I am five feet one inches tall.
On a good day.
On a day when I am stretching and standing on the tippiest of tippy toes, like we all used to in primary school when trying to prove we were taller than a similarly-sized friend and therefore obviously much more mature, serious and commanding of playground respect.
I never won those competitions.
At the age of eleven, I became a vegetarian. I thought I was pretty serious about it, with my right-on ethical stance and love and consideration for all those cute little animals, even though it was in truth mostly a ruse to get out of eating the stringier bits of meat in the Sunday dinner. At the age of thirteen, one of my friends made a not entirely serious suggestion that I should return to carnivorous ways, on the off-chance that it might aid my growth, which was, as it had been throughout my childhood, seriously lacking. I did, just so I could say I had tried everything. It didn’t work, of course. I was destined for a life in miniature.
As I grew up-or, to put it more accurately, grew older, as that longed-for growth spurt never did materialise-things got easier. I got older, and now, at thirty-five, I no longer get asked for ID when buying wine, the fear of having to hand over my passport and be found lacking now replaced by crushing disappointment when the teenager on the checkout authorises my age-restricted purchases without even glancing up (or down, as the case may be).
I also discovered my secret weapon, my emotional crutch, every short girl’s must-have accessory du jour; the high heeled shoe.
We were bosom buddies, my high heels and me. We went everywhere together. To work, where I felt a rush of pride on being complimented on my ability to continue wearing elevated footwear well into the third trimester of pregnancy. On nights out where, after the introduction of the smoking ban, I finally felt able to stand at the bar without the fear of bring accidentally poked in the eye by a cigarette from the hand of a larger neighbour. In photos where sometimes, if the other people were sat down, I looked almost the same size. And on cobbled streets, where I cursed their very existence and vowed on many occasions as I wobbled around precariously, that should I ever be crowned Queen of the World, the first thing I would do would be get rid of heritage paving.
I loved my heels. They were what defined me. If I was a dinosaur, I would be a velociraptor, perched on ridiculous stilts.
However, from time to time, a conversation I had with a friend at university would pop into my head. The friend was six feet tall in her flats, so it was easy for her to say, but I couldn’t deny that she had a point.
“As women, we are told we’re not good enough. We wear make up because our faces aren’t pretty enough as they are. We wear heels because our legs aren’t long enough as they are.”
Was that it? Was it because I wasn’t enough as I was? Did I feel obliged to hide my shame at being too short by crippling my feet?
I always predicted that by forty my feet would be finished. I’ve suffered pain and lacerations, knee injuries and near-constant discomfort. And for what?
Because I am not enough. Because I am too short to be noticed. Too short to be taken seriously.
I read the recent story of a receptionist who was sent home from work for refusing to wear heels with interest. I’ve done those jobs. Those jobs where you stand up for hours on end. Where the whole purpose of your existence seems to be to present the unthreatening, acceptable, young and pretty face of a company where you know that your perceived role is to be an ornament and an airhead. And I wondered, am I a bad feminist? Me, who still feels shame at wearing trainers to work even though I walk half a mile to the station each morning and change out of those trainers and into something more acceptable-and heeled-as soon as I arrive at work. Should I be tearing down the fabric of the patriarchy in a sensible pair of loafers?
I reserve my right to wear heels. They make me feel just that little bit more than I am without them. Just that little bit more noticeable, professional, attractive, confident.
But I won’t let them wear me anymore. Heels, trainers, flats, slippers, barefoot. I am enough, just as I am.
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