I just learned about the remarkable cult of the high heel from a practicing foot
fetishist, who almost hired me to write a story for him about the practice. Could have fooled me. I thought that because my friends and I had given them up as nonsencical long ago, that most forward thinking, independent women of the year of our Lord 2011 had had a similiar raising of fashion consciousness versus sane walking practices. Think again. Want to see the shrine that was just built to celebrate the great passion and worship for the high heel? And not just any high heel. It's an homage to a Manolo Blahnik stiletto. . Check out the size perspective of shoe vs. person on Broadway now in this picture:
It has a name, the Priscilla. The link for the article in Refinery29 by Kristian Laliberte that goes with this picture is here. I just have to steal the first paragraph because it encapsulates what I've been seeing in my recent field research of the religion built around the high heel and the enormous popularity of foot fetishism by women as well as men. Check this out, I thought I was back in the 1970's:
"In a move that isn't too much of a jump from his Sex and the City heyday, shoe guru Manolo Blahnik has partnered with new Broadway musical Priscilla Queen Of The Desert on a silver patent leather Mary Jane high heel adorned with a Swarovski crystal button (portion of the proceeds from the sale of the heels will benefit New York Restoration Project). Billed as the official stiletto of the production, the shoe figures primarily on stage, with drag queens sliding down the arch in a foot fetishist's wet dream. Bette Midler, who produced the musical, can't wait to get her hands on the sparklers, saying, “If there are three things I love, it's shoes, drag queens and live theatre!" Featuring a cast of 27, a score of over 20 dance classics, and more than 500 outrageous costumes, Midler and a whole lot of gay guys are going to be very, very happy. If the shoe fits...a drag queen will wear it."
Google "stilletos" and you'll get 5,720,000 search results including a lot of photos, framed and unframed, and articles on everything from how to walk in them, to how to cook and bake, hike, and rock climb in Teva stilletos wearing them. I wouldn't shit you. Yes, climbing in 4" stacked heels, called "the most comfortable, performance high heel on the planet. ...Anti-fashion at its purest." You can read all about it here.
Here's a picture of it in action:
What is the draw that turns normal men and women into crazy high heel fetishists? I learned it is what heels, especially stiletto heels, do for a woman's body image. Stuffed into the narrow, pointy-toed confines, the size -8-B or -C foot doesn't look like a 3" lotus flower that has been bound the traditional Chinese way, but they do make feet look smaller. They also make legs look longer, leaner, and raise the chest and cause the breasts to stick out in a provocative way. They lift and smooth the buttocks too, which explains the tight skinny pants wearing that are frequently seen on the artificially elevated. One might think when seeing a woman past 40 in short shorts or a mini-skirt and stilettos that they also impair circulation to the brain and promote irrational thinking on a fantasy level in which she somehow thinks she looks hot with her skin folds flapping in the breeze and her varicose veins on public display in living color.
And that's just the Google results for stilettos. "High heels" has a whopping 53,200,000 results. Again, with plenty of pictures, and advice on what to do when your feet refuse to wear them another nanosecond without sending you in tortures of the damned There are quite a few forum posts and e-mails to high heel newsletters and ezines all repeating the same mantra, "No, my feet may be killing me, but I will not stop wearing my heels."
Did you know that if you go on ignoring the pain and just keep propping yourself up there with Band-Aids, epsom salts, aspirin, and massages, eventually the foot shortens and will no longer reach the floor? Then you have no choice but to wear your favorite pair of lace-up stilleto sandals to pickup your son at kindergarden or to your favorite aunt's funeral. It's the only pair of shoes you can walk in any more.
Women grow so frantic when they can't wear their heels, that they do unspeakable things to their feet. For example, when the toes refuse to come unstuck to the ball of the foot after being lodged in their like extra appendages from an alien body unclaimed by the owner, women actually go get surgery and have those interfering toes lobbed right off their feet.
Here's what one Beverly Hills podiatrist says about high heels: "Doctors of podiatric medicine see no value in high heels (generally defined as pumps with heels of more than two inches). They believe them to be biomechanically and orthopedically unsound, citing medical, postural, and safety faults of such heels.
"They know, for example, that high heels may contribute to knee and back problems, disabling injuries in falls, shortened calf muscles, and an awkward, unnatural gait. In time, high heels may cause enough changes in the feet to impair their proper function. Most women admit high heels make their feet hurt, but they tolerate the discomfort in order to look taller, stylish, and more professional. In a Gallup Poll, 37 percent of the women surveyed said they would continue to wear high heels, even though they did not think them comfortable"*
Thirty-Seven percent would continue? Amazing, isn't it? And some are lying because they're too ashamed to admit they won't give up their obsession.
getting back to how my eyes were popped open to this bizzaro world of the cult of the spike heel, yes, I agreed to write a 1,500-2,000 word story for a gentleman who specified that he would be the only reader of the piece. I read his reviews by writers who had written the same story he wanted me to write, and they all couldn't say enough positive things about how quickly he paid, how easy he was to to work for, and how nice he was in general. His job description said that it was to be a story about a fashion victim who loves wearing high heels, or feels she must wear them to be in style, but they kill her feet every single day and night.
I knew her name was Esmeralda. She came to me as many of my fictional characters do, with a story she dictated to me and wanted told. She was one of those flawless natural beauties who believes she is a plain Jane. She was 27, single, and didn't date hardly at all due to her terrible shyness and low self-esteem. But she had had a good friend at the bank where she worked as a teller for several long years, and this woman, Janie, had left the bank to go make real money as a dancer at a gentleman's club. When she told Esmeralda how much she would be earning, estimating her tips on what the other dancers told her, Esmeralda wanted a body transplant. She wanted to be young and sexy enough to strut her stuff on a pole in front of a room of oogling men, and do lap dances too for extra tips.
She was young and sexy enough, she just was the last to know it. She lost sleep over the prospect of getting out of the boring bank and joining Janie, who told her that the manager had told her to invite friends who were interested. Shechalked it off as impossible, and then she remembered her college reunion.
She went to the reunion with the same group of women she had hung out with during college and lived with in the dorms. They were elegant women, she thought, and she made sure to dress up even buying a rare pair of high heel pumps for the occasion. The high heels had done something to her. It was almost like being under the influence, except she barely drank and she didn't take drugs. She had loved how she looked and felt in those red patent leather 4"-heels, and she loved the way that people, men and women, looked at her twice or even more.
She grew extroverted at the reunion, and left her shell at home. She danced with anybody who asked her. She kept the group laughing until they begged her to stopfor fear they'd lose control of their bladders. She had one glass of white wine and didn't finish that. She had a great time.
She really hadn't figured out for quite a while what had happened to her that night. She thought it might have been just being with her old college buddies, or out and dressed up, a rarity for her. It was only when she wore the heels a second time, to a family restaurant dinner for the holidays, and she noticed similiar effects, that she attributed them to wearing the "magic shoes," as she had begun to think of them.
Anyhow, you're not paying me big bucks like he was, the man who contacted me about my bid on the job, so that's about all you need to know except that he insisted that the heels give her lots of suffering, including bunions, but she continued to wear them. He wanted a lot of details about the pain and suffering.
Now I'm not a foot fetishist, and this man came right out and told me he was, in case the theme of the story for one didn't tip me off, but I would have thought all that talk about bunions, blisters, calluses, etc. would be a major turn off. Not for him. He asked if we could chat about the story online before he hired me, and I foolishly agreed. It was then that he confessed that he was a foot fetishist with a twist. He needed the gory details. He wanted to hear about the throbbing of the bunions, soaking and massing the feet without getting any relief, putting Bandaids on the latest crop of blisters--all of it. Not at all what I imagined, since I was thinking more of the famous picture of Marilyn Monroe in heels getting her dress blown up into her face.
We didn't talk immediately about the story, although I had some questions and some ideas I wanted to bounce off of him. No, we started with my own quite painful history of high heel wearing when I was a young office worker in the Seventies and didn't know any better. Today I have horrible bunions and feet so flat you couldn't insert a dime under them as a result. It was kind of embarrassing to talk about, but he kept asking questions about what the pain was like, whether I kept wearing the heels, how long after I gave up wearing heels until the bunions formed. It was pretty gross.
Finally he made a remark that we would get on with discussing the story itself. Now I am ashamed to tell you that we had chatted for perhaps an hour without discussing the story, only my podiatric history. Suddenly he said he had a meeting that he was going to be late for if he didn't leave immediately. He was in such a hurry, I thought, that he forgot to tell me what would happen next. Would we chat again and talk about the story? Was he going to hire me for sure?
The next real message came from him to me at the agency where I get most of my freelance gigs. It said that he was closing the project. He felt now wasn't a good time for me since I was winding up my novel and had been late for an online chat appointment.
But that wasn't it, boys and girls. He had sucked the sap out of this flower, and having got his jollies listening to my high heel saga of of pain, bunions and suffering, he was ready to move on to a new source.
So there's the rub as well as the twist. I kept my shoes on the whole time, but it did me no good. He got what he really wanted from me, and he got it for free.
Jamshidinia, Kamran, DPM Newsletter to Patients