels well... or at all. So all the carefully chosen, pretty-but-still-functional pumps, strappy sandals, peep-toe heels, and leather boots... they all had to go. It wasn't only hundreds of dollars of fashion going into a 13 gallon kitchen trash bag, it was years of memories and some of my identity as well.
One of my favorite pairs in the pile was a sandal variety that was part peep-toe, part ballerina lace-up, part wedge heel. They were satin and hemp and sparkly canvas, if you can imagine that. I bought the pair because they were on sale and in part because I could get away with wearing them to the Army post dining facility back when I did such things, because sandals were not allowed, but apparently peep-toes were. They were neutral enough to go with anything, and worked for casual or dress. They were everyday, they were evening. They fit my personality to a tee. They were....
Another pair was a black pleather pair of knee-high boots with silver buckles that was one part Van Helsing (Kate's character) and one part haute couteure. I loved them. That I found them in a 1 1/2 inch heel was a bonus, since anything over 2 inches destroyed my ability to walk for days. I used to wear them with this pencil skirt that flared into a gourd at the bottom. And jeans. And just about everything else. They made me feel sexy.
Finally, I threw out a pair of shoes that were made of something that resembled leather, cut into fishnets. Yes, fishnet shoes. Peep-toe fishnet heels, to be exact, with 40's era bows in leather on the heels. I picked those up in Korea for 20,000 wan and they were the most comfortable pair of heels I'd ever owned in my life... right up until the very last time I wore them and broke the sole right at the heel. I thought I'd look into getting them fixed, but finally, today, I threw them away.
Even if it's possible to transcend social comparing of ourselves to the Brad Pitt's and Heidi Klum's of the world, going back to the days of the pin up girls of the 1940's, shoes have been a core part of what's "sexy" about a woman. Her shoes complete her ensemble, and heels have always played an important part. Throwing away 12 pairs of heels is like throwing away something about me that is sexy. Strapping on a pair of orthotic braces and shoving the whole mess into Vans is... not sexy.
I also know that I have a wardrobe of dresses to follow the shoes.
So I cried. As I learn to redefine what is sexy for and about me, and how to express myself as such, I have to cast off not only what I've always been, but what society expects me to be. I have to find a new "sexy" and make it believable for me, if no one else. I also know that once I believe in myself, so will others.
In the meantime, I have extra space in my closet. And it takes me less time to figure out which pair of shoes I'm wearing today.