Running in High Heels? Not!

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high heels

Credit: Creative Commons / Designerschuhe, Taschen und Accessoires

There is an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) television commercial that shows a woman in a short skirt and high heels while the voice over talks of finding a career you love at any age and about life reimagined. Whenever I see this spot called “I’ve Still Got It”, I think that when anyone is old enough for an AARP card, there are some things you should know, one of which is running in high heels is a dumb idea.
If you are old enough for an AARP card, you ought to be able to recognize a non sequitur, a logical fallacy where the premises do not lead to the stated conclusion. A miniskirt and high heels have nothing whatever to do with continued vitality as we age, nothing whatever to do with working on exciting projects either as a career or not after age 50, nothing whatever to do with re-imagining life’s possibilities.
If you are old enough for an AARP card, you should know, especially if you are a woman, the history of high heels. They were first used in ancient Persia by men who used the heels to keep them in stirrups when riding horses. Over time, high heels have been used by short kings and queens to make them appear taller. The aristocracy used them to distinguish themselves from the lower classes. The heels showed that unlike the lower classes, they did not have to walk. With the Enlightenment, men were thought to be rational and useful, in charge. They stopped wearing high heels. Women were seen as sentimental and as decoration. The more successful the man, the more beautiful the woman or women with which he was associated. Once upon a time, the only women who wore high heels were prostitutes. Today, many women wear high heels because they are supposed to make a woman’s legs look longer and shapelier. They cause her to walk with more sway to her hips. Many women wear high heels so that they feel confident and sexy.
However, if you are old enough for an AARP card, you ought to know that confidence and sexiness are not functions of the length of one’s skirt or the height of one’s heel. Confidence and sexiness are states-of-mind. They come from experience, from living life, from paying attention to yourself and the world you occupy.
If you are old enough for an AARP card, you ought to be aware of the second wave feminist critique of high heels. French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir writing in her seminal text “The Second Sex” observed, “The skirt is less convenient than trousers, high-heeled shoes impede walking. . . the costume may disguise the body, deform it, or follow its curves; in any case it puts it on display.” And when the female body is an object for display her intrinsic worth is linked to what she wears.
If a woman is old enough for an AARP card, she ought to be confident in the knowledge of her intrinsic worth without the aid of a short skirt and high heels. She ought to know who she is, and the statement going forward is not whether or not she’s still got “It.” But that she has the mysterious “it” and more. She has wisdom.
When a person is old enough for an AARP card, s/he ought to know that there is very little in life to run toward or away from. S/he ought to know how to leave in enough time to be at the appointed place at the appointed time without having to run. Much of life is the hurry to wait. It is far better to move through life with measured and steady steps. As we get older, we know that if we miss the bus or train or airplane that there will be another along in a few minutes, and the minutes move faster. If we are late to an event, it will go on without us, and the world will not stop turning. As we grow older and have been paying attention, we know where danger lies, and we know how to avoid it without running. We also have the fortitude to stand our ground.
If a woman is old enough for an AARP card, she ought to know that high heels are bad for a woman’s body – feet, back, joints. It does not take a leap of imagination to know that recovery from a fall from running in high heels will be longer and more painful for a woman old enough to have an AARP card.
The beauty of aging is to know accurately our limitations and possibilities and to be happy with both. There is no need to live in denial. We can face and tell the unvarnished truth with resolve and with humor. We do not complain, and we do not explain. The beauty and the wisdom of aging liberates us from superficialities. We can call a thing by its proper name.
Let us call running in high heels: Stupid in stilettos.

Valerie Elverton-Dixon is founder of and author of “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.”