I strut. I’m not talking about a bit of swagger or a little extra bounce in each step. I’m talking about a full on strut. Every time my heels hit the cobbles of this small grey town, there is the loud, familiar thud, sending reverberations around my body and causing some strange contortions. The back stiffens, arms swing, a strange pout freezes (I call it my ‘resting bastard face’) and before I know it, I’m strutting down Market Street as if my surroundings are constantly playing old-school Beyoncé tracks on a permanent loop.
From any given outing in St Andrews, it is clear that I am far from the only self-confessed strutter in this town. It is only logical, therefore, that there are many of us who have learnt to accept, and embrace, our struts. Although average-walking normies may not fully appreciate this process, it is a profound one nonetheless, and one that largely goes unrecognised.
We all learn to accept certain things about ourselves: our looks, our height, which clothes we can and most definitely cannot pull off, but arguably our walks say more about us than any of these factors. A walk not only shows how we present ourselves to others but also, quite literally, how we move through the world. Is it any wonder, then, that society doesn’t deem strutting as desirable? While we all admire confidence, strutting almost always denotes a sense of arrogance and entitlement, as if the pavement belongs to the strutter and everyone around them is merely peripheral. Furthermore, the strutter is unable to strut without attracting a certain amount of attention. The perceived sass that radiates from their movements simply draws in unwanted stares, rather like an eclipse: you know you’re not supposed to look directly at it but it is too darn hard not to.
As a male strutter, the situation is worse. Society can just about accept female strutters, normalised by years of Bond girls and reality tv shows. But if they’re a man? That’s just weird.
It was exactly these assumptions that, for years, made me hate my strut with an undying passion. Every time I left the house, I tried with all the (limited) strength in my body to walk like a normal human being. Be gone, wild arms! Be gone, frozen spine! The results, however, did not exactly help me to blend in. Instead of walking like everyone else, my continued efforts meant that my body behaved even more strangely than it had before. My arms, which once swayed like reliable pendulums now stuck motionless to my sides. The spring in my step was no more, with each foot now limply straggling the ground. Stifling my strut made fundamentally uncomfortable in my own skin. Each step was an apology for my own existence in a world of people who attended ‘How to Walk Normally’ classes when I was clearly taking a nap.
After every failed effort to get rid of my strut, I finally learnt to accept it. I released the wild arms back into their natural habitat, the frozen spine was well and truly solidified and the pout, which for some inexplicable reason goes along with them, had returned. To my surprise, the results weren’t nearly as bad as I thought. Yes, there are the occasional glares, but they are usually from pensioners who would envy anyone’s ability to move with a certain amount of ease. What’s more, some of the looks come from fellow strutters as you share a knowing glance of respect, acknowledging your membership of the one of the most exclusive clubs in town. It seems that those walking classes that strutters missed may not have been that valuable after all.
So next time you see a strutter, please do not assume that we are all arrogant, sassy, entitled divas. Most of us are not nearly as confident as we appear. It does take confidence, however, to embrace your strut in a society that has yet to truly embrace strutters themselves. But with every thunderous step, swaying arm, clenched jaw and pout, we strutters can change that, and look fabulous as hell as we do it.