Earlier this year, I participated in a creative workshop. There was this tightly wound woman in the group who wore a permanent sneer even when she was smiling. You know the type. She didn’t like me from the get go. One morning, as we approached the same door from opposite directions, she said to me, “There she is in her red cowboy boots, just to prove she’s from California.”

Toxic bitch. I’d done nothing to provoke that kind of aggression, I assure you. But I can only pity the poor thing; I thought all women understood and respected the power of red shoes

Now, these were not the same red boots that Kim bought me before I went to grad school in 1995. That day she said, “I’m tired of hearing you whine all these years about how you want red cowboy boots.” (I had, in fact, been whining ever since 1984, when I first coveted the boots the preacher’s daughter put on after a roll in the meadow with Kevin Bacon in Footloose.) At 34, Kim had already been living with breast cancer for five years. She was, understandably, no longer a big believer in delayed gratification.

I didn’t wear the boots Kim bought me all the time, but I wore them for more than a decade. I wore them when I was feeling sassy. I wore them when I needed a boost. I wore them when I needed to be strong, because they were a reminder of her strength. I wore them to her funeral.

I was wearing them when I jumped all over my cheating husband’s fine classical guitar a few years after that. Then I did wear them all the time, until I wore them out. I didn’t want to replace them, but I had to. So, shortly before I left San Diego for Paris, I went to Mexico and bought some reddish cowboy boots that fit like they’d grown around my feet and were so well made that they’ll last me till I die. I had them dyed to match the red of Kim’s boots. And I wear them almost every day.

In a great post entitled Soul Shoes, La Belette Rouge (a serious red shoe lover) cites a theory about clothing being an extension of self (a theme I touched on in my post on thrift shopping not long ago), and another that says shoes are indicators of your attitude towards reality. If you’ve ever had a pair of red shoes, you know it’s all true.

So what do my red cowboy boots prove? That I once knew a good witch who waved her wand and gave me magic red shoes. That’s it.