Monday, March 18, 2013

High Heels

When our daughter Josephine was 12, she and I decided it was time to give her bedroom a good purging, with the main objective being to get rid of "toys." To expedite things, I emptied all her shelves, drawers, boxes and bins onto the floor, making a pile of everything that I felt she'd outgrown. I then called her in with the idea being that we'd turn that into three piles: keep, pitch, store in the basement. She took one look at the pile and said, "Let's get rid of all of it."

I was stunned. "Don't you want to at least keep this? No? How about this?" Impressed by her lack of sentimentality about stuff, it was then left to me to play a new game of sorting into four piles: save as a keepsake, donate to Goodwill, take to the school.

For the most part, this explains why Woodland Park has such a large collection of shoes, the core of which I've augmented over the years with interesting cast-offs from other sources. We've mainly used them over the years for purposes of counting, matching, and sorting, as well as to use as painting tools -- the soles make interesting prints. We have sneakers, and wooden clogs, and soccer cleats, and tap shoes in there as well, but much of the stash are of the fancy, girly variety, and when I pulled them out last week to put with our day-to-day dress up clothing, it was a set of cheap, plastic "princess" high heels that got most of the attention.

In fact, when the 3-5's class convened last Monday, we saw the kids fall out by gender in a way we've not seen so much of this year, the boys on their knees pushing around the toy fire trucks, while the girls tried on shoes, who then began tottering around the place like stilt walkers. There was a certain amount of quiet joking among our parent-teachers about the cliche of women and shoes. And I'll admit, it's a bit hard to watch these little girls, their lower torsos angled into uncomfortable shapes that have become equated with "feminine," their feet pinched and mangled, too reminiscent of those bizarre looking junior beauty queens, all in the name of "fashion." My own daughter, of course, is now wearing real heels to dances and other fancy events, having practiced in these very toy shoes. 

A couple of the boys tried out the shoe box, un-ironically giving the heels a try, even going about the business of pushing their fire tricks with them on their feet. When the Pre-3 class had their turn, many more of the boys tried walking around in them. But it was our boy-heavy 5's class that surprised me the most, as many of them, without joking or even any outward acknowledgement that they knew they were gender-bending, slipped on those shoes for a turn around the classroom. 

But, you know, it was mostly the girls who were drawn to these shoes. And despite the joking that "she came out of the womb loving shoes," it's obviously not nature that causes them to seek out body deforming fashion, any more than it's nature for boys to be drawn to superhero play. In fact, I guess it's more or less the same thing: for better or worse we've managed to imbue high heels with a certain symbolic power and children will always be drawn to that in their dramatic play.

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