I couldn’t wear red. Layered against my strawberry-blond hair and freckles red was too much. Red was too much for a good girl. Red was too much, period. Red was a color for a seductress. I wasn’t that! But a siren taught me otherwise.
She wouldn’t have won a beauty contest. Late 60s maybe even early seventies. Matronly. Grey hair yanked back in a frizzy bun. Wiry curls winked above a forehead wash-boarded with worry. She was a color witch. Can’t judge a book by its cover.
I had found an olive green and red paisley skirt that I loved in the racks at the JC Penney store. The skirt cinched my waist and billowed in a soft drape over Dionysian hips. But a white blouse didn’t work. An ivory blouse didn’t work. The green blouse didn’t work – it fought the skirt.
The color witch rapped gnarled knuckles against the slatted door of the dressing room.
“Can, I help you?” she said. Her voice rasped like a rusty hinge.
I glanced at myself reflected in the mirror underneath the glare of florescent lights. Crimson humiliation spots had risen on my cheeks and a flush of “don’t let her see your body” pink had crawled up my neck.
If I cracked the door, she would glimpse my sexy secret: I was a widow with an imperfect body who had just started to wear brazen silky panties and a matching lace bra. Eros had awakened from the slumber of grief.
I could invoke my independent, “never ask for help” rule. But a hunch said, “Go for it. Ask.” One lone stick pin stood straight up in the periwinkle pincushion built into the shelf next to the mirror.
“I can’t find a top in the right color for this skirt,” I said and threw the door wide open. I’d done it. I’d admitted that dressing myself right was a riddle I couldn’t solve.
“Oh, honey,” the witch said. A sly smile curved her chapped lips. “That skirt screams for a bright red top.”
“W-w-with my red hair and freckles,” I said and stammered. I can’t wear red!” I watched her eyebrows reach for the ceiling. “Nonsense,” she said. “You can wear any color, dear, but it’s got to be the right shade.”
She brought a silk blouse. It was the color of fresh tomatoes behind emerald leaves that flirted with the hot summer. It was the red chili pepper ring nestled in a salad of spinach-leaf. It was the sun-kissed strawberry plucked from a shamrock stem. It was, holy guacamole, capital B, Bright Tomato Red against a pine-colored skirt.
It was perfect. The courtesan color flowed over soft breasts and hinted at hard nipples. It rebelled under the corporate culture uniform green jacket I drew over it.
The witch stole the next two hours from my sedate psychologist’s life and enticed me to adore my color palette. No hue went unloved – sensual plum, tantalizing teal, and climax peach.
With every just right shade the witch said, “Oh my God girl, that is so GOOD on you, it plays up your assets” hissing the “s”s with throaty chuckles. The air crackled with grateful sex, singed with released heat, and sighed with not so guilty pleasure. We exalted my “true colors.”
That outfit turned heads. It was as right as rain. I’ve worn tomato red ever since. Mae West said, “there are no good girls gone wrong, just ‘bad’ girls found out.”
Copyright © Linda Sandel Pettit, Ed.D., 2021
Photo: Artem Furman on iStock Photo
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