On Shoe Envy and Insecurity

If you know me, then insecure is not the first adjective that comes to mind.

But like almost every human being, I naturally have some insecurities. I have a horror of being over-dressed. Strange though it may sound, nothing makes me want to shrink up and die more than being out of place because I am too dressed-up or decked out.

And like many people, to counter my insecurity, I take it too far in the opposite direction and prefer the security of being casually dressed. Unlike my mother who is always impeccably put together.

Consequently, I rarely wear skirts or dresses because, to me, they give the impression that you are trying to make an impression even if it’s just to go the store, or out for a meal, or to the office. (And I wonder why my daughter has an aversion to skirts and dresses … hmmm … Go figure.)

So what does his have to do with shoes, you say?

I love shoes. I obsess about shoes. I have a Pinterest board littered with exquisite examples of them. I used to spend hours as a teenager designing imaginary shoes, my school books filled with doodles.

I also detest breaking in new shoes. Blisters are one of shoes’ many way of punishing us. When I do wear any shoe with a heel more than one inch, I quickly me realize I‘m not as young as I used to be, as I always wake up the next day with my hips feeling like they are back to front, my knees tender and my back shrieking.

And yet I look around me, especially at the feet of my colleagues at work who effortlessly and beautifully sport gorgeous, stylish and dramatic heels, day in day out, with grace and style and confidence. Without grimace or clumsiness – or appearing overdressed. Or complaining of achey backs and joints.

I want to be able to do that. But I’m scared of looking like I’m trying too hard, looking like a phony or a mutton in sheep’s clothing. At the core, I’m scared of drawing unwanted attention to myself. Heaven forbid I should look womanly, a by-product of arching your feet, extending your calf muscles and having to walk with an exaggerated sway, like Joan from Mad Men.

I know this is ridiculous. So I am taking baby steps to remedy my insecurity. A large part of this is my road back to finding the woman that’s been buried under the messy morass of motherhood. She’s in their somewhere but most of the time does not have the time or energy to make an effort. Looking presentable is accommodated through safe, colorful, always comfortable clothes, plus lots of lovely jewelry and a smile. But this Mom has started taking measures to reclaim herself, including reinstating the pre-party before an evening out, ensuring she is not harried and can linger over her choice of clothes and preparations.

Last week, I took my therapy one step further. Having waiting several months, scoured though many web pages, catalogs and pins, I finally splurged on new shoes. I didn’t go all-out Jimmy Choo (the dollars don’t stretch that far!) and I didn’t select anything ridiculous or, heaven forbid, impractical. I played it safe and, don’t laugh at me, shopped at Clark’s, seeking assurance that my feet and posture were in the trusted hand of a sensible brand.

I love the shoes I bought, Even the sales assistant remarked they were the only ones that didn’t look like Clark’s. I wore them out to dinner that evening, with jeans, of course (just in case anyone was looking.)

On Monday, it came time to get dressed for a day-long business trip. Here goes, thought I. I selected a dress – a safe, black, comfortable one, already tested once for its non-attention drawing values. I strapped on the heels, walked gingerly like a new-born deer to the mirror. A leggy trollope looked back at me. You fake, she sneered. Do you think you are still 20? What are you trying to prove? My stomach lurched. Off came the heels, replaced swiftly with some safe shoes.

I kicked myself all day for not having the balls to do it.

The following two days, I made up my mind to give it another shot. Day 2, I wore the heels but under the cover of pants, a safer combination. Day 3, I took a deep breath and wore a skirt and heels.

I felt very self-conscious. And tall. I also felt powerful, confident, and dare I say, womanly.

But the funny thing was, I don’t think anyone even noticed. So maybe, just maybe, I actually fitted in more and it’s my casual wardrobe that’s doing me a disservice?

I’m not going to be found sashaying in my new heels every day, that’s for sure. You’ll still find me in my comfy, safe flats/clogs/boots. But I’m determined to strap on my heels and even a dress from time to time, and wear them with my head held high, my tummy sucked in and a subtle sway of my hips.

Maybe someone will notice? Maybe I won’t be terrified of that? After all. What’s wrong with a little attention?

A Bucket List of People I’d Like to Meet

I’ve never really met anyone famous. But, thanks to someone I briefly dated decades ago, my aunt and a neighbor, I am actually remarkably well-connected. (In fact, I am less than six degrees from Kevin Bacon – for real, just ask me.) Being connected is not however the same as actually meeting someone you admire or respect in-person. Someone whose voice, words or acts have made an indelible impression on your life.

These are the people whose hands I’d like to shake. Sit down with over a nice cup of tea and have a chat. Say thank you for their talent, vision, writing, actions. Or maybe just have my photo taken with them, for souvenir’s sake. In any case, I’ve kept this list to people who are actually real (i.e. not TV characters who I believe/wish were real, like Jack Bauer, Don Draper and CJ Cregg.) And I’ve excluded my list of hotties (after all, I have a Pinterest board for them!)

Without further ado, here’s my bucket list of people I’d love to meet, in no particular order:

  • Paulo Coelho (@paulocoelho) – a truly inspirational author. His books “The Alchemist” and “By the River Piedra, I Lay Down and Wept” meant the world to me.
  • Beata Klarsfeld - together with her husband Serge, they dedicated their lives to tracking down and bringing Nazis to justice, mostly notably Klaus Barbie. I had the good fortunate to listen to a presentation she gave several years ago and was humbled by her selflessness and determination.
  • Andy Carvin (@acarvin) – the Arab Spring changed history and, in the process, Andy’s role altered the landscape of journalism. He made social media reporting visceral and important, communicating in 140 characters the often-graphic reality of the revolutions in the streets as they unravelled, minute by minute, story by story.
  • Stevie Wonder – the man, the legend. His music is like the best-day-ever. Seeing him play live was one of the best nights of my life.
  • Barack Obama – Say what you will about the economy, liberalism, healthcare, taxes. I was riveted by his inauguration speech back in 2008 and, particularly, the line: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
  • Clint & Stacey of “What Not to Wear” – they have given me the rules and I shall abide. I’d love them to come shop with me for a day. Shut the front door.
  • Ellen Degeneres – Few people make me laugh like Ellen can. She’s generous, beautiful, human, real. And have you seen her read from Fifty Shades of Grey? Hilarious.
  • Elie Wiesel – Holocaust survivor, writer, activist. Nobel Peace Prize winner. My respect for him is profound.
  • Francis Cabrel – his music was the soundtrack of my three wonderful years living in France. I was and still am bewitched by his lyrics, melody and soulfulness. Seeing him play live was an honor that I shan’t forget.
  • Bill Bryson – a combination of laugh-out-loud funny, erudite and educational all wrapped into one man’s great writing. I’ve read and re-read his books about his travels through England, Europe, America, Australia over and over again, and never tire of them. Check out some of his best quotes here.

Who’s on your bucket list of people you admire and would like to meet?

Life Before Kids & the Thrill of Getting “Checked Out”

Once upon a time, in the days before kids, I used to get checked out. At a bar. In a club. On the train.

I’m not talking about being chatted up or lusted after. I’m not talking about boyfriends or hook ups. What I am referring to is that moment when you notice a complete stranger noticing you with, let’s say, appreciation. Could be the mailman. Someone in the grocery store, the doctor’s office. A waiter at a restaurant. Somebody driving down the street. Usually no-one you know.

And it makes you feel good. It puts a swing in your hips, some pep in your step. Makes you toss your shiny hair over your shoulder and suck your tummy in. Blush a little. And then carry on your day, grateful for the reminder that you are a woman.

I’m sure at this point the feminists are aghast. We girls don’t need men to help us achieve self-worth and to feel actualized. Looks do not matter. It’s what’s inside that counts. Yes, yes I know.

But I’m not going to deny it – it feels damn good when you get checked out. I miss it.

I’m not at all surprised though, that in the first five or so years since having kids, it barely happened at all. I often went out without having looked in the mirror or put a comb through my hair. Clothes were baggy, at best. Unstained, if I was lucky. Makeup non-existent. My shiny nose was a beacon. (I did always brush my teeth, though.)

In time, however, the urge to put some effort back into my appearance and self-pride resurfaced. The urge to wear clothes that fit, even flatter, came back. Certainly, watching “What Not to Wear” helped. I saw myself in too many of those sorry souls that Stacy and Clint helped! I set my sights on becoming a yummy mummy.

And then it happened. Not once, but twice. Three times I got checked out. Woohoo, I’m back!!

Before we all get carried away, I have to set the record straight. There’s was something fishy going on. It soon dawned on me that each time it happened, I was driving my car. Huh?

Turns out, the men who I thought were checking *me* out, were actually checking out my new Ford Explorer, lusting after its new pay load, chassis, trim.

Hey, what about my chassis? My trim?

Oh how times have changed! But I’ll take it. Might as well enjoy the attention while I can get it.

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