Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Knee Highs and Men’s Chunky Shoes: Almost Fashionable?

Filed under: Living with a disability — by at 1:48 pm on Monday, July 30, 2007

Striped socks
(Photo credit: Richard Styles)

Now that I’m wearing my butterfly AFO (ankle-foot orthotic) daily, I had to buy knee high socks. I haven’t worn knee highs since high school, when I had to wear my metal braces. My cute ankle socks are now shoved to the back of the drawer.

Between the clumsy plastic AFO, the knee highs, the black, men’s size 7 chunky shoes (needed to accommodate the AFO), and my baggy jeans (try finding fitted jeans with elasticized waists!), my bottom half is rather gorpy-looking. I’m now on the hunt for ultra feminine tops to counterbalance the gorpy bottom. And, I am hoping that we don’t get another hot spell this summer because I’m not yet confident enough to wear this ensemble with shorts! AFO surely stands for Anti-Fashion Objects.

In July’s O Magazine, Martha Beck shares research on the “spotlight effect”: the feeling that all eyes are upon us and, hence, to avoid embarrassment, we don’t live our lives to the fullest. Research found that “the spotlight effect makes most of assume we’re getting about twice as much attention as we actually are.” (Being in a wheelchair with a significant physical disability, am I imagining twice as many stares and whispers than I am actually receiving?)

Martha advises that we double everything – raising both hands to ask a question, pausing twice as long for dramatic effect, eating two servings of a delicious dessert – to feel liberated and to live life large. I wonder: would I become more confident if I had balanced gorpiness? If I wore two braces, would I be more apt to wearing shorts? Would the AFO then become an Almost Fashionable Object?

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Comment by Mary McD

July 30, 2007 @ 4:03 pm

Hi Glenda,

The spotlight effect hits everyone equally… today my alarm didn’t go off (a different hotel every week — why can’t they standardize on a ^&%$% alarm clock, for Pete’s sake! but I digress…) so I rushed out the door 10 mins late and without a shower or makeup. I just KNEW that everyone was staring at my bland face and flat hair! [they really were, you know…]

I think we need to mail you some really snazzy knee socks — and consider doing something fun and funky with your shoes — stripes using polish or stickers? Drizzle paint on ’em? There are all sorts of ‘skins’ for iPods, laptops, etc — why not one for ortho stuff? [Hmmm, maybe a cottage industry is born!] Pompoms and tassles? The list goes on and on…

Comment by Glenda

July 30, 2007 @ 4:20 pm

Thanks for the smile, Mary. Glad I’m not alone in the spotlight!

I love the idea for ortho skins! Definitely a business idea there.

Hey, do you think snazzy and funky knee highs could become part of my branding? (There goes the left thumb blogger with the wild socks…!)

Comment by Karen Putz

July 30, 2007 @ 7:25 pm

I experienced the Spotlight Effect all week as I got around on crutches. I was so tempted to decorate the crutches with neon green yarn but was in too much pain to care.

Comment by Mary McD

July 30, 2007 @ 7:38 pm

A teenaged friend of mine is known for his socks – he never wears matching ones. Maybe you can ‘cop his look’ and start a CDN fad!

Comment by Glenda

July 30, 2007 @ 10:34 pm

@Karen, I read about your ordeal at the ER. How horrible! Hope you are feeling better.

@Mary, I am envisioning a “Wild and Wacky Knee High Contest” in January/February to celebrate winning Blog for a Year. Here’s what I’m imagining: people send me the wildest knee highes they can find. A panel of local friends, perhaps with the aid of some wine, choose the wildest pair of socks. The winner receives an appropriate prize. And, all except a favourite pair or two are donated to some place like the children’s cancer ward or Canuck Place. What do you think?

Comment by Jana

August 2, 2007 @ 7:47 am

The spotlight effect DOES hit everyone… Yesterday I felt it because my hairdo didn’t turn out right… (I’m sure they were all pointing and laughing at me, behind my back… really!)

Glenda, I have the PERFECT solution to your sock problem… Can you wear TOE socks with your brace??? OMW, toe socks are SO ABSOLUTELY AWESOME!!!! *happy sigh*

Wild toe socks with funky colors and awesome designs… I have one pair at home that is pink and yellow with a green froggie on it!

The sock contest sounds SO SO SO fun! *going to vote for you now*

Comment by dave

May 26, 2008 @ 7:06 pm

I’ve been wearing AFO’s for about 15 years on both legs and because my 5-yr old has a good probability of having to wear them later in life, I always wear them with shorts and try not to flinch from the stares.

For as long as I’ve done this, the glares from some never get easy. I write messages on mine for the gawkers; “Stop Staring”, “Advertise Here”, etc,

Some people are mean. The thing I don’t mind is someone just asking what they are.

Comment by Glenda

May 26, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

Hey, selling advertising space on AFOs! I love the idea, Dave.

Comment by Marjolein Katsma

May 26, 2008 @ 9:53 pm

As a teenager, I went through the usual period of terrible insecurity, and the “spotlight effect” was certainly part of it. Thinking that all 20 people at the bus stop were looking at me. Finally I resolved to do something about the whole thing, and developed some strategies, but the spotlight effect was the hardest … and then it hit me: give them a reason to stare, and then enjoy the effect you had on them! So I started making outrageous decorations on my clothes, in loud colors. Immediate effect! In less than a few weeks I was completely over my insecurity, and almost constantly giggling over the stupid remarks I’d hear behind my back.

I’ve never really left that strategy, though I’m a little more subtle now (always wearing my Aussie hat outside, for instance) but the principle remains the same: give people a reason to stare and comment because of something you do, instead of something you have no influence on (and imagined stares): No more spotlight effect for me, not since my teenage years.

It works because it puts you in control. 🙂

So go with the loud socks, decorate your shoes (why black?? can’t you get bright red ones? Green ones for the summer maybe?). Put a sticker on your AFO “look over there” pointing to your right leg, and put a label on your right sock “I must be missing something!”. Etc. The more it puts you in control of the stares, the better. 😉

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