When I was growing up there were certain rites of passage that were fairly sacred to young womanhood. One of them was buying your first pair of high heeled shoes. Or, at least a somewhat reasonable facsimile. The first pair was inevitably a compromise between what your mother considered a suitable height and what you considered a suitable height. The difference amounted to only an inch or so in physical reality but in psychic reality it was about a million miles.
I got my wish in 8th grade when my mother allowed me to purchase a pair of shoes with a wedgie heel. It was her idea of a compromise between the Maryjane’s she wanted me to wear and the stilettos I wanted to wear. The heel rose a lofty inch off the ground but it raised my soul by a mile. I was an adult. I had heels.
And not only did I have heels, I had nylons. There I was, standing in line in Dante Hall with all the other eighth graders waiting to make a procession in to church for one of our many holidays, wearing nylons. I had indeed arrived. The fact that the garter belt (yes, I am THAT old) was slipping down, the nylons were bunching around my ankle and the seams looked like the twisting red stripe of a barber pole around my legs bothered me not at all. I knew I looked extremely grown up.
The rites of passage have not changed all that much for a girl since my youth. Well, actually they have, but in ways that my mother would have never let me indulge in until I was 35 anyway so it doesn’t matter. The rites of passage that I went through that are still around have changed only enough to make them a thoroughly modern venture.
The truth of this struck home the day my friend came to visit with her ever so pre-pubescent daughter. The last time I had seen this child had only been about six months ago. But what a change those six months had wrought. Instead of a shy little girl in dirty sneakers hiding behind her mother, here was a tall, slim young lady wearing platform heeled shoes that would cost me at least 12 visits to a chiropractor and another session of 10 with a rolfer if I dared to try wearing them.
She tottered in on these shoes and it was all I could do not to throw my arms out to protect her from the nasty fall that always seemed just a step or two away. But, remembering how much a young lady of that age wants to be treated as a young lady, I restrained myself from any overt acts that would embarrass her and instead asked how the weather was up where she was breathing. Ok, that may not be the most original line in the world but it was the best I could come up with after holding my breath while watching her navigate my icy driveway.
I imagine pantyhose will be next for her. Again, all things change while they remain the same. She won’t have to worry about the seams in her nylons or the tug on her garter belt. But she will have to face they fact that there has never been a pair of pantyhose made that were actually meant to conform to the female figure. She will soon be starting on a lifetime of trying to figure out how the feet in the pantyhose can be going two separate directions without causing her to walk funny when she’s wearing them.
But for now I can only look at her and remember those shoes with the wedgie heels and those nylons whose seams wandered all over my legs of their own volition.
I wonder how those days could possibly have slipped by so quickly and already be so far away.