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The Power Of Red

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What tempted Adam to take a bite of Eve’s forbidden fruit, Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road, and an otherwise well-behaved child to throw a screaming tantrum in a department store beneath the formidable statue of its dour Victorian founder, Timothy Eaton?... The power of red.

 Adam was led to perdition by a Red Delicious, not a Granny Smith. Dorothy battled the Wicked Witch of the West over the ruby slippers, not a pair of black Oxfords, and I didn’t risk the wrath of my overwrought mother for a pair of Buster Brown’s. No, what drove my eleven-year-old self over the edge was the thought of leaving the store without the impractical, screaming-red patent leather ballet flats my mother refused, but ultimately relented to buy me. Those shiny shoes marked the beginning of my red beguilement.

Red bewitches the beholder and empowers those brave enough to wear it. Although firmly in its thrall, I limited my indulgence to red nail polish, lipstick and accessories. I held orthodox beliefs on whom and how red is best worn. Voluptuous, buxom gals should confine crimson to their trimmer extremities, those with thin lips avoid it altogether lest their smile appear a vampire’s gash, and brunettes carried it best. My lips were full, my physique svelte and my hair chestnut; I had nothing to fear from red, so what was holding me back?  A lack of confidence perhaps?

I was currently enduring a discouraging round of teacher interviews during the ‘80’s downturn; searching for an apartment without a fortune in ‘key money’ and had ended a fling with a two-timing ninety-day wonder, when my fate abruptly improved. Even though I was deep into a personal recession, I followed my friend to our favourite ‘designer dresses nearly wholesale’ emporium, justifying the expedition as supporting my pal in her retail therapy.


Rummaging aimlessly through the racks, my hand rested on what felt like the softest blanket imaginable, I struggled with a tangle of hangers to extricate this little wonder and finally face my destiny; the perfect red merino wool dress! It was a ‘petite’ knee- length with dolman sleeves in a clear vibrant red, the colour of the original 1924 Chanel lipstick, Premiere Rouge.

I had to have this dress and there wasn’t anyone to restrain me, certainly not my friend lost in her own fashion stupor over a black velvet swing coat, or my mother whose presence shopping was a reliable dampener, as I might enthuse over an ivory linen skirt she pronounced would wrinkle fiercely and show the dirt, believing I couldn’t be trusted near an iron and still splashed in every muddy puddle on my way home. So, in the absence of her stern, practical influence and leaving my friend to her swoon, I smacked-down the plastic and hurried home with my brazen treasure.

As I paraded in front of the full-length mirror, accessorized, appropriately shod and otherwise made-up, it struck me that this little miracle could distinguish me from the other pedagogue hopefuls whose fashion sense was so indifferent they may as well wear garment bags as the drab garb they chose. My résumé was respectable regarding education and qualifications, the rest was as discreetly padded as my under-wire bra, just enough to warrant interest. This dress would tip the scales in my favour. Suddenly, I felt more confident and articulate.

What an epiphany was the empowerment of my red dress! Wearing it, I got a contract at the school I wanted; the tiny rent-controlled apartment I wanted; then the man with the larger apartment I wanted. When it came time to move in with the man in his larger apartment, I put the word out that I had a sublet to offer.

 A mutual friend referred a female colleague suffering a break-up with her boyfriend and lease-holder. She was a shy petite girl ‘on the bricks’ looking for affordable shelter and a better job to replace her low-paying waitress and retail engagements. I happily sublet to her and even left a few things that were redundant to my new life, like the bamboo blinds, chipped teapot with matching cups and saucers, sturdy, useful, ottoman and in the nearly empty closet, my miraculous merino wool dress on its padded hanger, cleaner tags intact, ready and waiting, to pass-on the power of red.

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