A Manifesto from our Exxonmobil CSJP Intern, Sarah Kolb
I bought myself my first pair of shoes with my own money when I was fourteen. At that point I didn’t really understand what it meant to be a “shoe person”, mostly because I didn’t really understand myself yet.
I was at a discount store with my mother when they caught my eye: a pair of kitten-heeled cherry-red patent leather pumps that had been tossed under a bench.
I remember fishing them out, trying them on, and looking at my legs in the mirror. I was in awe.
I was a freshman in high school who, like many girls, was slowly finding her way out of the terrible middle school years that had been plagued by awkwardness, braces, and body-image issues.
I was curvier than all the other girls. My legs had shape to them, something I hated rather than celebrated. I had spent the past three years of my life since puberty desperately trying to hide my legs under baggy jeans and sports uniforms.
But there they were in that smudged store mirror, like nothing I had ever seen. My legs were the same as they had been all along but to me they had been transformed by the red shoes into something grown-up, something comfortable, and something to be proud of.
My mother refused to buy them. She told me I had no place to wear them and they weren’t appropriate for a 14 year old.
Like hell they weren’t.
I bought them as one of many youthful acts of defiance.
What my mother, and many people who hide behind their self-imposed practicalities, didn’t understand is that there’s something magical about a bright red pair of shoes. In the snap second a woman decides to buy them she thinks, “what the hell, I’m worth it.”
Even though they aren’t practical, even though they won’t match the majority of her wardrobe, in that splinter of a moment that woman irrevocably decides, “I am worth standing out. I am good enough to be noticed.”
Red shoes are more than shoes. They’re an idea. A revolutionary step. A realization every woman must have to be happy.
Once that pair of shoes comes home with her, no matter what happens next, she will have two trustworthy companions, two advocates who will always fight for her against her own demons, heartaches, creepy bosses, old age, and unruly children. Two friends to remind her that no matter what, she’s worth something.
-Sarah B. Kolb
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