The Hunchback in Heels

“Okay, everyone, squeeze together! Smile!”

[a pause, photographer squints at camera screen]

“Hmm…okay. Almost perfect, but a couple changes: Lauren, honey, fix your strap. And Kayla, can you duck down a bit? You’re just a little too tall [laughs], and you’re blocking Dan.”

TIMEOUT. Do you know what just happened?

I was asked to “duck” because I was taller than my partnered groomsman (who was, by the way, shrugging in clear apathy). You’re thinking, yeah, that looks bad, what’s the big deal? In my mind, I heard: hey Kayla, can you please become a hunchback? Try posturing your spine several inches shorter and still look poised and classy? Actually…just get on your knees.

You can imagine my facial expression. However, despite my dramatic reaction, I had to admit that I somewhat expected this to happen at my brother’s wedding.

Let me give you some context. Prior to this past fall I rarely wore high heels. During the most formative fashion years of teenage-dom, when girls pranced around in short skirts and heels, I sported only flip flops and ballet flats with soles eroded away from weeks of weight. I was 5’9″ when I began high school and almost 6’0″ when I left. Why would I buy heels when I have them built into my tibias?

It didn’t help that I hadn’t a clue how to control my lengthy limbs, and my high school friends weren’t afraid to make my long extremities the primary source of entertainment. I heard comments like, “Don’t let Kayla do a cartwheel or her feet will break the ceiling!” I will do almost anything for a laugh, so when I heard this I’d instinctively attempt a dramatic cartwheel. But deep inside, beneath the surface of laughable incoordination, I hated being tall because I wanted to wear cute, fun (tall) shoes but I felt like I wasn’t entitled to do so.

Fast forward from high school to this past fall. About a month before my brother’s wedding I scoured cyber mall for appropriate wedding footwear. The options were minimal and unimpressive. Tired and perturbed that nothing caught my eye, I broadened my search from flat soles and included “heels” in my parameters. Click.

The results were far more appealing but (let’s be real) I can’t actually walk in any of these. Click.

THERE.

Tall. Bold. They would definitely make me ginormous. I paused, and quickly conducted a mental count. Out of sixteen bridal party members at least half were taller than me or met my eye line. My brothers accounted for three, plus two more groomsmen and three bridesmaids, all who could give me normal hugs.

Definition: Normal Hug noun: An embrace characterized by two participants of relatively equal height.

Antonym: Embreast noun: An embrace in which one participant faceplants into the other’s boobs.

I can’t tell you how many hugs of the latter sort I’ve (unwillingly) given; the worst occurred the first time I wore heels and a plummeting neckline to a high school dance. (That night I learned that selecting shoe height is incredibly important for maintaining appropriate standards of PDA as well as my personal feelings of coordination). Through my brief calculations I concluded that if half the bridal party is approximately my height I could not only avoid standing out like a sore thumb in the professional photos, but also face-to-bosom contact altogether, and wear the shoes I’ve always wanted!

Unfortunately, “embreasts”, public scrutiny, and early onset of kyphosis aren’t the only risks related to high-heels. Throughout college I avoided additional height like the plague because I thought any potential suitor would find a feminine Goliath intimidating. This no longer really concerns me, as I’ve learned and witnessed that there are, in fact, males shorter than me who have the confidence to be with a tall woman. Likewise, there are tall men who are insecure for reasons unrelated to height. Plus, I had long ago decided I wasn’t bringing a wedding date. That just left my groomsman to consider, and I knew he wouldn’t care about my towering over him. Voilà!

I made the purchase but the next day doubt crept in. Thankfully, over the month leading up to the wedding countless personal pep talks and third party opinions affirmed my endeavor. I started to feel excited about my monumental debut.

Consider my current posture my “monumental debut.” Some grand opening, huh?  Vertebrae in hunched position, standing next to my groomsman. I had known this was very possible, and I suppose I could have avoided contortion by simply removing the shoes ahead of time. But I paid an arm and a leg to make a fashion statement and *cuss*, I wanted to wear them the whole day!

Despite any photography havoc, by the end of the night the shoes proved to be a success. There were no falls or broken bones. Throughout the day I acquired three notions: first, I no longer care if I’m taller than most, and I actually prefer it because I see EVERYTHING; second, I’m sorry if the occasional male (or female) feels intimidated around an alpine woman but I’m really not sorry at all; and, finally, a faceplant-in-my-chest really isn’t as concerning when fabric covers the cleavage. (Another helpful factor is graduating from high school. Teenage boys are WAY too eager to faceplant). These notions instilled a new confidence and I’ve since obtained several more pairs of heels.

If you see me walking in public please don’t analyze my gait (we’re still working on balancing) but please feel free to compliment the recent colossal purchases. And if you’re at all moved to make a hunchback comment, I won’t feel bothered at all. In fact, you can just refer to me as the “confident hunchback.”

*If you haven’t seen Saturday Night Live’s “Confident Hunchback” skit featuring Andy Samberg, immediately open a new browser and search for “confident hunchback SNL” via hulu.com. Enjoy!

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