It all starts with a pair of high heels, the pair that I decide to wear to the wedding. They don’t feel bad when I try them on, my partner says they make my legs look great, so I’m momentarily happy. They make my legs look ‘sexy’ and compliment my dress so I buy them.
But this one pair of high heels leads to a whole evening of distracted focus, because I can’t just leave it at the heels. I have to compliment the heels with the rest of my outfit and I can’t step out of the house without looking perfect. But … I’m not perfect, so it takes even longer for me to leave the bathroom as I just can’t feel satisfied with my own appearance. I leave feeling self-conscious, already concerned, verging on paranoid, about how I look.
Every second step I’m slipping and wobbling. I think I could break my ankle in these – how do other girls do this? The heels change the way my dress sits, my butt pokes out and my dress slips higher on my leg, so now I’m distracted by pulling my dress down. In my ridiculous focus on my own personal appearance, I forget that I’m actually out to have fun.
Now my feet are sore and I feel yuck. Just as well I’m looking good! My focus is entirely on the outfit I’m wearing, the accessories that I’ve added to it, my make up. I’m constant thinking: Does it look okay? I hope I didn’t smudge it. When others look at me during conversations I can’t focus. I keep wondering why they are staring at me so intensely. Do I have mascara smudged across my eyes? What about lipstick on my teeth? Mum always used to have lippy on her teeth, I hope I’m not doing this.
This inner-critique of self-loathing starts to become too much. I spot the wine and sit down. I’ve found my escape. A glass of wine to take the edge off the evening. Perfect.
Perhaps my experience of this is more amplified than a lot of women’s. To be honest, I rarely put myself through this social strain. Most of the time I leave the house in my jeans, thongs and a singlet, even for dinner. One of the perks of where I live is that it’s socially acceptable to step out of the house looking relaxed, normal, even peaceful.
It’s amazing how uncomfortable a pair of shores can make you feel – and that’s before you even consider where they came from, how they were made and by whom, and where they go to when your done with them.
If I let myself, I can really destroy a shopping experience. Perhaps this is why I really don’t like shopping. It is rare that I even let myself buy unneeded accessories any more.
My mind agonises over the labour that has gone into them, the distance they have travelled to get to me, and the natural resources they have depleted or polluted as part of the process. I review the synthetic materials often in these shoes. I consider the fact they are often designed to break, and that no one fixes them when they inevitably do, as it’s cheaper to buy a new pair. I think about the landfill … and the fact that they will not breakdown in landfill for potentially hundreds or thousands of years.
I then ponder how we can validate selling a pair of shoes for $20 considering all of this. I sigh more deeply …
As you can see, shopping with me is a whole barrel of laughs. I often try and forget about the entire product cycle so I can just enjoy moments. I will buy a cheap pair of shoes, like I did this weekend, because I also can’t justify spending $400 on a pair of shoes that I’m still not sure will last.
I look at my friends’ focus on appearances, daily dramas, simple silly things, and often feel envious and sadness at once. I often wish my mind didn’t consume so many of my experiences, but then I wonder – if some of us didn’t think about these things, us ‘hippies’ as I’ve often been referred to, what would our world become?
We rarely take the time to think bigger picture. We’re rarely encouraged to do so. I wonder if we did, and if we did this daily, perhaps the shoes we would buy would be comfortable, last us years and be fixable when broken. Perhaps we’d spend less time in the bathroom trying to make ourselves look flawless and more time enjoying our friends and family, enjoying the environment around us.
Perhaps we’d feel free to simply be ourselves, to worry less about trying to fill a certain pair of shoes and choose the shoes instead that fit, and serve, us.