19 April 2008

Vanity of the Bonfires

I'm just sitting here watching the people go walking by; you know I love to watch them stroll. Or, at any rate, it can be rather mesmerizing.

The windows in all three of the main rooms of the apartment where I'm staying over here in Novosibirsk all look out upon a street that runs from the main bus stop hub for this area to the main shopping center for this area. There's been a steady stream of people walking past all day long. So, as I've gone about my Saturday, a bit more relaxing and casual than my busy weekdays have been, I've paused to observe the folks on their way to and fro, and it is somewhat fascinating to me. Partly I am intrigued by those things that are different than back home, and partly I am struck by those things that are so similar. It hits me less so, now, than it did on my first time here (in 1999), but I do still marvel at such observations.

The sweetest thing I've seen today are the number of older couples walking arm in arm along the street, many of the women with bouquets of pretty flowers in hand. I have found that quite charming, and somehow it makes me feel better about life and the whole wide world.

What I do not understand is the number of women wearing pointy high heels. I mean, really, this just seems crazy to me. It's not the sort of thing to which I would normally give a second thought, but it's been hard not to notice these ladies struggling to walk, contorted and off balance as they make their way down the street. Good grief, it makes no sense.

Actually, I've never fully understood the point or purpose to high heels, anyway. Someone told me once (I think it was a woman who said this, so I guess it's safe to repeat it), that heels help to show off a woman's calves as trim and fit and muscular. Okay, that's well and good. These days, it seems downright quaint and wholesome to consider the attractiveness of a woman's calves, which are probably in danger of going unnoticed with all the competition on display above them. But most of the women walking by my window in their three-inch stilleto heels have been wearing jeans, or longer dresses, so there's no question of showing off calves.

This isn't a modesty issue; there's nothing immodest about high heels, so far as I know. But I wonder if it isn't a matter of vanity. I am well aware that we men have our male egos and more than our fair share of vanity, too, so I'm not pointing fingers. I am simply puzzled and a little amused by what seems to me a very strange choice of footwear.

Easily better than half of the women walking by today — maybe as many as 80% of them — have been wearing high heels of one sort or another. But almost none of these ladies have appeared to be very comfortable, graceful or elegant in their shoes. Maybe they don't own anything else? Seriously, though, they're living in Siberia, and I can't believe there's nothing else available. The other 20% of the women somehow managed to find sturdy shoes or winter boots to wear with their jeans.

Consider that we have had several inches of snow here, earlier this week, and temperatures below freezing until today. It's been thawing a bit today, which means that the streets and the pathways are snowy, slushy, slippery and messy. Also, the walk between the bus stop and the shopping center includes a dirt path on an incline through the woods. I ventured out earlier myself, in order to pick up some food for the weekend, and I was wishing that I had my winter boots with me, instead of my tennis shoes, because that path is particularly slick and muddy in many places. So, why on earth would anyone choose to walk that path in heels? Maybe it's easier than it looks, but, as I say, most of these ladies looked pretty awkward today. If they're required to wear heels for some reason, I feel sorry for them. If they've simply chosen to do so out of vanity, I can only shake my head about it.

Probably, I'm just missing the point. Most of the women and young ladies I know tend not to wear high heels very often, and I've certainly never thought poorly of them for it. It's funny, I suppose, but I guess I do notice shoes as much or more than any other articles of fashion. Weird, since I have basically only two pairs of shoes myself. I do know that my future daughter-in-law has quite an impressive collection of shoes. Perhaps she will enlighten me as to why so many of these women would want to wear stilleto heels with their jeans on a snowy spring day in Siberia.


Susan said...

From the girl who wears negative-heel Birkenstocks all the time -- I look majorly DORKY in a dress. Heels definitely make the legs look prettier!

And I agree with you about seeing an older couple walking arm-in-arm, or holding hands, and how that does just make a person feel so much better about the world. I thought something similar when we moved recently, and often would see a mom or dad out taking a walk with a teenage kid. There's just something lovely about that too, instead of always seeing the teens out in groups of teens.

I remember a prof who would come to visit RF for the summer. He and his wife would walk around campus holding hands, and look at each other with so much love in their eyes, and it always warmed the heart to see them.

Monkey Laughs said...

This was quite an amusing post, I will have to direct your future daughter-in-law to it ;-)

sarahlaughed said...

Random comment, but I can't resist: A good friend I made at Pheobe recalled to my attention a small bit of trivia which I had before then forgotten and which since then have found extremely amusing.

Did any of you gentlemen realize that both high-heeled shoes and hose were originally male clothing?

My personal theory is that the gender uncomfortable-clothing reversal is simply men's silent revenge for feminist protests...(not really of course!)

Cindy R. said...

In addition to showing off the calves, high heels make one look more slender by adding to a woman's height without adding to her weight. I suspect this is why women still wear them with jeans.

I never wear high heels, because when you're a 6' 3" woman, you really don't need to be any taller. (And also because it's hard to find women's shoes in my size, so I usually wear men's.)

Even if I was shorter, I doubt that high heels would appeal to me. I'll take functionality and comfort over fashion any day.

Monkey Laughs said...

Hmm, well the future daughter-in-law is trying to think carefully about this ;-)

I think high heals do make a woman's legs/calves look longer and leaner. And as you know, I personally love my high heals for church and special occasions ;-) But as far as Spring in Siberia...that's stretching it! I think it's just one of those things men (and maybe women too!) don't fully understand :-p

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thanks to everyone for their remarks, but it's especially nice to hear from you, Biblical Bekah!

I should clarify that I don't have any objection to high heels, and I hope I didn't come across that way to anyone. It just seems kind of crazy to me, for anyone to be wearing high heels in the mud and snow (not to mention on the public transporation here in Siberia; that's gotta be awkward, too).

Anyway, Bekah, when it comes to women's footwear, you're my hero. What is more, you always look lovely, sensible as well as fashionable, and appropriately modest in your apparel. So, thanks for chiming in.

Truth Questioner, as far as this man is concerned, you ladies are more than welcome to keep the high heels and the hose ;-) They look better on y'all, anyway. (I'm not planning to shave my legs, either.)

My own wardrobe is amazingly simple, even if it's not very fashionable: either a t-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes, or a clerical shirt, black slacks and dress shoes. Which probably means that I'm about the last person in the world to be giving fashion advice to anyone!

That's the great thing about a blog, though. Anyone can be his own self-proclaimed expert on anything. . . . That's thinking out loud with tongue-in-cheek ;-)