No, not The Red Shoes. No dancing. But, it is when I learned the consequences of conformism. And, it was the first time I made a choice that brought me trouble but I had to live with.
Welcome to Way Back Wednesday.
When I was in 7th grade, way back in 1975, everyone either wore blue or white tennis shoes. Oh, there was the occassional day when you needed dress shoes or penny loafers (you were really "cool" if you got to wear quarters in your penny loafers). But, for the most part it was white. Or it was blue. Or it was blue and white. And that was it. Teen conformism at it's best.
When it was time for me to get new shoes, we went to the shoe store and they had a pair of red tennis shoes. I'd never seen anything I wanted so much since the last time I wanted something that much. I had to have them. I remember that my Mom tried to talk me into blue or white, but I had to have red. It was nearly the bicentennial and everyone was into "early american" and honeyed maple and red/white/blue everything. Red was the perfect color for tennis shoes.
Or so I thought.
But, just because I thought they were the bee's knees doesn't mean that everyone else thought so. I took so much grief at school about those red shoes. Kids picked on me, bullys called me names. It was the first time I can remember being called "queer". But, I had those great red shoes and it made me feel different and good and I didn't understand why everybody else was so upset.
And, of course, I couldn't go home and complain about them. After all, I'd gotten exactly what I had asked for and even though I tried not to wear them to school, I knew I was stuck with them until they wore out. It was that or dress shoes.
So, I put miles on those shoes. I did not treat them nicely. I roughed them up and walked in the mud and water. And, I wore them out in what was probably record time for me. And, I hated it. I wanted to put them on a shelf and have them to wear only when I wanted to. But, we couldn't afford shoes to look at and never wear any more than I can afford shoes for Sydney to look at and never wear.
After that, I only asked for white tennis shoes. In fact, until I was 40, I only had 4 pair of shoes at a time; brown dress, black dress, white tennis, and cowboy boots.
Now, I have more shoes than I'd care to tell you about. Why, just in tennis shoes, I have white and a pair of blue and tan and a pair of really nice brown leather ones. Screw conformism.
Color is just color. Where there is terrorism and global warming and crazy people trying to take us all back to a romanticized time that wasn't really that great in the first place, how would I dare to be afraid of a color. So, I wear pink and orange (not together, but just because I don't like them together. not because people tell me not to wear them together) and any other color that I see that appeals to me.
And you know what? Those same bullys that called me names? I've seen them on facebook and they're fat. And, they have fat wives and fat children. And, they live in falling down dumps and post pictures of animals they've killed. And they have jobs they hate.
As far as I can tell, their best days were when they taught me to be a man that can wear pink.
Nietzsche said "That which does not kill us makes us stronger."