On Friday I bought a red sweater. This may not seem entirely consequential to the casual observer, but I have never owned a red article of clothing. And then I wore the red sweater all day long, even when it was no longer required. I was thinking it was some symbolic thing about embracing change, but more likely it means I was just so glad to have a new item in my wardrobe that I refused to take it off.
I had to attend the Christmas Pageant at my kindergarten on Saturday and all teachers were instructed to wear red tops. Anything as long as it was red. When I told one of my co-workers that I never wear red, she said, “Well, now you will.” Following the rules is a very big thing in Chinese schools. I said, “But I look terrible in red. I have never owned anything red.” This is a slight exaggeration, because I remember two distinct articles of clothing from my childhood that were red. And if memory serves I loved them both; a pair of red bell bottomed jeans and a red and white satin jacket, roller derby style. “Maybe it is time to change my attitude…” I suggested with a laugh, to which my colleague replied straight-faced, “Maybe.”
So, after work on Friday I picked out every red top in the whole ladies section of the local, low-end department store. I tried on more than ten different tops. And while I was doing this, along with working up a sweat in the dressing room, I realized that red might not be so bad. In my pile of red almost every item was a different variety of red. I tried them all. I settled on a cowl neck sweater “with” cashmere (I did say low end, right?) It is totally red, red, red.
I got up early enough to try to make a go at looking nice for this function. I was informed that a buffet lunch would follow with the entire staff… I was already thinking of ways to get out of that. I showered. I put on make-up. I pulled my hair back. I got dressed. I wore red.
Once I had the sweater on I stood a little taller. I looked at myself in the mirror more than I have in longer than I can remember. I was wearing red. And it was pretty okay.
I walked out of my apartment and noticed that the morning regulars looked at me a little more than normal (which is a lot because even after nearly four months they still stare.) It was like I had blonde hair again. It was fun.
The people at school were very complimentary, either because they knew I had to get the sweater just for this event, or because they really like me in red… Or I suppose it could have been some combination of the two.
I had my picture taken with the students about a million times. Well, not really, but a lot. SO the red sweater will be extremely well-documented if nothing else. Then came the lunch buffet, and we were a group of forty or so people all wearing red. It looked pretty cool (much better than the non-Chinese Chinese buffet luncheon looked.) When we walked in we had to draw numbers out of a box for to determine which gift we would receive in the gift “exchange.” [It is not really an exchange since you get a number and the gifts are numbered and you pick up the corresponding gift… but much exchanging goes on after the fact as people swap their assigned gifts ranging from Hello Kitty bath towels, to Winnie the Pooh coat hangers, to a single Tupperware box – sort of a burn that one – to strange Chinese shampoos an other random items.] I drew number 8 and everyone was very envious… “Very Lucky Number!” My gift was a red thermos mug. [Incidentally, there is a second gift thing which is what they call a lucky draw where around 15 names are pulled from a hat to “win” another gift and I did “win” that also, though I am convinced they rig these things so the gweilo feels included, either way that present was an Oral-B Electric Toothbrush ‘System.’]
After lunch as I walked down Nathan Road in Yau Ma Tei to catch a bus home I remembered I was wearing a red sweater… I guess it was not so life changing after all since I had forgotten about it in the shadow of my electric toothbrush.
I was still wearing my sweater almost 14 hours later. (I hope that is not gross.) I have decided that not only do I like the sweater… I think I like red. I do not know if this signals a change in my attitude, but I do know that wearing red is more exciting than wearing black and blue which I wear everyday.
Is the red sweater metaphorical for something larger in my life? I have no idea. I guess we will see where this takes me in the New Year. Life might be too brief to be monochromatic. And, I am going to have really clean teeth, which should go well with any color.
Oh, and I did give notice to my employers, but this is being complicated by the fact that the school where I work four days a week is trying now to negotiate for me to stay with them… All I have to say about it at this point is… Thailand here I come.