He said, “Meet me at the show in Tacoma later.” Then he added, “Wear a dress. Come be my arm candy.”
I can only imagine my more ardent feminist readers are already furious, but whatever, not everybody went to college, calm down. As for me, I was touched to be thought of in that way, and I appreciate gentle reminders. Cuz it’s true, I’d have worn my oversized lucky Iron Maiden t-shirt otherwise.
Not to belabor the point, I know we’ve been over this before—but I own dresses. I own a lot of shitty, weird dresses with crudely cut hems and missing buttons that I buy at Goodwill and safety pin together again. In 2009 I met a witch named Kristen who taught me that second hand dresses are magical, or else I just figured out that men are uncreative and need flowery reminders, but anyway I’ve been collecting dresses ever since. Fashion is interesting, and it matters. When you get up and walk to your closet, those are your clothes. Since you were young, you’ve been amassing a collection of outfits that you picked out yourself. They’re like the cells in your body that regenerate every seven years and yet they always make an uninterrupted you.
Shit changes but consistently I’ve felt the most me in jeans, a t-shirt and a hooded sweatshirt. Hoodies are like tuxedos that make the wearer look thin and invisible; everybody looks good in a hoodie. Here’s how it really is. A girl walks into a bar in the jeans and hoodie get-up. She’s like a walking convenience store with a sign around her neck that says “Sorry, we’re closed!” Put that same girl in a dress and it’s “Yes, we’re open!”
Having said all that, does it surprise you to learn that I have a fetish for women’s shoes? It sure surprised me to learn it! No need to get into the particulars, but long story short, I see a heeled foot, I want to lick it. I’d like to wear these kinds of shoes in public but I’ve literally never in my life had the courage. It’s absurd, right? You’d think I were Ed Wood skulking around shamefully in my apartment dressed like a woman. But I am a woman!
It’s not just that I have a terrible time walking in them, although there is that. They are very hard to walk in. It’s not even that in heels I go from already too tall to a freakishly large person, although I don’t like that either. It’s the audacity. There’s no reason to wear shoes like that unless you want to look pretty and get attention, and what could be more humiliating than advertising that truth. You flip the “yes, we’re open” sign over and maybe they won’t want what you’re selling. I mean, fuck.
I got the idea that I was going to buy some heels at the Goodwill and wear them when I went to Tacoma to meet my new gentleman friend (whose name, by the way, is Philip). I wear a size 11. You can find a lot of sensible loafers in that size, but not as many of the super hot shoes (Plus, I think in Capitol Hill I’m competing with the men. Which is fine.) I found a pair of patent red pumps with an open toe and 2-inch heel. They had the kind of heel that get stuck in soft grass and look good pressed against your lover’s chest. I took off my boots and tried the shoes on my bare feet. I wore the heels and carried my boots, and it seemed okay. I heard them click on the linoleum, and I thought, I can do this. I can wear these shoes in public.
I put on a push up bra and a five dollar black cotton dress with the plunging neckline. Showing my tits embarrasses me a little but not as much as the shoe thing. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I can’t trip over my tits. All of my shit’s in boxes so I couldn’t find my fishnets. I had to wear the sheer black pantyhose and that wasn’t as good, it sort of ruined the whole look and I felt bad about myself. I have some makeup, but not really. All I could find was a maroon tube of lipstick that I continually put on my lips, became horrified by and wiped off, again and again. I probably did that five times before I ever left the house and another five more times in the car. I’m beginning to wonder if I don’t have serious mental problems now that I’m well into writing this account, but what’s the use in speculating.
I took off in the red pumps but I grabbed my black zip up boots just in case. I’d have felt unsafe without them, like what if a tiger came out of nowhere and I had to run a distance; you can’t do that in stilts. Alone in the car in the dark, I thought about the shoes and fretted. I projected myself into a high heeled future and all of the terrible things that could go wrong. I imagined rolling my ankle. I pictured the band suddenly stopping the music to look at whoever’s hooves were making such a racket on the dance floor. I imagined being the tallest, heaviest person in the room and how much safer that room would be in black boots compared to red pumps.
The same thing happened in kindergarten on Halloween in 1987. My mom’s boyfriend went to drop me off at school and I was afraid to get out of the car. I’d gone all out with the Witch costume and suddenly panicked I’d be the only one. My mom’s boyfriend got mad at me. He said, “You’re too old to be acting like this,” which, I mean, that’s debatable, but anyway he took me to McDonalds then home and I spent the afternoon watching TV instead. 27 years later and it’s the same fucking story.
At the exit before the venue in Tacoma, I got off the freeway to get gas. The credit card machine was broken, so I had to get out of my car in the heels and walk to the armored booth. There was one other car in the parking lot, and of course that other car was surrounded by three young men who very obviously watched me walk from the car to the booth, because this is my dream, right?
When I got out of the car, I realized that walking in the pumps with the stockings on was infinitely more difficult than it had been in the store. My feet were slippery, and with every step, my heel slipped out of the back of the shoe. I had to walk deliberately and clench my toes. It couldn’t have looked good.
Ladies, I don’t understand. I don’t know how you do it, and I don’t know why I can’t figure it out.
The gas station attendant turned out to be a 60-something butch with a silver crew cut. I bought the gas, plus cigarettes, because I don’t know why, I like to smoke when I’m nervous. She asked to see my ID, which I thought was a little absurd. I was thinking about all this as I walked back to the car: the shoes, the lipstick, the men huddled around their car watching me—and just then the woman came out from behind the booth and called out to me an ominous warning. She said: “Hey! Be careful out there.”
Who knows what she meant. If I was in a rough part of town I didn’t know it, and anyway, I’m from Detroit, there isn’t a city block in Washington that scares me. I can only conclude she meant, “Be careful out there. You’ve got stilts on. You’re an embarrassment to honest dykes like me the world over. You’re a sitting duck.”
The men watched me the entire time I got in my car. They didn’t call out or snicker to each other, they just watched, as was their right, because my sign said “open.” I quickly concluded there wasn’t a chance in hell I was wearing those red heels into the bar.
I’m glad it happened because I learned something new and important about life that night. I used to think that girls who got all gussied up were compensating for a greater weakness inside of themselves, but now I think I’m wrong. In fact, a girl in heels is the bravest. And in this specific way, I realized that I am not brave. I couldn’t even hang with the lipstick; I wiped it off on my sleeve a final time on my way up to the door.
Here’s what happened when I got inside: First of all, why was I worried the other girls were going to be hotter and better at wearing clothes than me? I was at a shitty rockabilly concert in Tacoma. The aesthetic for that crowd is 1950s pin up, but chubby. Almost every single girl on the dance floor had coiffed hair, a shit load of makeup, deliberate outfits and high heeled shoes. I could see every one of them in the mirror beforehand getting ready, and in them it didn’t seem like anything to be ashamed of. They seemed like nice, happy girls. Why I can’t cut myself the same break, I don’t know.
Philip had on an oil stained t-shirt and squinty eyes from drinking. He looked happy and uncomplicated. He whispered in my ear, “You look phenomenal.” Isn’t that nice? What am I going to do with a man so nice. Later on I said to him, apropos of nothing, “I don’t like horses.” He looked glumly at the ground and said, “My name means ‘lover of horses.’” It was too bad. I wish I could go back and say the opposite, because really my feelings on horses is mixed. Instead I shoved his face in my tits to show him once and for all how not shy I am.