Of Heels and Men (Or: Heels and Heels)

I know the common wisdom is women wear high heels to attract men but my boyfriends have never liked me wearing them. I’m a moderately tall woman with unapologetic posture—none of that stooping or pigeon-toeing you find in many ladies of a certain height. Chalk it up to my stint as a yogi, as well as the fact that I am the shortest woman in my family. I am still taller than my dad; in the Rosman clan, a phallus doesn’t necessarily grant you physical dominance.

Maybe it was a desire to get as far as possible from Dad that led me to dating improbably tall men when I was younger. Six foot two, six foot four —one boyfriend (a German, no less) was six foot six. But I also think many women are wired for tall men, as if their height genetically signals good bones, good brains, good odds. Not to mention that it’s hard to resist a fellow who can swing you over his shoulders.

In my early 30s I began a serious relationship with a man poised to become a huge success. This man was not only relatively short (only a few inches taller than me) but physically unprepossessing. I ended our relationship for a reason I still do not regret despite the legendary Internet company he launched soon after our breakup. I appreciated his mind, work ethic, and self-confidence, but couldn’t bear the prospect of a life in which his body was the only to which I had access. As he himself barely acknowledged the body in question, it would have been a patently unfair arrangement.

Afterward, I continued to date shorter people. Partly this was because I had changed my dating criteria (my tenure with the Internet genius had taught me to value more than good looks) but partly, I am sorry to say, because not as many tall drinks of water were around for the swallowing. I did not date any cis-men shorter than me (nor any with unusually small penises; there must be some sexual benefits to dating biological males) but none of these suitors–male or female–cleared six feet.

Theoretically, this was not a cause for concern. These days, it’s not such a big deal for women to be taller than men. Maybe everyone has been unconsciously influenced by the queer community, in which femmes often loom over butches. Lord knows the shorter butches I’ve dated have never minded my height. And look at all the tiny men proudly squiring supermodels about, Tom Cruise and his succession of towering beauties.

Still, the cis-men I date don’t like me in heels.

Usually in stockings or flats, I can rest my head on their shoulder, tuck into their arm. But in heels I loom at least an inch or two over them. Some fellows state their objections plainly—“You’re making me feel like a midget!” “I know it’s retro but I like being the man!” Others merely glower when I wear heels, no matter how many pains I’ve taken with my appearance. I think it’s because, coupled with my outsized personality, the heels dwarf them completely.

Lately, this is less of an issue because I am not dating at all. I’m going through a phase in which all romantic congress seems ridiculous, like a garish projection of one’s worst neuroses and early childhood attachments. If that sounds dour, so be it: My last boyfriend was a horrible cad, and I loved him horribly. Until my faith in this area of life is restored, I enjoy prowling around in high heels every day. They are, after all, my favorites, despite my bad back and the admonitions of my friend Leslie, an instructor of restorative exercise and motion.

I wear secretarial oxfords with three-inch heels. Pumps in navy, black, and leopard. Platforms. Gold stilettos. Jacked-up yellow boots. Mary Janes with a little something extra in the back. (Just like me.) The heels lengthen my leg, lend me a Fellini lady-bustle, pull together nondescript outfits. Best of all, the effect is less sexy than scary. Or scarier, depending on the day.

In heels I tower over most people. In heels I am not remotely diminished, no matter how disappointed I feel. On the subway, on the street, on line at the coffee shop, I carry myself as if I’m on a runway for bitter, middle-aged writers. I click down city blocks with a church-lady menace, sometimes fantasizing about running into my most recent ex–about the eyebrow I’ll cock when he’s forced to tilt his head up in order to meet my gaze.

In the meantime I tower over the blowhard talking down to his teeny-tiny girlfriend. I gaze down at the couple smooching at a traffic light as if they’re dolls arranged by a sexually precocious child. I stare meaningfully at the bald spot of a man behaving piggishly until he notices and reddens. Am I rude? Am I acting out of school? Of course, and if the past is any indication, my mean blues won’t last much longer. But for now, I’d rather be feared than admired.

And so long as that’s true, my heels are as effective as a gun in another girl’s holster.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy