Bare Feet and Ballgowns: On Defying Convention

Last week I was invited to the Henley festival to see my old chum Lionel Richie. (I saw him a fortnight ago at Glasto as well – that’s more than I see most of my mates, so I figure we’re pretty much BFFs now.) Henley is not a festival of the muddy fields and tent persuasion though – it’s a black-tie affair. It’s more ballgown, less fall-down; more Champers, fewer campers; more ‘darling’ than Carling.

As my wardrobe harbours a deeply fabulous and over-the-top sequinned number inveigled from the wardrobe department at the end of a tour many years ago, I was excited to have this rare opportunity to put on the glitz. I’m very appreciative of the fact that I do all of my work super-comfy in either jeans or lycra and have never had to suffocate in a suit, but I do like to dress up once in a while!

However…. six months ago I was at an event to which I had worn high heels. They looked great, but it was largely a standing-around-chatting party, and as the night wore on I was in increasing amounts of pain, to the point where I was finding it hard to concentrate on conversations. And as I looked around me, I thought, ‘you know what? None of the men are putting themselves through this!’ I swore off high heels, unless literally going from taxi to bar stool to taxi, there and then. But I hadn’t put it to the test – until now.

At black-tie events – indeed any glam events – it’s largely the case that the women will wear heels with their fancy outfits. It’s almost a given that a fabulous frock is in want of fabulous shoes, and my dress is like a mobile mirror ball – FABULOUS. I tried it with cowboy boots but they looked too heavy. I tried it with sparkly flip-flops but it wasn’t quite right. I even tried it with my sequinned Moroccan slippers, but I just looked like I’d got distracted halfway through dressing.

And then it hit me – why do I have to wear shoes at all? Says who? Where is it written that a person must be shod in public at all times? It was a warm, dry evening, and I would be standing on grass. So ‘the hell with it’ I thought – ‘I’m going barefoot!’

Reader, it was one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done! I was as comfortable as can be, free to enjoy dancing and walking and standing around talking with no unhappy body parts. Not to mention the entertainment gained by seeing people’s reactions! A hilarious mix of curiosity (the men) envy (the women) and disdain (the more, shall we say ‘buttoned-up’ festival goers), it was a source of great amusement for me and my friends! The only slight downer was that, being on the short side, our group selfies show only the top two-thirds of my head…. but my god, it’s a small price to pay (and it did afford my tall, high-heeled friends great hilarity. Until they too had sore feet that is.)

So what’s the deal with these silly non-rules which suck us in and make us believe there’s only one way to do things? I mean, obviously there are laws, and the useful universal codes of conduct like not stealing, not being violent, and being truthful; but they’re a different thing altogether. I’m talking about the petty, life-restricting conventions which would have us all blindly conform and follow the script, never pausing to ask: why? Why do I have to dress like this, live like that, sheep along after everyone else, live like an automaton? If we stop and consider for a moment, pause and question the reason and wisdom behind our ingrained actions, we might find that they make no sense, and that we don’t have to be the same as everyone else! If something works for us then great, but let’s all give our learned behaviours and pack-mentalities some thought. Let’s all channel our inner four-year-old and start asking: why?

Because as a wise man once said, the unexamined life is not worth living. And it’s certainly much too short for sore feet!

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