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In fact, all the other gifts from Santa have faded into fuzzy memories at best, but my first pair of high heels? Those I remember.
They were the most beautiful things I had ever seen; they were those plastic high heels that came in a dress-up kit for little women in training. I know you remember them too! Every little girl in America got that present at some point, at Christmas or for a birthday, perhaps. Oh, remember? They were always pink or silver, spiky little mules with elastic bands to hold them on your feet, and little princesses in waiting, prom queens in the making, movie star hopefuls, and future brides all loved them. They always came packaged with a matching tiara and a set of Pop Beads in a coordinating color. For those of you who are clueless to the magic of Pop Beads, they are the most fabulous piece of costume jewelry ever invented. Still made today, Pop Beads (also called Snap Beads) are strands of plastic pearl-shaped beads that snap together and snap apart so that you can change the length at will, or even make a necklace and matching bracelet. Wouldn't it be great if you could do that today with real pearls? The beads, the bejeweled tiara, and those wonderful plastic shoes were the perfect ensemble for a young girl like me, who was already dreaming of her future, one in which I would be swept off my feet in my queen's crown, my Pop Beads, and the most glamorous shoes ever designed.
And how deliciously deceptive those heels were! They looked so innocent and pretty in the package, but they were misery to wear. I'm not sure which suffered more that Christmas, my dignity or my ankles, because I must have fallen a thousand times trying to walk in them. In reality, they couldn't have been more than an inch or two high, but I felt like I was standing on skyscrapers. Up I'd stand and down I'd go, arms flapping wildly like nothing so much as a duck trying to take flight from the water's surface. I'd tell you about the bruises I got in certain places, but polite Southern ladies don't talk about such things in mixed company. Despite the ups and downs, I kept at it. Bruised ego and other, er, parts notwithstanding, I wanted for all the world to strut around in those shoes like a proper young lady. Teetering around two inches off the ground, I got a glimpse of what lay ahead for me as a young woman, and frankly, I wasn't exactly over the moon about it. Part of me, the bruised part of me, thought 'if this is being a girl, I'm out!' Those shoes had looked so wonderful, but wearing them? That was a different matter. But as women learn, even at the most tender of ages, I discovered that once you step into certain shoes, they're yours and there's no turning back.
Now, my baby sister Janice had her own pair of 'practice heels' and, in true fashion, she took to them like she'd been born in them. But Janice is more of a 'pink' girl, while I'm more of a 'red' girl. Pink girls like ribbons and bows and lacy dresses; red girls love tailored dresses, sleek lines, and sometimes being a tomboy. But we share a common ground; we are like salt and pepper. Pink is the soft, vulnerable side of red and red is the adventurous, daring side of pink, and as I grow older, I'm discovering more of my pink side as I go. But when I was stumbling around in those princess heels as a young girl, I wasn't strutting around like I owned the world. I was struggling just to walk across the room! I wanted to take them off, sling them aside, put on my tennis shoes, and go play baseball with the boys.
But just as my need and love for shoes is innate, so then was my courage and my willingness to consider or at least pretend to be a little less 'red' and a little more 'pink.' I decided I had better embrace femininity, because what choice did I have really? I can tell you that the day I asked for a tube of lipstick instead of a football, my mother was overjoyed. That was in my junior high years, and being feminine started to seem more attractive and feel more natural, which, though exciting, also took a little extra courage on my part. Like every 'tween,' all I really wanted was to blend into the wallpaper as I struggled with the inevitable physical and emotional changes that come with maturing. But I stood head and shoulders over the petite little Barbie doll girls in my class, so fading into the background was impossible. I decided to just go ahead and jump in feet first. I told my mother I thought it was time for my first pair of grown-up heels, and once I warmed up to the idea, I started to feel flutters of excitement about trying them out and showing them off.
©2009. Phyllis Hoffman. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Honey, It's All in the Shoes. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442