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Red Shoes

I come from a long line of strong women. Although the men and close friends in their lives would have chosen the term “bossy” to describe my female ancestors, I will use the word “strong” instead for today’s discourse. All of the women in my family, from my mother and grandmothers to my great-grandmothers and aunts, sent out loud and clear messages for the world to accept (or reject) through their actions, the causes they championed, the circles they kept, and the clothing they wore.

When my mother turned 60, she joined a group of ladies called The Red Hat Society, which is still going strong today. The focus of this nationwide sisterhood is to empower and support women as they age, and yes, they all wear red hats to the meetings. My mother was the Queen Bee of her local chapter and she told me that when I hit 50, I could join them as a pink-hatted “princess,” or “lady-in-waiting,” or something like that. I never joined, but appreciated what they were trying to accomplish.

For my mom, her penchant for red didn’t stop at her neck. She was a feisty woman who embraced the color red from head to toe. She especially loved red on her feet. She loved shoes, and at any given time when she was alive, you could find 4-5 pairs of red shoes in her closet. As a teenager I donned jeans, the rattier the better, and beaded moccasins. I was a hippie wanna-be. And, although I never said it to her face, I found my mother’s taste in red shoes gaudy and garish.

I got over that quickly in my 20s when, for one of my birthdays my mother gave me a pair of red, silk J.Renee high heels. Oh my, they were beautiful. When I put them on I felt bold, sassy, hot, and powerful. I was one of Linda Ronstadt’s “roaring” women. Watch out world.

But, as we all know, something with this type of stunning, transformative potential comes with an instruction manual. My mother quelled my fervor by explaining the “rules” that come with the wearing of red shoes. I feared that she would tell me the precious things would turn into pumpkins at the stroke of midnight, but the instructions weren’t nearly as severe. I’m sure my mother would want me to share them with you today.

Lena’s Rules for Wearing Red Shoes

Rule #1:

“Never wear red shoes unless you are trying to make a strong fashion statement, need to get a group’s attention, or are feeling particularly sassy.”

Although these rules were told to me many years ago, I think I recall that on the word “sassy” my mother rolled her eyes. There is no denying that I was a smart-mouthed kid.

Rule #2:

“You can’t go wrong with red shoes if your outfit is all black or all white.”

She left out the sexy allure of wearing red shoes with a simple black dress. I guess she figured I’d find that out for myself.

Rule #3:

“Never wear red shoes with a patterned or printed outfit. It’s just too busy. Too fussy. Also, don’t overdo jewelry or accessories when you wear red shoes. It’s overkill.”

Rule #4:

“When you are in Hollywood, attending the Oscars, definitely wear your best red shoes. You don’t want to draw attention to the fact that you have big feet Pook.”

(She was right. I wear a size 11.)

“Your shoes will blend in with the red carpet and draw attention to more important things, like your acceptance speech as you thank your mother. Don’t forget, this is very important.”

Rule #5:

“You can wear red shoes to church if you are wearing a red dress. For church, your shoes should be an extension of your hemline.”

As if God checks for things like this.

“And, never, ever, ever wear red shoes to a funeral. Ever!”

I had no clue there was such a science behind the wearing of red shoes. To this day, I’ve never broken any of my mom’s red shoes rules. Also, to this day, I’ve never had a pair of shoes that I loved more than the red silk ones my mother gave me for my birthday that year. Did I mention how absolutely gorgeous they were?

Since red shoes are symbols of power, independence, and unruliness, like my mother, I think that every woman should own at least one pair..

Back in 1939, when Dorothy tapped her ruby slippers and repeated, “There’s no place like home…there’s no place like home…there’s no place like home…” magic occurred. We could all use a dose of Dorothy’s shoe magic.

When it seems like the whole world is out to get you, don’t give up. We can all make it through another day if we stick together, keep going, and follow our own personal yellow brick road back to a place that feels like home. And, although they may not be practical for everyday wear, there is no denying that we can all benefit from the jolt of confidence that only a pair of fire-engine red lace-up boots, sandals, or heels can give us as we strut (yes, I said strut) down that avenue made of yellow bricks with attitude.

Don’t look back, Wimpy Girl. You and your sassy red shoes have got this.


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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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