I had the amazing opportunity to spend 2 weeks in Rome this year which is a city of history, art, passion, and appetite. Among the many, many things Italy does well are shoes.
The best thing about shoe shopping in Italy was something that actually stunned me. They sell primarily sensible shoes. I realized that in America when I look for shoes most stores have about 70% high heels to 30% shoes the average 40 year old could comfortably walk in for a few hours (excluding trainers or athletic shoes, which are their own category). In Rome, the proportions were flipped – 70% walkable, low heel shoes, 30% high perilous heels. And the walkable shoes were stylish, meaning that all women, young to old, had cool shoes and the I-am-comfortable-moving-through-the-world attitude that went with the actually comfortable shoes.
Now sure, Rome has cobblestone streets so ladies in the high heels are taking serous risks with their ankles. But it really struck me, how far we in America have gone down this road of foot torture and high heel extremes. Searching for a “sexy shoe” will have one wading through hundreds of 4 inch heels or higher and it can seem like shoe designers consider 2 inch heels not worth the effort to make look hip in any way. Celebrities are regularly seen in 8 inch, even 11 inch heels. Well designed? Maybe. Comfortable? Doubtful. The idea that beauty or sexiness is something you have to be willing to hurt for seems to be gaining more of a hold.
I know for me that wincing while I walk or breaking into a cold sweat while trying not to think about my feet just standing still, is not sexy. I, too, am drawn in by the angle of a foot and tensed leg in a high heel. Sexy to look at. Well suited to being off your feet, which can be sexy. But limiting. It is also sexy to dance for hours, to hop on bikes and go somewhere secluded, to walk for hours and eat gelato after dark (did I mention the gelato? Oh man.) Sexy is being free to move. Sexy feels good.
Let’s say that again because I don’t think we hear it enough. Sexy feels good. Hmmm, I feel like dancing.
I have already written about the pressures to be sexy and desirable at all times, so let’s look at a different angle. What is it about costumes that invites people’s sexy out? What is it about Halloween that gives people free rein to set aside their respectable straight laced (and I don’t mean a corset) personas?
Halloween allows, no, embraces, the taboo. It is a time to show the shadow, the normally unacceptable and so it frees us to push the edge a bit. It is ok to be over the top on this night without expecting to be judged. It is not “real” so it is all ok.
And that I think is a key to why this side of people comes to the surface on Halloween. It is a safe time to let it show without having to take it seriously. The play aspect of costumes allows a risk-taking that is good for us. We can bring out a fantasy or a previously hidden persona within us without the worry that we will be rejected – because it is only in play! We set down the burden of having to process - is it ok for me to express this, to like this, to want to be seen this way? We are not asking our partner to incorporate this into our sex lives from now on or to change their image of who we are. It’s just for tonight. Oh, and everyone else is doing it too.
I wish we gave ourselves permission to play like this more often. Why reserve one might a year for experimenting with sexual expression? What if you and your partner agreed to not take things too seriously, to show up in ways that are silly or risky or possibly over the top? Like on Halloween, in the privacy of your bedroom no one should misinterpret you as saying you want to behave like this in every setting. And like Halloween costumes, there are thousands upon thousands of ways to express yourself. You can just try them on and see how it feels. What if we didn’t have to be embarrassed about wanting to step outside of our day to day roles and rules and share something different with our sexual playmates?
Invite the freedom of, “hey sweetie, it’s only a costume…”
If I am a slice of pizza, of course, I must be a sexy slice of pizza...
It’s that time of year again. The time for women to be presented with costume choices that range from nearly naked to just strategically exposed. Ugh, the tyranny of “sexy” once again. Today I saw his/hers versions of Freddy Kruger costumes in a catalog. OK, Freddy is scary and a little bit gross, correct? If you want to be Freddy you are going for the serial killer, monstrous vibe. The guys costume was pretty straight from the movie – red and black striped sweater, black pants, boots, hat, and the knife fingers. Great. All items a woman can wear, right? But no, the women’s costume had a ripped sweater (to display cleavage), mini skirt, fishnets, and high heel boots (no doubt, great for chasing children down in dream land). If a woman likes Freddy, why would she have to portray him differently than a man? Why on Halloween do we drop all practical considerations about the way we can dress? Why do our clothing choices actually become more limited rather than more free when we are in costume? Even if we say she needs to portray a female version of a serial killer, is the best we can come up with that she would wear a miniskirt and heels? Really? Pardon my costumer sensibilities but why can‘t a woman dress like she would actually like to kick some ass (maybe even without flashing her panties)? Or at least, survive a horror movie encounter.
Sexy costumes are fun. Be a sexy something or other if that is what you want to embody this year. I can think of a lot of things and roles that are genuinely sexy. But make it your own – don’t give in the simplified belief that sexy is about breasts and thighs. See if you can be more creative than that; what feels sexy to you? And, we have to say that when every costume a woman can buy is a sexy-fied version of anything, something is wrong. Halloween should be a time when all options are available to you – that is the gift of a costume, you can be anything you want to be. You can choose to be macho, ugly, badass, monstrous, powerful, magical, otherworldly, alien, creepy, funny, unreal, haunting, commanding, wicked, angelic, maniacal, possessed, exotic, inappropriate, historic, cartoonish, dainty, or something else. Just don’t buy into the idea that you can only translate that through the vehicle of first being sexy. Don’t limit yourself or your fantasy because what is being sold to you is not very creative.
Set aside some time by yourself to reacquaint yourself with your body. This should take at least a half hour, maybe an hour. Take time to transition from your day, light a candle or take a shower, put on some slow music, take off your clothes and meet your self in bed. Lay back and relax in to the bed – you are going to take some time. Take some deep breaths and allow yourself to shift your focus to physical sensations. Feel the air in the room on your skin, your breath moving your chest and stomach, feel your body pressing into the bed underneath you. Now use your hands to touch yourself. Rather than going straight for your genitals or trying to feel something specific, start at the top of your forehead – yes, your forehead. Use your hands to explore the skin and terrain of your face. Focus on what you feel in your hands for awhile. Then focus on what you feel in your face. Go slowly. Move down to your neck and shoulders. Just slowly open to the sensations in your hands as they touch your body. Take your time. Then move down to your chest…side of your body…stomach. Keep returning your focus to what your skin and the dips and hills of your body feel under your hands. Let yourself experience your body from a new perspective, the perspective of your hands. This is not about how you look, keep your eyes closed so you can stay focused on sensation. Keep moving down your body, explore your hips….pelvis…. notice how your skin feels over your bones. Be curious about what parts of you are warm and what parts are cool. Keep exploring with your hands. Touch your genitals. Again keep the focus on what your hands feel, textures, heat, movement. Don’t stop exploring there, keep moving down your body…your thighs…knees… shins…. feet. Pay attention to each part of your body.
What was it like to approach your body in this way? How might it change your image of yourself if you focused more what your body is like to touch, rather than to look at? What words came to mind about your body when you explored it this way? Can you imagine bringing this kind of focused attention to masturbation or sex with a partner? Do you want to do this again? Great, your body is yours to explore again and again. Enjoy.
Think for a bit about times in recent memory when you felt attractive or sexy. What were you doing? What was your body doing or feeling? Sometimes we imagine we will feel more attractive when we are dressed up, going out, being seen. But think for yourself, maybe you remember feeling vibrant and attractice when you are home alone dancing to music, sitting on your porch eating lunch in the sun, or at work giving a presentation. What are you wearing when you feel attractive? Who are you with? What people invite you to feel sexy and appealing? Why do you open up this part of yourself when you are with them? How do you see yourself through their eyes? Write about some of these times, recall the details, remind yourself what was going on for you in those moments. And then answer thsi question - what is it in those times that allows you to open to your own beauty or sex appeal or confidance?
As a New Year's resolution, you may decide to consciously create more times like that in your days and weeks. How can you build more space for yourself to feel attractive. It is not about waiting until you have lost weight or developed your pecs or erased your wrinkles. It is about knowing how to bring sexiness and attraction out in yourself and being your best, most confidant self now.