In My Red High Heels
Starting from scratch in a foreign land, this woman feels naked, stripped of her job title and social status. Learning English, upgrading professional skills, establishing new social networks, even getting a new driver’s license – everything is time-consuming. With the years racing past, she tries to keep her mood upbeat. Perhaps overcompensating for her age, since she arrived in Canada, she has discarded her usual wardrobe, replacing it with the clothes and accessories of a younger and bolder style. Gone are the sensible brown pumps! For the first time in her life, she has stepped out in sexy red high heels.
I am wearing a pair of coral-coloured high heels. A strap goes over the toes and then continues between the mid and outer sole on both sides. A wider strap wraps upward around the ankle and meets its other end at the back, where a tiny vertical zipper runs up from the heel, accentuating the shape of the ankle and drawing attention to the calf muscles.
The elegant shoe is mounted on a ten-centimetre heel. Like a champagne glass, the slim body of the heel widens from below. Its sole is a curvy platform diving down from the heel to the tip of the toe. Finally, a golden insole enhances the shoe’s glamour. The glossy vamp, the narrowness, the height of the heel and the sleek lines give this shoe a stereotypically feminine and definitely alluring appearance.
When I was packing my luggage for a recent trip to the Caribbean, this pair of shoes was the last item that I had to fit carefully into my suitcase. At that moment, I noticed my husband watching me from the doorway and shaking his head. Suddenly, he uttered, “Are you out of your mind? We are going to a small island, not a fashion show in Italy! What do you think you are going to do with those shoes on the beach?”
I looked at him and replied, “I cannot go to work in them. So where else can I wear them but on vacation?” Trying to ignore his comment, I continued to rearrange my clothes in the suitcase to make sufficient room for my dazzling red heels.
I consider myself a practical and down-to-earth woman, not the kind who derives her self-esteem from her physical attractiveness. During my twenties, when I was preoccupied with launching my career, I chose shoes that were as comfortable, functional and formal as possible: usually nondescript brown loafers. Gradually, my needs and preferences began changing, and so did my style. Whenever I go shopping now, I find myself gravitating towards straight-cut mini-skirts and sexy high-heeled shoes. What is going on?
Something has definitely changed. At first, I didn’t notice it, but now I can see that my current clothing choices reflect whatever is going on deep within my psyche. My entire wardrobe has become alive with vibrant colour and bold lines—vastly different from my style in my homeland of Turkey.
When I look at myself in the mirror, I sometimes get frustrated at the sight of wrinkles, more gray hair and brown discolorations here and there, but it is not the ageing process itself that bothers me. I can accept it as natural. It happens to everybody eventually. What I can’t accept is the fact that I have not been doing anything particularly useful for several years. By immigrating to Canada, I forfeited everything — including a prestigious 15-year-career, a job with full benefits, an extensive social network and rising professional status that many people would envy.
Now, I am desperately trying to regain everything that I lost when I ventured to this foreign land. It feels as if I must do every single thing from scratch—get a new driver’s license, make new friends, attend endless workshops, and search for jobs, some only remotely related to my former field. That neither my education nor my professional experience is recognized in Canada angers me. Ironically, my solid background creates a barrier: I am overqualified for many positions — and possibly too old.
As a middle-aged immigrant, I am struggling to re-establish my career. Not only my energy but also my youth diminishes in this struggle. My reflection in the mirror reminds me that time is racing along relentlessly. It seems to me that my life is slipping through my fingers. If my age is a problem for prospective employers, I fight against it. Looking younger, sexier and more energetic keeps me motivated. However, I am not deluding myself. I know that I cannot turn back the clock. I understand that this ‘youthful’ look is just an illusion. Nevertheless, it is giving me a necessary boost.
Maybe all the changes in my outer appearance represent a superficial form of compensation for what I lost by immigrating to this country. During my recent Caribbean vacation, I enjoyed wearing my high-heeled shoes every evening at the resort. Simply being acknowledged by the other tourists made me feel unusually happy, albeit momentarily. Whatever the reason, feeling good is good.
FILIZ DOGAN is from Istanbul. Given her fascination with human behaviour, it is not surprising that she spent most of her adult life working in the mental health field as a psychologist in Turkey and now as a psychotherapist in Canada. She is an environmentalist and mental health activist. Her passion is to help people heal from their traumas and empower them to develop self-awareness, acceptance, confidence, and positive change.