Monday, June 20, 2016

A Literary Exercise--Stiletto Style


by Paula Gail Benson

Each year in May, Charleston, South Carolina holds its Spoleto Festival--two weeks of music, theater, dance, and arts, taking place in venues throughout the city. This year would be special. The Festival planned to present a production of Porgy and Bess, the quintessential Charleston opera. As part of the celebration for the new production of Porgy, a two-hour walking tour of Charleston would feature locations that had influenced DuBose Heyward as he wrote the novel that he and George and Ira Gershwin turned into musical theater.

Walking. In muggy, humid, 90 plus degree May in Charleston. Hummmm. Sounds like an intense literary exercise to me.

I knew this would require training.

My office was having a fitness program that allowed us to buy Fitbits at reduced rates. I got one and started counting my steps. That recommended 10,000 a day was a difficult number to achieve. I was proud on the days I neared 5,000.

It helped me to stay motivated with a walking program if I had some diversity in my strolls. I began pondering what might give me some added incentives.

Around March, I was admiring the Stiletto Gang’s new graphics when it occurred to me that I had never owned a pair of stilettos. Oh, I’d watched many women perched on pencil thin stilts. They reminded me of that song from the musical Wicked, “Defying Gravity.”

The idea of wearing stilettos in public was completely out of the question for me. I have sufficient embarrassment in life without having the appearance of an inept circus performer. Besides, I’ve usually got my head involved with so many other things that having to maintain my balance in anything other than flats would be multi-task overload. But, it occurred to me that, in the privacy of my own home, where no one could witness my wobbling, stilettos might be a good form of exercise.

Exercise? Stilettos?

Think about it. To wear stilettos requires poise, confidence, controlling equilibrium, and focusing upon a change in body centering. Aren’t those the kinds of things that Yoga and Pilates masters are always emphasizing?

Okay, so, what does a pair of exercise stilettos look like?

I suppose some would let that selection speak to their inner wild child and go with a model they might never in fact wear in public. From careful study of this matter, let me assure you there are plenty of options for that kind of expression. Animal skin prints. Psychedelic colors. Lots of possibilities.

But, I didn’t need to add craziness to my life. I have that in ample degrees. I needed to add calm stability. At least as steady as one can be teetering on five inch heels.

Then, the answer came to me. I’d channel the serenity of the Duchess of Cambridge.

After she first appeared in her impossibly elegant, goes with everything, nude heels, they became a fashion sensation. So that is what I acquired. A pair of five-inch (okay, there is a one-inch platform at the ball of my foot so I’m only really balancing on four inches) glamorously beige stilettos. They arrived in a hideously large box. Flats wearers never see shoe boxes of that size. And, when I opened it to look upon them, well, I thought I understood how climbers must feel when they stand at the base of Everest—it’s a long way up.

Then, in my head, I heard Idina Menzel singing from Wicked, “Unlimited. . . . [and nothing’s gonna] bring me down!” Although, I must admit, it might have been more appropriate for the theme from Frozen (“Let It Go”) to be playing.

With a great deal less assurance than I felt, I released those monster slippers from their tissue wrappings and placed them on the floor. Gracefully, I pointed my toes and eased them into the confines of each pump. Then, taking a deep breath, I rose to a height I had never experienced before.

At least, not from the ground.

Now, the challenge was to take that first step. This was one small step for a woman, one giant leap for empowerment, and one mind-blowing moment in understanding. Suddenly, I knew why women put themselves through this torture. To prove they can. To do all that Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.

So I began my routine of walking, in my stilettos, down the hall of my home. Not that I’m ready for a public debut, but I am building my skills.

And, when I arrived for the Spoleto walking tour. I was ready and finished the two-hour vigorous course, making it a banner day in my Fitbit history with a total of 11,412 steps!

The next day, when I entered Charleston’s magnificent Gaillard Center where Porgy and Bess was presented, I followed a young woman wearing stilettos up the grand stairway. Smiling, I thought, “Sure, you wear them for dress up, but do you exercise in them?”

[For more information about my Spoleto experiences, please check out tomorrow's blog on Writers Who Kill!]

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