Friday, March 13, 2009

Red Shoes

I’m wearing red shoes today.

You may think “so what?”, but to someone who has tried all her life, and succeeded at that, to stay invisible, wearing red shoes is a big deal.

About two years ago, I attended a weekend seminar called “World Works”. I can’t explain how great it was, it has to be experienced, but it is a place where you work on yourself, you are forced to come face to face with yourself, good and bad, and if you are alert and soak up the tools and the knowledge they provide you with during this seminar, it will help you out once you’re released into the real world again. It was exhausting but it felt great.

It was here that I found out, with the assistance of one of our coaches, that I had become invisible. I didn’t realize how hard I had been working at becoming invisible, but apparently I had been very successful at it. Believe me, I had to dig into places I didn’t want to dig to come to that conclusion and expose feelings and hurt that had been locked up for years.
I was forced to think back to happier times. A time where I had not been afraid to raise my hand in class to tell everybody about my weekend. A time where I hadn’t been afraid to have everyone looking at me while I played a part in a school play or played a solo on the recorder. When did all that stop? When was it that I decided that it was better to be invisible?

When I was 12 years old, I was uprooted from my childhood town and moved across the country. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know I’m from Norway. In Norway, people don’t move much. They pretty much stay in the town they are born, where their parents were born, where their grandparents are born… People don’t move much at all. That makes it very difficult on the few of us who are uprooted like I was and replanted in a new society… a society where nobody needs a new friend because they grew up there and they already have everyone they need. I did make friends eventually, but I was still an outsider. Everyone around me had pretty much grown up with each other, and I had 12 years of internal jokes to catch up on. That truly is a task that is impossible.

My dialect was different because I had grown up in a different part of the country. I’ve also always been bigger than average my whole life, so my weight has always been a sore spot. Physically, I developed as a woman fairly early, and that didn’t go unnoticed by all those adolescent boys that I went to school with. I was constantly teased, squeezed and harassed over all these issues. Maybe under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t have been so bad, but I was the new kid in school, I was alone and I was different. I was vulnerable and I was an easy target.

I look back now and I realize that the guys who gave me the hardest time were ones that had worse problems on their own to deal with. At the time though, I was a teenager, and I wasn’t experienced enough to understand that much.
So, invisibility became my defense mechanism. I no longer raised my hand in class, even when I knew the answer to questions being asked. No more did I rush out to tell anybody about my weekend. Instead I did everything I could not to get noticed at all. The fear was that if I was noticed by anyone, I’d get picked on. After all, it was better to be invisible than being teased.

I mastered the task of being invisible. Looking back, even to my university days, I didn’t really make as many friends as I could have because I was hiding from the world. Sure I went out to parties and I did make a few very good friends, but I realize now that I missed out on a lot of good people just because of the stealth mode I was in. I even took it a step further and decided on my very own, without even consulting with anybody at all, that I wasn’t worth anybody’s time. If two of my friends hung out together without me, I felt it was because they didn’t want me along, because they were better friends with each other than with me, so I naturally took a backseat. If I had taken the initiative to step out from the shadows and involve myself, I probably would have discovered that this wasn’t the case at all. I just wasn’t making myself available to them and their friendship.
After all, who was I? Just an outsider, an overweight chick with a weird dialect. College, however, was a melting pot of all sorts of people from all parts of the country. We were all outcasts and loners and I didn’t actually stand out at all, except for in my very own mind.

My choice to be invisible has inhibited me in life. Even now, when I’m aware of this tendency of mine to blend in with the walls, I can’t change it overnight. I still head for the rack of black clothes when I shop. God forbid I wear something brightly colored so people can see me or even worse, they may actually stop and make me the focus of their conversation for a minute. Maybe they’ll even compliment the color of my blouse, thereby pointing out the unusually bright color I’m wearing, and I’ll think “damn, I’ll never wear this again!” People tell me I should show some cleavage because “I’ve got it so I should flaunt it”, but how can I show off something that I was teased for through so many years? I like big sweaters and black clothes, but I’m trying to break from that comfort zone, now that I’m aware of why it is a comfort zone to begin with.

I should point out that fate decided to play a prank on me by making me a baseball fan and my team of choice came to be the Anaheim Angels, whose team color is bright red. Go figure! So I wear red, as long as it has a team logo on it. It’s almost as if I have to justify or have a reason to wear red, because I don’t want to make it seem like I’m wearing red to seek attention. I’m wearing it to support my team, that’s all!

So back to these shoes. I saw them last week in an Adidas outlet store. They were on super sale and they were the only ones left of their kind! $15 for a pair that used to be $70 (who pays that much for shoes?). They were red and black with white stripes and they looked really cool, they just really stood out. (See the irony here??)
So I tried them on, they fit like a glllllllllove (any Ace Ventura fans out there?). Here was the dilemma. They were red.
Red shoes! Really unique! They’re really going to show when I wear them! But they looked so cool. I decided that whether or not I would ever wear these shoes, $15 was still a good deal so I ended up buying them.

Today is casual day at work. We’re allowed to wear sneakers.

My red sneakers were glaring at me from the kitchen table when I came in this morning. That is where I parked them last week after purchasing them. I thought “oh what the heck, I’ll just wear my white shoes to work and I’ll wear these red shoes tomorrow when I won’t be seen by people I know”. What a copout!
Then I walked right past them. I had to pass them again on my way to the bathroom and then once more on my way back to the kitchen and I swear, it was as if this pair of shoes exerted their influence on me.
Finally I grabbed them and put them on. All of a sudden I didn’t care if they attracted attention (from people I know nevertheless!). They’re red and they are fabulous. I have literally taken another step away from the shadows, in my brand new bright red sneakers.

So… hey everybody! Look at me!

I’m wearing red shoes today!


Stanis said...

Congratulations! A Fictional World by Laila has just been awarded the "Honest Scrap" Award.
To view your award and claim it, visit

You truly deserve this award! Enjoy!

Laila said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laila said...

Woo, thank you :-D I'll get right on writing my bragging post :-D

Ororina said...

Klump i magen her. Dette visste jeg ikke. Vi har nok mer til felles vi to enn vi vet? Mao - en erfaring vi har felles. Og jeg tror jeg endelig skjønner en av grunnene til at du er så glad i USA. (?)

Gå med de røde fine skoene dine du :D Det er på tide å få gå i det vi vil :D Jeg har lyst til å farge håret mitt cherise. Lurer på om jeg tørr - HAHA. Odd så rart på meg da jeg nevnte det for han, men hår vekser jo ut igjen, så what the heck ;)