The Queen of Impractical Shoes

I've always had a soft spot for clumsy teenage girls in heels

I think the general consensus is that teenage girls clomping along like camels in ridiculously high heels look more than a little absurd. They should probably be wearing sneakers, but high heels are a rite of passage—the mark of "growing up."

These days the heels get skinnier and higher, and the dresses get shorter and tighter, as you progress from the one-inch heels on your first pair of "fancy shoes" into full-blown teenage fashion. Keeping everything inside the dress while trying not to twist an ankle becomes a tricky balancing act.

While it's easy to roll your eyes when you see a group of teenagers—boys in comfortable clothes, and girls looking like they're enduring a specialized torture—I have a soft spot for the clumsy girls in heels. It takes a long time to get used to walking, dancing and drinking when you're teetering a little higher off the ground.

I was the queen of impractical shoes. I went from clogs to sky-high wedges the summer I turned 15. And soon after that, I got a pair of high-heeled mules, with two pieces of gold leather crisscrossed over my instep and thin gold metallic heels. They were made by Frederick's of Hollywood, but stolen from a store in the Valley called Standard Shoes. They didn't know what gems they had in those shoes and put them in the back of the store. Stealing them was more like a shoe rescue.

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I'm sure I lopped and clomped in my wedges and heels. I know for sure that I got stuck in many a lawn trotting behind men, and once my heel got caught in a doormat that I dragged out of a store.

When I was 19, I moved to London and got a job as a receptionist for a commercial photographer I was sleeping with. With my first paycheck, I bought a pair of black, Catwoman/witchy boots in black leather that laced to my ankle, had a pointy toe that looked like it shot darts and very high narrow heels. I wore these boots every day, but when I went on a trip to the mainland, I traded them for the cowboy boots that I brought from the States.

They weren't cowboy cowboy boots but more like fashion boots pretending to be something a cowgirl might wear. For starters they had a 3" stacked heel, which looked like a block of wood you might find holding up your aunt's couch. They seemed like good boots for walking all over Europe—in February.

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I was never in snow. I'd never even experienced winter (coming from Southern California) until I went to Germany to see Castle Neuschwanstein, the model for Sleeping Beauty's Disneyland castle. (I still had one foot in childhood.) A German girl from the youth hostel suggested we hike up the closed Summer Trail. She blew past me in her winter hiking boots and I trudged on, feet frozen, snow coming in every hole and crevice in those boots.

I ditched the cowboy boots, which were now broken down with big holes in the soles, in the apartment of an American guy I met on a train to Switzerland. He sang in a country-western band with its own theme club in Zurich. I'd never been so out of my element as in that club with bales of hay, a hitching post, a saloon and the uptight Swiss square dancing in perfect outfits from 1950s-era Texas. But my cowboy boots fit right in, even if they were high-heeled. They had a last fling.

That day, I bought flowered Fiorucci flats, and after leaving the cowboy boots in the kitchen of the country-western singer early in the morning—no note, just the boots—I took a train south.

I went to Torremolinos, Spain, to stay with my wacky Japanese step-aunt Emiko and her husband, a guy with mob ties in the U.S. On a walk, she gave me a stern lecture:

"You need to start wearing high heels. They are exercise for the calves," she said, "they make strong legs."

Even though I insisted that I always wore high heels, she didn't believe me. I could have cried.

I wore high heels until the time I had young children, then my life changed and my high heels were relegated to the back of the closet. My credo was to "never wear anything you can't run in."

When my kids grew up and I could go out more, I developed a jones for Nine West pointy toed slip-ons with a kitten heel. They were very much like a 1960s shoe that you wear with a cocktail dress. From there, I graduated to higher heels, because I realized I could do more than sit on a barstool in high heels, but could dance or walk around New York City. I finally grew into heels after years of being an ungainly cavewoman.

I called my Nine West shoes the "sneakers of my heels" because they were a cinch to wear, and last summer they became the only heels I wore.

I haven't worn them all that much this year, mainly because I'm just not sure I'd still walk in them confidently. I'd like to think my low wedges and Vans sneakers are more a sign of youthful vigor than heels. Maybe I'll give them another try soon, but if you see me clopping down the street like a teenage dromedary, please tell me!