Red Shoes

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."



Trish said...

Oh, Lane, you made me smile and gringe all at the same time. Throughout my pre-teen and teen years my mom always told me to "be unique"...in other words, take pride in who I am. (my daughter seems to have picked up on that, too---her thing are Converse-her friends detest them). Important message. Important lesson. GO LANE!!!!

lw said...

I used to have red shoes in the early 80's-- suede ankle boots, the cutest shoes ever.

I think standing out in any way among children/teenagers will draw fire. I remember doing everything I could to keep a low profile because I was the one who sat in the back row and wrote "A" papers in ink. Getting good grades drew fire from the bullies, too, but I accidently found out freshman year when I tutored one of them, she protected me from the others. I will forever be grateful that those hours in the library meant not getting my head stuck in a toilet and "swirled."

Becky said...

Great post! Have a wonderful day.

Shay said...

Totally agree with you Lane.

The "cool" (by their own definition) kids in high school usually didnt amount to much dpown the track. In the real world theyre just small fish in a big pond.

Imagine how much more creative this world could be if more people wore red shoes!

Vesuviusmama said...

I'm glad you have colorful shoes now - mine bring me smiles on down days. I have 4 pairs of red shoes, 1 orange, 1 leopard print, 1 green and lots of variations on the black and brown theme. Color is important to me, especially in the winter when life doesn't seem to have any.

Elizabeth said...

I remember those days. I wanted to fit in so badly, but my talents didn't make me popular like my sister. Turns out, my talents are a lot more useful now than hers are. And red shoes? Who wouldn't love them!

Marla said...

I don't know if you will get this message since it has been over a year since you wrote the story about your red shoes but just in case I wanted to write you. First of all, I love your blog. Just found you a few days ago and went back to read some of your entries. You are a really good writer by the way. You are about 2 years younger than me but you have brought me back to my childhood and teen years that were not always good either! I remember how mean kids could be if you ever went against the norm or average. I remember doing that a couple of times as well. Once with wearing brown pants and a pink shirt. You would have thought that the world stopped turning that day. I was picked on all day for that. And why? What was wrong with it? Still don't know. Also had the nerve to get blue framed glasses as a 4th grader. First time I had to be "Four eyes" and did not pick the right color to do that. If you had to wear them, at least get brown frames. Well as you can imagine, I had to wear those blue frames until I grew out of them. Then I got brown and what do you know? Now gold frames were what you needed to have? I was always behind in the fashion world. Sigh. Still, I totally get the fat people on facebook. Now they are getting toothless and gray headed too. Makes me feel good. Glad to meet you Lane!

Nancy said...

I wore a uniform, grades K-12, but even so, there were always those girls who made me feel as if I did not quite fit in. While I am sorry anyone abused you, look at the man who came from that? He is a beloved and loving spouse, a great Dad, a super blogger, a great gardener and a fantastic quilter!