London - Last week, I met up with an old boyfriend. We’ve both moved on and there’s as much spark left between us as a soggy box of matches.
But you never want a former lover walking away thinking: “She’s let herself go.” You want them to leave thinking: “Why did I ever let her go?”
So I wore my new Amanda Wakeley dress, which is fitted and discreetly sexy. I blow-dried my hair, slipped on a pair of shoes and off I went.
I had arrived early at our chosen restaurant, so was seated when he arrived.
“You look gorgeous,” he said. Then, as I stood up to kiss him, the cad didn’t even attempt to conceal the shock in his eyes.
“Christ, you’ve got shorter,” he said. Recovering quickly, he added: “But putting on a few pounds really suits you.”
Oh, the shame. When we were together, he thought I was lovely. Now he looked at me as though I was Frodo’s mom: a short, portly hobbit with weird feet.
And that’s exactly how I felt.
I hadn’t gained weight, or lost height; I’d simply ditched my usual skycraper heels for flat shoes. And all in the name of fashion.
Me, the queen of vertiginous Jimmy Choos, the woman who has been known to moan ‘Manolo’ in her sleep, had decided to give up her high heels for a week.
Flats are having a style moment. At the recent London fashion shows, the joke doing the rounds was that all the editors were three inches shorter than usual, because they’d eschewed their usual high heels for flatties.
Crystal-coated pumps, biker boots, buckled ‘monk’ shoes... there was only one thing all the new styles had in common: they were totally flat.
Now, I don’t like the idea of flat shoes - I’ve worn high heels all my life, and am labouring under the misapprehension that I’m an Amazonian lovely pushing 6ft, instead of a rather ordinary 5ft 6¾in - but nor do I like the idea of looking terminally unfashionable.
And on the day I met my ex-boyfriend, I had comforted myself with the fact that the heel-less shoes I was wearing were Jimmy Choos (who knew he also did flatties?), with a price tag of £265 (about R4 000).
The label is glamorous and chic, and I hoped what the pumps lacked in height they would make up for in super-fashionable glitz.
But I have never felt less glamorous in my life.
I wore the shoes on and off for a few days, trying to get used to the odd sensation of walking flat-footed like a duck - and looking like one, too. I swear they were as painful as my six-inch heels, rubbing the back of my ankles as I walked, squeezing my toes like a vice. And for what? To look dumpy.
Like many women, I’ve always worried about my weight. Even when I lost 13kg after my last break-up, I still thought I was podgy.
I’m a size 12, but the only times in my life I feel slim-ish are when I am wearing vertiginous heels.
It’s well known that heels elongate the leg, make you walk in a more upright, deliberate, saucy way, and give you confidence. Pathetic, but true. That’s why women buy them.
Yet while I’ve been wedded to my six-inch heels for most of my 55 years on this earth, as a shoe lover I have to admit to a frisson of excitement when 15 pairs of flats arrived at my home last week, courtesy of the Mail’s fashion team, who’d very generously gathered a collection for me to try.
Well, who wouldn’t be excited about unwrapping all those shoes?
I inspected each pair - snakeskin and suede, bejeweled, brogues, glittery, gaudy, High Street and designer - and lined them up by the front door so each day I could choose another pair.
They felt a little like aliens invading my home, but I was prepared to give them a try.
For Sunday lunch, I teamed £149 black paisley velvet slippers from Pretty Ballerinas with skinny black trousers, a long black top and short suede jacket.
Normally I’d wear this outfit with my Ash wedge-heeled trainers. Yes, I even have heels with my trainers. They give a girl a lift.
I thought they looked OK-ish until I got to my local pub for a roast lunch and a friend came over. He whispered in my ear: “Amanda, you forgot to take your slippers off.”
The ignominy, the shame. A slut who leaves home in her slippers! I was too embarrassed to put him right.
I had imagined that my new flats would give me freedom to walk more - and they did, but not the long distances I’d imagined. The problem with them is that they’re so flat, they give your feet no support.
Men’s shoes have a heel. Even trainers go up at the back. But walking so flat-footed is quite uncomfortable, as well as ungainly. Even in my best frocks I felt frumpy.
On the plus side, I did discover that my taxi bill fell, especially for the short distances you can’t even contemplate in high heels.
One day, attempting London casual-cool, I put on opaque tights, a cute, clingy lace dress I’d bought from French Connection and my newly-acquired Russell & Bromley black leather ‘Monk Shoes’. They’re like loafers, but with a side-fastening strap across the top.
The reflection looking back at me in the mirror wasn’t half-bad, and I left my house feeling young and hip.
The male friend I was having a drink with said I looked like a Bond girl. I blushed and modestly inquired which one, secretly hoping it would be Ursula Andress.
“Rosa Klebb,” he replied, in mock horror. “It looks like you could kill a man with one blow in those.”
Ms Klebb, of course, is the ugly Russian assassin whose deadly weapon is a poisoned knife concealed in her clumpy brogues.
I was starting to see a pattern here. While women might love the comfort and stylish insouciance of flat shoes, men hate them. They’re just not sexy. There was never a pair of “kiss me quick” or “fancy me” flat shoes. They don’t exist.
For a work lunch at a London restaurant on Monday, I teamed a navy frock (which I’d normally wear with my black suede LK Bennett stilettos) with Russell & Bromley’s navy blue suede flats.
They had cute tassles on them, weren’t too pointy and had a tiny bejeweled heel. They were “power flats” and they reminded me of Carla Bruni, one of the few women in the world who can carry off flats with even a hint of glamour.
One of my girl friends did say she loved my new flat-shoed look when we met for dinner on Tuesday evening. I’d teamed grey zebra-print flats with capri trousers and a white belted top.
I felt like I was channelling Katharine Hepburn, who managed to make mannish trousers and flat shoes look undeniably sexy.
My friend certainly gushed about how stylish I looked, too - but then she is a flat shoe fanatic, who is always poking fun at my heels and reminding me how bad they are for my back, not to mention my bunions.
And after a week away from my heels - and the backache and aching feet which come with them - I’m prepared to concede that there is a place in my life for this season’s stylish flatties.
Out of the 14 pairs of shoes I’ve worn the past week, there are three I’d like to own: the black velvet ones my friend thought were slippers, the zebra-print pair, and some maroon brogues which I thought looked quite good with trousers, if a little Annie Hall.
Flats, whether they be jewelled, tassled or doing the fandango, will not become my staple footwear unless I break an ankle again. (Last year, I took a nasty tumble courtesy of my kitten, and spent a good few weeks separated from my Jimmy Choos.)
But this is not because I don’t adore some of the latest modern styles: it’s because flatties make you a fattie.
High heels make a woman’s body slimmer, her legs longer, her head held higher. That’s why we love them - and why men love them right back.
So, I’ll keep my flats and I will wear them - but only when I’m out with the girls. - Daily Mail