N.B. In today’s guest blogging, the Manolo’s talented friend, the omgwtf, explains how high heels and billiards have changed her life.
I began playing pool at eighteen. By nineteen, in all my ungainly glory, I had the brilliant thought that I should become a professional player.
I had ZERO skills. In fact, I had problems with the first shot of the game, the break shot.
The break is where you break the racked object balls apart with the cue ball. When done right, it’s as impressive as one of Tiger Woods’ long drives – all power, accuracy, and grace combined in one seamless, flawless, fluid motion. The key words there are “when done right”.
I had power but no grace. When I broke the balls (arms flailing, feet tripping), more often than not, I slammed my hand into the side of the table. Having swollen knuckles on my right index finger became a normal thing until a fashionable friend suggested I try wearing heels – being taller might help my hand miss the side of the table during my swing to break the balls.
I’d been a competitive runner almost my entire life and had never owned a pair of shoes that wouldn’t allow me to flee authorities at top speed in relative comfort (I was somewhat of a delinquent in my younger years). So, I bought a cheap pair of chunky-heeled loafers at a swap meet which made me three inches taller.
Soon, I was breaking the balls successfully without breaking my knuckles.
In hindsight, heels were not the solution. They were only a quick fix. What I truly needed was practice to improve my technique. I did improve to where heels weren’t necessary, but, by then, I was used to playing at a five-foot-four height.
I began to play competitively in tournaments.
Many players dismissed me as non-threat once they saw my choice in footwear. I didn’t blame them. Billiards was a game of finesse and how a player balanced herself (or himself) was very important. Solid footing meant more consistency in the execution of movement. Solid footing also generally meant having one’s entire foot on the ground. No serious player would risk teetering around the table in high heels. I took advantage of being underestimated and translated those instances into wins.
In the often dark-clothed and flat-footed world of pool, more people began to take notice of the “little girl in high shoes”. As more people associated me with my high heels, I took more notice of shoes in general. I became aware of the truly staggering variety and styles of shoes in the world. I no longer bought shoes based on height alone. I looked specifically for unusual, eye-catching shoes that could handle a fourteen-hour tournament day. In a predominantly male game populated by flat shoes, I had stumbled upon a way to be stylishly different.
I got better at the game and began to gamble at it.
The amounts I wagered varied from your average pair of Stuart Weitzmans to a few pairs of Christian Louboutins. Even when four-digit sums were at stake, I continued to play in heels, to the surprise of many. People asked, “Why? Why would you play in heels?” My standard answer: “Why not?” All that mattered was having solid footing and I had that, even in stilettos. Besides, my wins and losses were never due to the shoes I wore, but to me, the player, and how well I played.
Eventually, my collection of shoes became a sort of savings account. When I needed funds for tournaments or a stake for gambling (I gambled exclusively with my own money), I would look through my closet and sell off pairs as I needed. This was a convenient and practical way to thin out my herd of footwear. If I won, then I had room for new shoes. If I lost, then I had more closet room. It was a win-win situation.
In all the long years I’ve played this game, shoes have run the gamut for me. They’ve been practical. They’ve been beautiful. They’ve given me a unique identity in an often boring game and culture. They’ve even funded my adventures. But, there’s one more thing.
Pool has always been seen as a “man’s” game and any woman who plays will inevitably run into sexism about how “girls can’t play pool”. Therefore, I get a certain indescribable satisfaction when I beat a guy who proudly says, “I’ve never been beat by a girl before”, while wearing strappy green suede stiletto sandals adorned with a delicate feather pouf at the toes. That satisfaction increases exponentially when his friend looks at my shoes and tells him, “Dude. You just got beat by Tinkerbell.”