Last week, I listened to a podcast in the shower. As Ken rocked Scout in the kitchen, as Bee drew an adventure map in the office, I steamed away a busy afternoon, tuned in to stories from another life. When I rinsed the shampoo or bent to shave my shins, the water would rush past my ears and I’d miss a few lines. But it didn’t matter. Again and again, through similar tales of shoes and shades, of suits and shirts, each story was designed to explore the intersection of practicality and personality, of substance and style. The question was this: Do clothes have the power to transform us?
After my shower, I towel off to slather on lotion. I peer at my closet.
Absolutely, I think.
My wardrobe, currently, calls for comfort. My days are spent largely at home, in jeans or leggings, bathrobe or tees. My tops must stand the test of baby drool, my pants need to accommodate 2am cinnamon pecan consumption. Layered accessories are asked to perform triple duty: my favorite oversized scarf acts as both baby blanket and fort ceiling, sometimes called upon for necessary coverage when I need to sign for a UPS package sans bra.
And my shoes?
Well, that’s a whole different ballgame.
I’ve heard it said that beauty is pain. That to look pretty, one must squeeze and tuck, bend and contort. We like to say it isn’t true, but then again, a closer look at some of our most common beauty treatments are decidedly wince-worthy: the waxing of the legs, the plucking of the eyebrow. Chemical peels, pore extraction, the occasional burns from wielding a flatiron on too little sleep.
To say nothing of Spanx.
I’ve always fallen into the comfort camp, choosing to dismiss the idea that we must suffer for style, that beauty must burn. Surely it isn’t either/or? Surely there’s a better way, a third option, a new path to discover?
And then I found the most comfortable heels in the universe.
I’m not often seen in heels. I attend far more playdates than dates these days, wait in far more carpools than town cars. And yet. There is one portion of my life in which I don them, unabashedly, without fail:
With my book launching in just ten weeks, the bulk of my current workload is heavily geared toward promotion. Phone calls, Skype meetings, podcast recordings, media interviews – the latter of which have been in heavy rotation for the past few days.
The routine is simple: At noon, after a morning with the littles, I slink down to the sound-deadening basement with coffee in hand to talk about myself into a pop screen and a computer.
I get nervous time after time. Ever and always. Still.
Once, while having coffee with a friend and fellow author, I confessed my discomfort: It’s just, I’m looking down at my t-shirt and I see mashed banana on the sleeve and think, Why on earth am I qualified to speak about anything of substance? I’m not even wearing a clean shirt.
And she looked at me, adding sugar to her Ethiopia brew, and said this:
Why don’t you just change your shirt?
And that’s precisely how I began dressing up for podcasts.
Sure, no one can tell. No one sees whether I’m in slippers or Rockports, whether there’s mashed banana (or worse) on my shirt sleeve. No one will know whether I’m wearing a blazer or not, whether I’m wearing lipstick or not, whether I’m wearing Spanx or not (a definite not).
And yet, I notice.
I feel myself sitting up taller in my heels, answering questions with confidence, listening with curiosity, leaning forward into the conversation, inviting growth and change and wisdom.
Do clothes have the power to transform us?
Later, after a few hours of interviews, I emerge from the basement. There are groceries to buy, packages to send, and the morning’s 2am wake-up call means a serious coffee restock is in order. Bee finishes her apples and hops down from the kitchen stool to join me for errands while Scout sleeps.
We’ll be back in a bit! I say, kissing Ken on the cheek as he settles into the office to start his own work day.
Aren’t you gonna change your shoes? he asks, surveying my heels.
Nope, I say, reaching for my keys. I like how these feel.
This essay was written for Zappos.com and Rockport, two brands I love and recommend for comfort, style and amazing online service. If you’re on the hunt for your own heels that are really-and-truly-so-so-comfortable(!), check out Rockport’s Total Motion collection here.