11 September, 2010

On Being A Girl Who Loves Shoes

As I tucked my new suede heels into their little box this morning a thought occurred to me- I am being defined by my obsession with shoes. People see ridiculous footwear and immediately think of me. While this doesn't bother me one bit (keep 'em coming!), I wonder if my choice of profession has finally defined me as the thing I dread most: "A Girl".

Being called "a girl" isn't something I've ever taken pride in. I never wanted to be grouped in with other girls as a child, and most of my best friends were boys (who I suspect turned out to be gay, in the end). As I've gotten older, I've begun to both embrace and loathe all the trappings of being female. I love a night with boys eating steak, gawking at girls, and playing video games. I am not squeamish about blood or real life gore, yet scary and violent movies make me hide my eyes like a child. I freely admit that I am a sex fiend who likes offensive humour and reads comics. I wear my scars with pride, but worry that I always look a little tired and a little chubby. One day I might be working with the table saw and the next I might be trying on latex clothing, obsessing over shoes and expensive lingerie, or hunting for a new eye shadow. As a liberated female who proudly calls herself a slut and doesn't abide by standard rules for feminine looks or behaviour, why do I feel like less of a person for being a girl obsessed with designing shoes?

Does a huge shoe collection mean I should be taken less seriously as a person? Does it mean my head is empty of any real thoughts? I worry that is the impression people will have of me as I approach Imelda Marcos levels of shoe ownership.

In my own defense, I am not sitting around drawing strappy "sexy" stiletto heels. I hate that shit. The sorts of things I design have weight to them. I want to work in unusual metals, wood, plastics, and rubber as well as the traditional leathers. Making shoes by hand involves a lot of industrial machines, hammering, toxic glues, and decidedly ungirly tools.

Now, having said that, why do I feel I need to "defend" myself against being considered a girl? Do *I* think girls that are obsessed with shoes should be taken less seriously?Do I see people who like fashion and makeup as empty-headed fleshlights on legs? Am I a female chauvinist pig who thinks that I gain power and sexual desirability by being one of the boys? (Which in turn means that this is all about showing off to get a boy's attention- something decidedly girly.) Perhaps I am the feminist's worst nightmare.

I truly believe that the whole point of feminism is that a woman can be however she wants to be, yet here I am judging myself for having feminine traits and interests such as shoes.

I have no answers yet, just lots of thoughts.

09 September, 2010

First Ink

I have had a tattoo idea in my head for nearly five years. I have always known exactly what I wanted, but it never felt like the right time to get it. I asked a friend to type out the word I desired on her vintage typewriter, and I carried around the image in my wallet for years, knowing I wanted it to look a little worn and weathered.

When I moved to London I knew I would get my first ink here. But the tattoo had to mark a moment in my life, and my first year in the UK was rife with stress and unhappiness. I didnt want it to be a reminder of a horrible time, so I waited. I thought I might get it done when I moved into the flat and began life afresh, but again, my life was in flux, and I didn't want to mark that in my skin.

But I believe I am beginning an upward trend. Although I am sad to leave London, I am starting something new, and embracing some big changes in my future. I am once again feeling optimistic about life. I knew it was time.

And today was the day I got inked.

I was terrified. Not of the pain, but of not liking the outcome. Before we began my tattooist asked if I wanted the word to face me or face outward. The question took me by surprise- I had never considered having it face outward. This tattoo is for me, and me alone. That's why I went to have it done alone.

So why "change."? If there is word that defines me, it is "change". I feel that I am always striving to change for the better, and to not get stuck in a rut. In English it is also a command and a reminder that if I don't like the way things are, I have the power to change them. I also enjoy the irony that the first permanent marking on my body is about impermanence.

I was terrified this morning, but now I love it! I'm going to be very good to it, follow all the instructions my tattooist gave me, and in two weeks it will feel as though it's always been there.

02 September, 2010

25 pt 2- a shoe-filled happy day!

My 25th birthday was awesome! The only thing that could have made it even better would be having my boyfriend here with me.

As I walked home through the park, carrying a berry tart and a bag full of goodies I thought back to my birthday one year ago. I was turning 24 and spending my birthday alone. I didn't really know anyone, had just left Saint Martins and I was feeling pretty shaken up. And now at 25 I spent the day surrounded by some of my favourite people, feasting on tea and cake, and trying on shoes I could never afford with my favourite redhead!

The day began a bit badly when my birthday high heels were delivered and I found to my dismay that they'd sent the wrong size. Having planned to meet said Favourite Redhead at Liberty for tea and cake I suggested we meet outside Selfridges, so I could return the shoes I'd ordered.

I've always been afraid of big fancy department stores like Selfridges, but today I found it really fun to go in and browse. I returned the shoes and instead bought the ones I REALLY wanted in the right size. And because it was my birthday I  let myself go try on ridiculously high shoes and prance around the store for a while...
Then, to make sure the day was FULL of shoes, we visited the Vivienne Westwood shoe exhibit in the basement of the store. And Oh. My. God. SO inspiring! SO brilliant! If you are in London, and love the glorious Miss Westwood, go take a look at the mini-exhibition. It's worth your time, trust me!
Feeling a bit like a tourist with my American accent and big ol' yellow Selfridges bag, we made our way to Liberty- another store I've been scared of- for fancy tea and cake. We ate so much cake we both had an insane sugar high followed by an immediate food coma. But the coma was offset by the best birthday gift ever.... a miniature red silk fez, custom made just for me! It is made to sit on the left side of my head at a jaunty angle. I LOVE IT! It makes me go SQUEEEEEE every time I think about it!

After tea we wandered upstairs to the shoe department just for a looksee (because, yaknow, we hadn't seen enough footwear for one day) before heading out into the Carnaby street crowd. We passed Irregular Choice's new store and spotted a pair of boots in the window that I'd been curious about. So I figured, it being my birthday and all...... and the boots looked SO good and fit SO comfortably that I have decided to get them as soon as I can afford them. They are space girl rockstar boots!

Then it was time to head back to East London where my coworkers (have I mentioned my new job yet?) were having a September Birthday Do, as 4 of the 5 of us have September birthdays. I'd invited a few friends and took my shoes, my fez, and my girl with me to the bar. We were greeted with hugs and an open bar tab, and a huge red fruity tart just for me! :) How did they know I prefer fruity things to cake?

Friends turned up, drinks were had, chatting seemed to be going well when my boss suddenly pulls out his phone to show me a photo. "Lady Gray," he says (he calls me that in the office to distinguish between myself and the other Rachel),  "what is your opinion of these shoes?" He shows me a pair of United Nude heels that I have seen before and liked. Knowing United Nude is having a sample sale at Truman Brewery (get down there, people!) and knowing he's been looking for a pair for his Rachel, I gave them a thumbs up. Then he said, "well if you like them, they are yours! I found them in a size 41, and Rachel said you'd like them and I thought they might be your style, so...." My boss bought me shoes! SQUEEEEEEEE! 
The evening ended and I was full of gin and tonics, covered in birthday kisses and hugs, carrying cakes, shoes, a graphic novel my friend illustrated, and a fez made just for me all the way home.

It was a very good day.

01 September, 2010


In 40 minutes I will be 25 years old.
A quarter of a century! "Makes a girl think," as Marilyn Monroe said.

I really hoped things would be a little better by 25. I would have liked to have accomplished something significant other than gaining weight and drawing pretty things in my sketchbook. I feel I didn't make the most of my time in London when it comes to my career. I feel like a failure and this birthday feels like a marker of how I wasted this opportunity to make something of myself.

On the other hand....
Is 25 really old enough to have done anything?
What were you doing at 25?