When I was 6 years old, I was out with my mother at the grocery store and saw a woman wearing pantyhose, red high heels, and blue eyeshadow. I’d never felt so drawn to anyone during my few years on earth and I couldn’t stop staring at her. The way she was dressed looked like how I felt deep in my soul.
On the way home, I told my mom I needed pantyhose, red high heels, and blue eyeshadow immediately. I was hoping we’d stop at Sears and pick some up. Perhaps we could flip through the Montgomery Ward catalog when we got home and order it all up.
But alas, that’s not what happened. She told me I’d have to wait until I was 16 to own any of those things. I felt like I was going to burst as I sat in the back of our Caprice Classic. When we got home, I stomped off to my room and spent the rest of the afternoon crying and putting on 25 coats of cherry chapstick on the mirror hoping it would darken my lips.
There was no way I could wait another 10 years to be who I truly was. And wearing heels and dressing up was definitely who I was — I knew it.
I didn’t grow up watching endless Disney movies. I had no preconceived notions that a prince or strong man would come save me if I dressed up.
I wanted to wear pretty shoes, jewelry, and dresses so I could look at me and love how I felt.
To this day, almost 38 years later, I feel most like myself when I dress up. I don’t care if I going out to a nice restaurant or the grocery store.
Wearing heels puts me in my happy place. Doing my hair makes me feel better. When I wear a dress or favorite pair of jeans, I’m my best self. It feels like like a second skin, not a mask.
I wore my first pair of heels in the 7th grade (thankfully, I didn’t have to wait until I was 16 because I stole my mother’s red high heels and snuck them to school).
In college, while most of the students were wearing Birkenstocks and baseball hats — a look I love and tried but it wasn’t me — I wore a lot of wrap skirts, dresses, and polished nails.
People have asked me why I’m dressed up at least once a week for my entire life. I’ve received more eye rolls than I can count.
They ask where I am going. They figure I just came from a party or a work meeting or a special event.
And sometimes they ask in a disgusted way, “Why do you dress up all the time?”
My answer is this: I do it for me (certainly not to offend anyone, but damn, sometimes people seem offended), because it makes my outside match my inside. It’s not a chore for me. It brings me joy; it’s cathartic.
There is something to be said for physical comfort, sure. I love a nice pair of leggings and a T-shirt every once in a while.
But I’m more mentally comfortable when I spend time on myself. I feel alive when I hear my heels clicking on the ground, and fuck, if putting certain things on my body, no matter what they look like, gives me a mental boost, why wouldn’t I make that small effort?
I have three kids and I live in a small town. Some may say I don’t fit in (like my oldest son who wishes I’d tone it all the way down), but I don’t. I can’t because I would be shrinking myself to fit into a box I don’t want to be in.
When I want to put on stilettos, I do. I don’t care where the hell I’m going because I’m not slipping those fuckers on for any other reason than how they make me feel.
I don’t care what other people wear. I’d never ask someone why they are wearing sweatpants or why they don’t style their hair, but for some reason, people feel you need a reason to get a little fancy. And if you don’t have a reason, people want to know why you would want to inflict that type of torture on yourself.
There are many times I’m dressed up more than anyone else in the room, but I don’t feel out of place. I’ve gotten the side eye when I’m pumping gas in thigh high boots, and I’ve been told I stick out like a sore thumb at family gatherings or in pictures. I don’t check in with my friends about what they’re wearing for girls’ night out because I’m going to wear what I want anyway, so what’s the damn point?
I’ll never forget that lady I saw back in 1981 buying iceberg lettuce in her patent leather heels. She made an impression on me and it probably had a lot less to do with what she was wearing and a lot more with how her clothes made her feel.
Cheers to wearing whatever the fuck you want without having a reason. If you need me, I’ll be at the grocery store in my red heels.