My History with High Heels

I’m short.  Five feet two inches, to be exact.  That’s 1.57 m., for my metric-minded readers.

In terms of body-image and whatnot, I’m fine with it.  I always have been.  I’ve never wished for a few more inches for appearances’ sake.  I’m good with my 5’2″ view of the world.

Seriously, I’ve never had an issue with my height (or lack thereof), even when I went to high school with boys who towered over me.  Our small school boasted a nationally ranked basketball team, so most of the boys in my class easily surpassed 6 feet and some were pushing 7 feet.  My closest tall friend was actually a 6’4″ baseball player, but I also counted among my friends basketball boys like the 6’6″ British guy and the 6’9″ Lithuanian.  Several guys literally had to tilt their heads to the side just to walk through a regular doorway.  I remember walking out of the cafeteria once behind one of the tallest basketball players (a 6’11” Nigerian) and realizing I was disturbingly close to being eye-level with his belt.

So while I didn’t have a problem with being short, I decided I didn’t want to be navel-level to my classmates, either.  Tall heels became a staple of my high school wardrobe.  I remember wearing four-inch heels on a regular basis, since the extra height helped me get above belly button level on the guys in my school.  I don’t remember the shoes being uncomfortable, either.  I’d wear them all day and never have a problem.  Maybe it’s because I chose thick, chunky platforms which offered a modicum of support, despite the height.  However, my relative comfort was probably more due to the fact that I wasn’t actually on my feet that much, sitting through classes and whatnot.  Whatever the reason, I wore those heels a lot and never felt the painful consequences.

However, when I moved away to college, I went with the intention of leaving much of my high school existence behind.  The four-inch heels stayed in my closet, replaced by flats and flip-flops, with maybe the occasional low heel for more formal situations.  I did wear tall heels on my first date with my husband, but that was only to keep my long dress from dragging on the ground.  He actually liked the fact that I could wear four-inch heels and still be shorter than him!  Because unlike my high school classmates, the man I married is not ridiculously tall (5’8″, to be exact).  It’s great.  He likes that I’m shorter than him, and I like that I can look into his eyes without hurting my neck.  So with him as my significant other, I entered adult life without a wide range of high-heeled shoes.

H is for High Heels

A pair of shoes similar to these is a staple in my teacher wardrobe. (Photo credit: wenzday01)

Then I became a teacher and an authority figure to teenagers.  At age 23, I stood in front my first class and saw 18-year-old linebackers looking back at me.  Even some of the freshmen stood a head-and-shoulders taller than me.  Very few students looked up at me instead of down.  Plus, I’ve always looked younger than my age.  Six years into the professional world, and people still ask me what grade I’m in.  That first year, students occasionally forgot I was a teacher and treated me as a peer.  I had to constantly think about my professional image in order to remain a respected authority figure to my students.

So the heels returned to my wardrobe.  Pumps and blazers combated my young appearance and small stature to help establish me as an adult in the school.  The extra few inches were nice, but the heels served a more symbolic purpose than just making me taller.  They set me apart as a professional.

However, as a teacher, I’m standing, teaching, moving on my feet all day.  I don’t like sitting still when I teach.  I pace the front of the room and move between the desks.  Sometimes I’m teaching from the back of the room, sometimes writing on the board, sometimes working with individual students.  I like the click of the heels on the tile floor, but I also begin to feel the physical repercussions of my footwear more quickly than I did in high school.

I once had a conversation with a physical therapist who told me that she sees a lot of older teachers as patients.  They come to her with problems caused by years on their feet in the wrong shoes.  I can see why.  My ankles start complaining first, and then my back, and at some point my hips join the conversation, wondering why I chose to wear those shoes all day.

So as my first year of teaching wore on and my authority became more tied to my relationships and reputation than my physical appearance, I slowly returned to wearing flats.  This pattern repeated itself many times over the years.  I’d wear heels in a new school until I established myself, and then I’d return to more supportive flats for daily wear.  I realize my authority has more to do with who I am as a teacher than my footwear choices, but still.  Try getting a surly teenage boy to do something he doesn’t want to do while he’s looking down 8 to 10 inches at you.  It’s weird.  Unless I know that young man already respects me as an authority figure no matter what, I’ll take the extra few inches and the business-like image that a closed-toe high-heeled shoe can give me.

I’m running into a problem this year, though.  I’ve subbed in public high schools before, but this one is bigger.  Huge.  The student body is split between two massive campuses, though they’re still considered one school.  I work for both campuses.  Some days I’m at one, and some at the other.  I barely ever see repeat students.  I’m no closer to “establishing” myself to the student body than I was on day one.  The secretaries, other subs, and a few teachers know me by now, but they don’t need to see me as an authority figure.  The students do.  So I wear the heels.  A lot.  I think I’ve worn flats once, and that was one of the days I covered study hall.  Every time I face a new class, I want the heels.

It’s October.  I should be rotating the flats into my teacher wardrobe by now, but I haven’t yet.  And my body’s mad at me now, evidenced by the ache in the ankles and the tightness between my shoulder blades.  I actually noticed it most on a day off, when I realized how much of a relief it was to slip into athletic shoes and take the dog for a walk.  Maybe it’s time to try the flats anyway, and hope for the best.

But then again, a security guard asked to see my student ID the other day, even with the heels.  *sigh*

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14 thoughts on “My History with High Heels

  1. Aw , all the benefiits of being petite and young ! Don’t worry , my mother was once asked for her ID during a family trip to las Vegas.. she had two kids by that time ..

    What about storing flats in your purse or bag and bringing them out while you don’t have class ? Or you could be like many tiny people I know – the loudest .

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    • Haha, I can be pretty loud when I want to be. Theater taught me the art of projection, so I can make myself heard without yelling, which is handy. 🙂

      I have carried shoes in my bag before, when I had to walk to work. I could try it again here, but I also try to carry my laptop around at this school, which I haven’t done before. (They use a website to schedule their subs instead of calling us, and I like to keep an eye on it during the day). So my laptop takes up most of the space in my bag and doesn’t leave much room for extra shoes.

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      • Oh yay ! Haha, my friend got around being 5’2 also and not having me take notice until a few months after we’ve met largely due to her big big personality haha (:

        And I heard there are these two kind of foldable flats? Made to just squeeze into a full bag (:

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  2. Hey, take it as a compliment. I’m still being asked about my college life, even though that’s been over for a while. I just grin, say that I’m been out of college for a while (!) and thank them for considering me youthful.

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    • I generally take the compliment, but when it begins to impact my ability to do my job because people don’t view me as a professional adult, it becomes frustrating. However, now that the few random gray hairs are starting to appear, I think I’m finally reaching the age when I’ll really appreciate looking younger. 🙂

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  3. Some of my shortest teachers in the past have been the scariest. For some reason, despite their height, they came off with the strongest impressions and left me knowing that she deserved my respect as opposed to some of my other teachers.
    Having worked as a PT aide for about 2 years, I’ve definitely seen my fair share of teachers who come in with back problems or feet problems. The craziest thing is that they don’t know why they’re having problems despite the fact that their answer to “do you wear heels” is “yes, every day from 8 to 3 if not longer.” The way heels prop up the back side of your feet while making your back compensate for the lurching forward tendency is definitely going to take a toll somewhere down the line. The uneven distribution of weight across your feet makes you over compensate in different areas of your body so you can definitely expect to see some adverse effects down the road.
    Think Laughing Duck up there brings up a good point. You could definitely pack a pair of flats or something that’ll give you comfort as well as support especially if you’re on your feet all day :/

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    • Sometimes we have to be scary to be taken seriously. 🙂 I know how to be scary when I have to be.

      Yeah, I think I am going to try to work in more flats anyway, just because I am feeling it in my back more and more, and I don’t want to cause major problems. As I said to her, I don’t think I have much extra room in my bag because I’m also carrying around my laptop now, but for my physical well-being, I’m going to try to wear the flats more.

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  4. I’m 5’4″. I know all the inconveniences of being short. My job requires that I reach for high spots all the time, so I’ve became good friend with my 2-step ladder.

    I’ve never had to lead a group of teens. I’m a team leader, a supervisor for a small group of people. They are not teens, though sometimes it feels they are less mature than some teens I’ve known. My short size was never a problem. I don’t feel weaker. I just work my way at imposing my authority, without a second thought over my appearance. It doesn’t matter that my employees look to me from above. Look at my picture, do I look like an authority person? At work, I don’t wear a uniform which is significantly different from the other employees. I’m just me, doing my job. I know I’m good at it

    Your look has less to do with authority, than your confidence. Maybe because you have used these high heels so much before, they became in your mind a symbol of your authority. I doubt they have much impact outside of your mind, though.

    Stand up. Tell them who you are. Without any prosthesis.

    I too look significantly younger than I am. I was asked for an ID when buying alcohol beverage for about a decade after I was past the legal age. I always thought it was funny, I was never insulted for that. When I turn 65 and retire, I will still look good. Everything becomes meaningful at the right time.

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  5. Sadly, I can no longer wear most heels. The hardware in my foot makes things difficult. But I found a few lines of footwear that offer support and fashion! Check out Clarks and Orthaheel. Both offer heels/wedges and provide support so maybe your body won’t hurt as quickly. I get mine from QVC when they have a sale.

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  6. I’m actually 5’8″ and heels are a wardrobe staple! I own more heels then flats. Why?
    Two reasons.
    1. They say the Higher the Heels, the Closer to God. 😉
    2. Guys don’t like girls that they have to stare up at, and I’m trying to avoid their attention. Although it also gives me attention, since I’m so tall and yet wearing four and six inch heels.

    Ehh, nevermind. I just wish I had some decent flats sometimes. I’m spending all my money on heels, since church is pretty much the only time I’m worried about how I look when I go out. Poor old me. Maybe I wear heels all the time from a deficiency of flats rather than because I prefer them? I hope that someday I’ll know..

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  7. I thought this article was very funny. She doesn’t have a problem with her height, but the whole thing is about having multiple problems with height. If you don’t feel comfortable at belt level of others, guess what. It’s not their belt you have the problem with, it’s your height!

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    • I suppose it does read that way, doesn’t it. 🙂 My point was that even when I went through adolescent phases of wanting to change how I looked, I was never self-conscious about my height for appearance reasons. I like my petite physique, and in normal adult-size settings, I don’t mind being shorter than other people.

      But when the people around me were almost a full two feet taller than me, it became awkward for reasons other than my own self-worth. To be blunt, trying to hold a conversation with a teenage guy while having a better sight-line to his crotch than his face is awkward. I think I can simultaneously be OK with being short and still find that kind of extreme height difference disconcerting. Once I stopped hanging out with NBA-sized boys, I went back to flats. Much more comfortable.

      But yes, I do see the paradoxical nature of this post. 🙂

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  8. I’m student and I’m 1,70 metres tall. I’m taller than more of my teachers, but I respect all of them.For information I’m in 7th grade and my class teacher is 1,50 metres tall- so it’s normal teachers to be shorter than students.Sorry if in this has got errors but my English isn’t perfect, because I’m from a litlle country in South-East Europe who is called Bulgaria

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