We’ve all been in awkward social events, stuck standing around with strangers or at dinners with people we don’t know. Beyond initial pleasantries, casual conversation is never easy or comfortable. But I’ve found one sure topic that always eases the flood gate of chatter among women in Hong Kong – shoes!
It never fails. Ladies of every age will happily spill their sole (and soul) about their favourite heels, pumps and wedges. It crosses cultural and class lines. You could discuss toe cleavage with a CEO’s wife or a junior PR girl.
Most of us love to gab about the heels we love, the styles we like, the model we can’t wait to buy, the ridiculously expensive pairs we now regret not buying and regret the ill-fitted or ugly ones we actually paid for. We’ll also lament our closest being too small and feel sentimental about the pairs we gave away that we never should have.
Total strangers become best friends bonding over the intimate details of their shoe preferences more than an intimate heart-to-heart about their sex life or giving birth.
Some women are even more passionate talking about the shoes they hate. They can’t stand that stilettos are so painful but hate even more that wearing them looks so good. They will be fraught with guilt about the damage to their legs, back and feet, but like an addict, they can’t quit their Choos and Louboutins.
This explains why some ladies show up everywhere with an assistant in tow. That large bag doesn’t contain a laptop or office files – it’s holding flat Tod’s Gommino loafers for the lady of leisure to change into the minute she leaves.
What’s interesting is the ladies who complain the most are often the most calm and elegant, giving no hint of the pain and grimace they claim are about to burst from them. I wish I had that kind of classiness. If a scratchy strap is irritating my raw bunions, I start screaming profanities.
Men will often ask the question, but women never ask each other how many pairs they actually own. That’s just too impolite and probing. The equivalent is guys asking how much money their buddies make. Occasionally, you will find someone who hates high heels but it doesn’t happen often at events. Chances are these women are also ideologically opposed to high fashion and attending superficial functions. But most females love five-inch pumps even if physically they can’t wear them. It’s the same relationship many of us have with pasta.
Of course, this kind of conversation problem never happens with men. They always just want to talk about themselves.
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