Some lady things take a lot of regular effort with nothing to show for it aside from looking “normal,” and those lady things are the bane of a lady existence: shaving, plucking, waxing, moisturizing. Other lady things pay off visually, and are thus much more fun to play around with: accessorizing, doing makeup, or wearing heels. So it is equally perplexing when you can’t seem to pull these things off, because then you feel doubly bad for being lame at something with the potential to add such fun and glamour to your life.
I’m of two minds about a lot of stuff on the feminine presentation front. I think elaborate hairstyles and carefully contoured makeup look great on other people, for instance, but I just can’t bear to put the time in myself—plus it just doesn’t look right when I do. I can’t say whether that’s because I’m doing it all wrong or I just have the wrong head/face to pull it off. (I also don’t have an earring face, a hat head, or a watch arm.) I mostly don’t care about not being good at these things, but then on occasion will realize I do care and wish I’d spent the time in junior high mastering cat-eye eyeliner, wearing more scarves, or learning to walk in heels for certain occasions when these seem like the perfect enhancements.
Such is The Hairpin’s Haley Mlotek’s lament in a funny piece about not being able to wear heels. With a very important event coming up and a long-nurtured desire to sashay inches above her normal stature, Mlotek writes:
I have a Cool Wedding™ to attend in early June and the prospect of going in flats was weighing heavily on my tiny feet for a lot of reasons. First, I love heels the way I love all the most impractical kinds of fashion: recklessly, stupidly. Heels, when worn correctly, fake a kind of self-assurance and strength in their wearer. The sound they make!! The shape of your legs, elongated by a crisp point!! They connote power and they force a very unnatural kind of grace because every step matters so much. No one can forget they’re wearing heels while they’re wearing them. Heels encourage mindfulness. And, I mean, they just look fucking sexy. They’re gorgeous and terrifying, two qualities I’d most like to embody in my daily life.
But I go back and forth between two competing instincts: first, trying to make peace with the fact that I cannot walk properly in heels, and more than that, three hours in a pair of ill-fitting heels and the pain will turn me into such a monster no one will ever mistake me for a gorgeous boss bitch and just a red-faced menace, and that the beauty of heels comes from the confidence the wearer feels in said heels, and since I do not have that I just have to embrace cool flats or slight platforms with whatever of my dignity remains, and second, the completely irrational “but I’ll look so cooooooooooool” that echoes through my head when I hold a pair of really good heels in my equally tiny hands.
I’m very clompy and egret-like in heels, so I relate. Other fun lady things I can’t do for shit:
- Put on eyeliner
- Stand up straight
- Be graceful
- Not cuss
- Bring tampons
Obviously whenever I see a woman who has perfect eyeliner, perfect posture, a graceful air about her in modest heels, who forms complete, non-profane sentences and obviously had the good sense to bring backup tamps, I’m dead with jealousy. Dead.
Another thing I secretly wish to be able to do is wear literally even one accessory out of the house. I can’t do it. I put on a necklace and look in a mirror and I’m like, who is this hideously done-up hussy? Same with earrings. Same with anything. Though I absolutely know that all this stuff can be taught—the right type of accessories to choose and how to wear them with confidence, I also know that some people are just naturals.
So I wish I could take a the following local, free night classes on every aspect of lady-ness I desire to master:
- Walking in Heels 101
- Pouting to Get Your Way Without Losing Respect
- Cool Eyeliner for Moms
- Put the Fucking Tampons In Your Fucking Purse You Fucking Dolt
In lieu of such classes—and I know there are a bazillion tutorials online, shh—you could always just go for broke and wade into the shallow end of trying this shit out until you get better. To her eternal credit, Mlotek bought those heels she wanted and hit the streets to test-drive them:
When I got home I put the heels on immediately, and praise hands emoji, they fit perfectly: a Good Wife-inspired miracle. I walked around and took a bunch of selfies to send to my friends and fans (thanks guys you give me strength) and felt a deep sense of peace knowing that my Summer Look game was, as always, extremely strong.
Then I decided to walk to the restaurant two seconds from my home to buy a $13 salad while wearing the shoes.
It took me twenty minutes to get there and back.
What the fuck. What is this mental block stopping me from achieving my true goals both in fashion and in life? Because if it’s true that heels give their wearer power and gravitas, the opposite is equally true: watching a person walk in heels when they aren’t comfortable in them is like watching a very uncool deer take their first lame steps.
For what it’s worth: uncool earrings head with uncool watch arm totally feels this. So what’s missing from your lady bag of tricks, and precisely how bad do you feel about it—if you feel bad about it at all? No judgment.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.