"I wear a size 11 women's shoe and a size 9 men's," I told a friend today.
"Do women normally know their size in men's shoes?" he asked.
"I don't think so," I said. "I know because it used to be really hard to find sneakers that I liked and that fit."
I wasn't telling the whole truth there. I wore jeans from the men's section, too, and it's not because they really fit better on my hipsy, curvy build, no matter how much I protested that they did at the time.
Maybe I was using a different definition of the word "fit".
It made me wonder why I don't buy a pair of men's dress shoes. I don't wear heels, except under duress, because I don't like the way they feel, I don't care about the way they look, and I don't want to have to learn how to walk in them in order to fit someone else's idea of gender conformity. Flats don't go with every outfit, and I'm not sure I'll be able to find another pair of shoes like my now-bedraggled chunky black dress shoe. Maybe I could find something work-appropriate in the men's section, if I looked there.
I love seeing women and people of many genders* dress in masculine ways. It's one part attraction, one part admiration, and maybe one part jealousy, because I've never quite been able to pull the look off and generally plump for buying clothes that are "right for my body type". Maybe, if I tried harder and looked up some how-to guides on the internet, I could dress that way too in spite of my hips and my breasts.
But no one at my place of employment goes anywhere near the lines of blurring gender roles. There's even a dress code neatly spelled out in two columns: women may wear this, men may wear that. Plus, I enjoy my work. I like the paycheck, the house and the bills and the food it pays for. Having money and being employed beats the hell out of the other option. Maybe this makes me a coward, that I'm too scared to lose career opportunities to even look for men's shoes that might make me feel great (and that might not. Who knows?). I know that it makes me lucky, because I'm wondering what shoes I can wear to keep a job, instead of (for example) whether I can buy new shoes at all.
I guess I have a decision to make: would I rather spend hours shopping, looking for shoes I like that toe the dress code line but don't make me want to throw them through a window after wearing them for two hours? should I just suck it up and cope with heels for the sake of the paycheck? am I brave enough to alter my wardrobe and make it more masculine?
Clock's ticking. These shoes won't last forever.
*Not all genders in this particular case. Talking here about the range of genders that starts with some acknowledgement of having ladybits, or having once had them, and adds a layer or few of what's traditionally considered "masculine". I know I don't have all the very best words to describe it, and I'm trying to be as inclusive as possible while still successfully communicating about a particular set of gender expressions that make sense to me. Please feel free to add any language suggestions in the comments.