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Out of Step

Published : August 22, 2015

Reminisce with Pat as she shares her (painful) memories of a youthful stilletto shod movie date experience.

By Pat Curtis

Stiletto heels are back in vogue again, stacked on stands in boutique and department stores. On display are every colour of the rainbow including gold and silver; some even encrusted with diamante for evening wear. They lure us into temptation. Impractical fripperies with long pointed toes designed to cause pain and suffering.

Not long ago in China when diminutive female feet were a male fetish, it was the custom to bind the feet of small girls. This involved breaking the bones in the toes, then bending and binding them underneath the foot causing deformity. Thankfully, Mao Tse Tung banned that terrible tradition fifty years ago. Some say it was his only positive achievement!  Since then women in China, who used to hobble along and were regarded as sex objects, are now supposedly independent and free to work alongside men. Why then do liberated women in the West now wear such crippling impractical shoes?   Is it to attract the opposite sex or are they just slaves of fashion?

I bought my first pair of high heels in 1954 when I reached, what I considered, the mature age of sixteen. How sophisticated I felt in the black patent shoes I wore for my first date.  I hoped to capture the admiring glances of young men enraptured by my long legs as I took dainty steps due to the restriction of my buttock hugging black pencil slim skirt.  Unfortunately though, instead of gracefully walking to the cinema, a distance of a mile from my home, I hobbled.  Like one of the ugly sisters in Cinderella I’d squeezed and distorted my toes to fit into the pointed end of the shoes and they pinched like a persistent crab. To add to my discomfort I wore nylon stocking held up by suspenders that dug into my thighs. In sunny Australia I would have abandoned the shoes and walked barefoot, but in England it was inadvisable as the ground was covered in slush and dogs’ excrement, (polite girls didn’t use the other word!)

Humiliated, I waited and wilted outside the cinema for ten minutes before my date showed up.  He wore a stained jacket, crumpled shirt, day old stubble bristled on his chin, and lank, greasy, hair, hung over his acne covered forehead. It must have been desperation, which had led me to accept the assignation.  We joined the long convoluted queue; it was Saturday night so we crept forward at a snail’s pace until we reached the Box Office.

“Sorry, only the front row left, dearie.”  The cashier said.

 When we entered the darkened cinema the program had started. There was no sign of an usherette to guide us to our seat. Accidentally, I sat on a strange man’s lap and swiftly shifted to the empty adjacent seat.  Smoke from his strategically placed cigarette wafted over me filling my lungs, and caused a paroxysm of coughing. Next, my date, who I now regarded with antipathy, reached out to grab my hand. I shoved it away.

From the vantage point of the front row I wrenched my neck backwards to view the film, ‘French Can-Can’. The chorus lifted their skirts above their heads, showing their drawers as they kicked upwards with their high heels. Meanwhile I’d removed my high heels, which gave me temporary relief from discomfort.  Hurrah! At last the titles rolled across the screen, ‘The End’.  My shoes had disappeared. Because of a crick in my neck I found it painful to bend over, but I located one beneath the seat. The other had gone walk-about. Eventually, after the audience had filed out, the usherette shone her torch and found it had wandered to the row behind. I stuffed my feet into the shoes, negotiated the foyer like a cripple, and parted company with my ‘creepy date’.

The homeward journey resembled a tortuous trek through the Himalayas.  As I opened the front door my mother shouted, “Did you have fun?”  I responded by entering the kitchen and collapsing. My mother revived me with a nip of brandy and brought a basin of warm water to bathe my blistered feet. I felt like Ulysses returning from his travels, and yearned for a willing slave to massage my entire body with fragrant oils.

I didn’t go ‘Cold Turkey’ with stilettos. I wore them again if someone who dated me was wealthy enough to own a car, but in my era they were few and far between.  Later I married, had babies, and went bare-foot in the kitchen. An ‘Earth Mother’ I reasoned, didn’t need to wear high heels. I already had a man!

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