By Jennifer L. Hollis

August 3, 2020


The black, four-inch stilettos with pointed toes were a gift, so I tried to be polite as I thought of a kind way to say: Hell no. Then I looked at his happy, hopeful face and knew I would learn to wear them. 

When we moved in together, I began to understand it was not just my shoes he hoped would transform. We fought about the nature of desire, but I could hardly argue with his underlying message that if I tried harder I could look better. I had spent a lifetime trying to lose ten pounds while trying to pretend I didn’t want to lose ten pounds, so I compromised, went on a diet, and started wearing clothes that pleased him. 

But as my waist shrank and my ankles wobbled, my resistance ripened. How had I gotten here? I wore sturdy clogs to my biweekly women’s spirituality group. I had a master of divinity and a job playing harp for dying people. Had I learned nothing from these barefoot patients as they prepared to let go of their wondrous and frail and imperfect bodies? 

Cinching myself into a shrinking space was not a compromise. It was a catastrophe. When I tried to balance on the edge between somebody else’s desire and my true nature, I always fell over.

Today I walk the world with a soft belly and a closet full of clogs. Finally, in my firm footfall, I can hear myself. Hell no.


Jennifer L. Hollis is a writer, music-thanatologist, and the author of Music at the End of Life: Easing the Pain and Preparing the Passage. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Rumpus, Harvard Review, Jellyfish Review, and other publications. You can connect with her at


Photo by Stephan Seeber courtesy of Unsplash

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