I wore high heels to school. I didn’t want to. I’d have much preferred to wear flat sensible shoes. But all the other girls wore heels, so I did too.
I was a new girl. I was an Australian girl in an English school and I did what the other girls did, because I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to belong.
So I click-clacked my way down endless school corridors with a smile on my face (despite my sore feet.) I learnt to control those extra tall heels like an expert. But one thing I never got the hang of was walking high heeled in the snow.
One afternoon, as I was sliding home from school, with sodden sore feet, the answer to my problem suddenly popped into my head: “What I need is something to hold onto.” I pondered a bit more as I wobbled along, and then I had another thought: “What I really need is an arm to hold onto.” Yes, if I had someone to cling to, maybe I wouldn’t slip and slide and tumble over onto the cold icy snow. But where would I find an arm?
Then one day a boy in my class said in an offhand kind of way, “You could come with me to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Saturday night.” I thought about it for a full 5 seconds. The Rocky Horror Picture Show? No; I didn’t think that was my thing at all.
Then the next week the same boy sauntered past and casually said, “The China Syndrome is showing at the cinema. Fancy going to see it on Saturday night?” “What’s it about?” I asked, and after hearing all the movie details, I was silent for a few seconds or more, while I thought. Yes? No? Was the movie worth seeing? Perhaps. So I said, “Yes; why not?” The following Saturday evening we caught a bus together into town for our very first date.
Soon I had an arm to cling onto whenever I was walking to and from school. Not that I needed an arm by that time. Had the snow melted? No; it was still deep on the ground. But I was no longer picking my way through it, wearing ridiculous high heeled shoes.
You see, one day my friend Linda arrived at school wearing new shoes. I looked at her feet and my eyes opened wide. Her feet were flat on the ground. She was striding down the corridors in a pair of sensible brown lace-up shoes. I breathed a sigh of relief. That evening I tossed my high heels into a far corner of the cupboard. The next day I strode to school, crunching effortlessly through the snow, with a huge grin on my face. Linda and I were different together.
Although I no longer needed an arm, I clung to that high school boy anyway. Arm in arm, we went on hundreds of dates together. We gazed up at every cinema screen in town, while sharing popcorn. I travelled to all his rugby matches, and sat valiantly in the cold wind, while pretending to watch. We played squash and he beat me every time. We walked side-by-side through woods and along coastal paths, not even noticing the spectacular views. We ate hot chips out of newspaper, with gloves on our hands, on frosty winter nights. We sat shoulder-to-shoulder on park benches, and we talked and talked.
That boy was Andy. He asked me to marry him. I thought about it for a spilt second and said, “Yes; why not?"
We’ve been married nearly 31 years now. I look back through time to the school kids we used to be and I say, “Andy, why did you want to go out with me? What was it you liked about me?”
And he replies, “You were different. You were special. You still are." Then he adds, "You were you."
I was me. I still am. And I found a place to belong: On the arm of my beloved.