Yes, those are my legs. And those are my new gladiator sandals. I fell in love with that style of shoe a few years ago and am just now getting to own a pair. Incidentally, I’ve never been much of a shoe person or even much for style for that matter. Practical shoes are a matter of survival because my primary form of transportation is walking. Shoes have to be able to stand up to sometimes hour-long walks. However, I’ve been opening up my options lately and decided to splurge while I had the chance.
Something happened to me while I tried on these shoes. I fell in love with them and unexpectedly with the way my legs looked at them. At 5’3″ knee-high shoes/boots will eat my legs, but these look and feel just right. So I did something I rarely if ever do: I took a selfie. Admittedly, throughout my life, my legs have been one of my (if not the) best features, but I never really saw it that way. I’ve always been much too practical to wear shoes that brought attention to anything other than the sight of me walking away. Now I feel like one of those women who spouts memes declaring the therapeutic properties of a new pair of shoes.
Then there are the selfies. I have no skills whatsoever when it comes to taking selfies, so I usually leave that to the people who have had smartphones for years and take selfies like pros. I know my face isn’t in these pics, but to me they still count. You see I’ve been paying attention to the social media fights that denigrate women who take selfies (even though “selfies” have been around as long as photography and painting for that matter) as well as the responses such as #feministselfie and #whywouldIbejealousofyoubitch. I didn’t participate, but I understood the response to this criticism of criticizing those who dare take a camera, turn it on themselves and validate their existence.
After I took my pics, I could not stop looking at them. I truly liked what I saw, which is unusual when I’m the subject in front of a camera. Selfies take work: lighting, angle, pose, etc. I just don’t have the equipment and patience to make good ones. But I like what I have here. I like the way my legs look in these photos I took with my web cam. For once, I felt like I had permission to love myself and embrace my vanity.
That was when it occurred to me that this whole self-love thing is a constant process, something I have to work on every day. I tell myself that I don’t have problems with loving myself when I see conversations that remind people of how black women and girls don’t get the same kind of love we feel everyone deserves, so we have to compensate. I tell myself that I accepted myself years ago and I’m over all those fears and insecurities.
What I have to admit to myself is that at age 35, I haven’t completely gotten over the fears and insecurities and I may never fully do it. I have to admit that even at this age, I have to remind myself that I’m worthy of existence and I have a right to exist. I have a right to be me. I have to remind myself because I often have a conversation with myself that I’m the only one I know who truly loves me and I have to be okay with that. I took these pictures for myself and gave myself a much needed boost to my ego and my willingness to see myself in a light I don’t often like to paint myself: sexy.
Part of that process in loving myself more has been unconditionally loving other black women with no regards to respectability. Seeing how other women deal with life on a day-to-day basis while loving every aspect of themselves has helped me tremendously over the past few years. I’ve found a new appreciation for fashion, makeup, cosplay, piercings, tattoos and other signs of “alternative” living that I might have shunned 10 years ago.
It feels strange that a pair of shoes would bring out such a response in me. I used to loathe the idea that I would become one of “those” women with a closet full of shoes, one pair for each day of the month. Well, I’m not one of those women, but there is nothing wrong with those women. I see why they love a good pair of shoes every once in a while. I see why they like to take pictures of themselves in all their finery. They dare to love themselves in a society that constantly tells them they should hate what they see in the mirror society holds up to them and says they will never live up to what they should be. They dare to exist as they are. And I’m getting there.