So do your aunts and your grandmother…
This isn’t an insult. Rather, it’s a good example of a sneaky brand of culture shock. There’s nothing wrong with outrageously colored or patterned platform stiletto heels, even when worn by 60-year old women to a graduation ceremony at UNM. What I’m really trying to tell you, reader, is that there’s a difference in the way women express their femininity in Albuquerque. And it took me quite by surprise. Let me explain…
As I said, not a thing wrong with very high heels, colored and patterned to draw the eye. Yes, I called them “stripper heels” because, well, ladies who work in that industry favor them. Sure, in the South, other women wear these eye-catchers, but it would seem that there’s an invisible age barrier at work in Atlanta. If a woman beyond that threshold sports these heels: A) she has excellent joint health and B) she’s likely a working girl or lady of the night. Yeah.
But wait, you’re probably confused right about now. What if a woman of mature years chooses to wear these out dancing, clubbing, or to any other social venue? Does that mean people mistake her for a prostitute? Not at all. But it would seem that as women here move into their middle years, they give up their wilder dress habits for less ostentatious feathers. To fail to do so seems to be a marker of low status.
This is not the case in Albuquerque. Perhaps I simply was unaware of the class markers I should be seeing, those that were obvious to more experienced natives to the area. You know, similar to the one I described above. However, I remember on the morning when I received my graduate sash a couple of years ago, there they were in the audience. You could spot them from down where the graduating students were seated–day-glo orange platform stilettos, tastefully paired with a leopard print mini skirt on a woman quite old enough to be someone’s mother or aunt. And she was not alone. Many of her sisters in stilettos were there, too, to give witness to the academic success of their offspring or close family.
Since leaving the highly pressured academic world, I’ve had a chance to take in a few details that escaped my harassed senses before. Sure, there are plenty of women who opt for sedate flats, sandals, or trainers to run their errands or meet a friend for coffee at the local watering hole. Then, there are the aforementioned ladies–they wear them to the grocery store, the coffee shop, or to take their dogs out for a constitutional. Are they of a particular social class, ethnic group, or status range? Does it matter? Yes, it does if you plan to study social factors surrounding the practice of wearing these heels and why, but I won’t discuss it here. What I will say is that these women were usually also maquillaged and coiffed after the fashions of certain social circles.
This represents contact with a different manifestation of personal and culturally idealized femininity. These ladies are fierce creatures, many of whom refuse to bow to the dictate that they should give ground gracefully to the fact that they aren’t in their 20s or 30s any longer. They can still be seen on dance floors down in the city. They don’t need your approval to feel beautiful. That, to me, is beautiful. So let them paint on their peacock-bright make-up and slip into their heels that put any you own to shame. They’re not hiding.