There was this funny commercial where a beautiful woman enters an elevator. As the elevator door slowly closes, several men walk by and stare at her gorgeousness. Eventually the elevator door closes, and she sighs a big sigh of relief and lets out her big, bloated belly.
Funny, sure, but also very real. I often find that there’s a huge difference between how I carry myself outside, in my jeans and heels and tummy held firmly in, and the sheer joy of getting home, going to my bedroom, and peeling the annoying layers of street clothes off. Finally I can breathe!
I don’t know about men – it seems like you guys have it pretty good when it comes to clothing and comfort (except maybe ties?). But for us women, clothing often means torture – the kind where you can’t completely focus on what you need to do, because so much energy goes towards keeping a tight outfit together, pain management (high heels, blisters), or simply holding your belly in.
But it’s slowly getting better for me.
I find that one of the most interesting side effects of growing older (I turned forty this year) is that I’m becoming impatient. Not that I ever was the patient type, but the older I get, the less patience I have when it comes to things that just don’t make sense to me anymore.
One of those is suffering for beauty.
While I don’t plan on switching to ugly orthopedic shoes any time soon (I plan to hold off on that until I’m sixty hehe), I do find that the idea of dressing in a way that might look fabulous, but will cause me discomfort, has lost its appeal. Very high heels, pointy toes, even bare shoulders on a cold night are all pretty much out of the question. So are very tight clothes, especially when I go to a gourmet restaurant and plan on
pigging out eating well and actually enjoying the experience.
I thought about this recently when I saw this striking difference between women’s and men’s dress shoes in a store display at a local mall:
And I also thought about it when my husband and I went out to celebrate his birthday at the amazing Masa’s Restaurant in San Francisco. The restaurant website requested that men wear jackets and that women wear “cocktail attire.” Cocktail attire often means a little black dress with heels. It was a cold night in the City, and since I had no plans whatsoever of feeling cold or uncomfortable, I simply wore
flannel pajamas a pair of tailored pants and a blouse. I looked nice enough, and I was warm and comfortable and able to enjoy the chef’s amazing cooking. When I went to the bathroom, a little tipsy after having a glass of champagne on an empty stomach, I didn’t trip over my heels as I usually do! That’s probably because I wore walkable heels and not my 4-inch ones.
When it comes to my everyday clothes, these days, more often than not, I wear jeans that have at least some stretch – tossed the rigid ones ages ago, a tee and reasonable heels. Maybe I don’t look as good as I COULD if I wore super tight jeans and high heels – I don’t know. But I see no reason to spend my life feeling uncomfortable.
My goal these days? I want to be just as comfortable as men are. Why shouldn’t I?
In the photo: Comfortable in my own skin – and in my clothes (but still holding my tummy in).
In response to this post, L. emailed me to say:
“I really wanted to leave a comment on your blog, but I understand your decision to remove comments. So in lieu, I’m writing an e-mail to thank you for your last post “Painful Beauty? No Thanks.” I’m in my mid-twenties, and I’ve never learned (or seen the reason to) how to walk in heels over 1.5 in or why I should wear a “little black dress” when I live in Ohio and it’s COLD here more times than not. I also have a nice pant suit (originally bought for job interviews, but it works for nice outings).
I started dressing as a “tomboy” when I was younger because I kept getting told that I couldn’t do certain things (like playing rough or do flips on the jungle-gym) in a dress. It wasn’t “lady-like.” I’m 24 now and I still don’t see why any women would want to wear something she can’t at least comfortably walk and sit in. I can’t understand how limiting personal comfort and mobility is worth it to look “good” or “sexy.” I wear cargo pants, and I still get comments from my sister about how the pockets make my legs look chunky (she’s been trying to convert me to “women’s pants” for years). They’re work pants. If my coworkers are more concerned about looking at my thighs than doing their job, that’s their problem, not mine. I need a place for tools.
It’s comforting to read posts like yours that reinforce how absurd and impractical women’s fashion often is. I felt like the odd one out growing up, and it wasn’t until high school and mostly college that I found other women as little patience as me for heels and short skirts, and the myriad of other impractical and costly products that women are expected to buy and perform in. Women aren’t some magical species that is immune to pain and flawless and graceful. We are people. We deserve the same level of comfort and safety as the other half of humanity.”