My True Colours
That night in the shoe store when the seller came back with a pair of fancy pink shoes, I fell in love with them at first sight. Wearing those pink shoes created a new feeling in me, the first stirrings of my individual self. Something that was growing over time and was dying to express itself.
These shoes will always have a special place in my heart. Receiving them unexpectedly when I was 13 was a turning point in my life. These shoes. These pink shoes.
Back in Tehran, when I was a young teenager, my father encouraged me to buy boyish outfits with subdued colours. I was usually in pants and shirts, and my shoes were also a boyish style. I didn’t exactly understand his logic in pushing me to dress like this, but he believed that these outfits were more convenient, didn’t restrict physical activity—and served as a way to prevent unwanted male attention.
When I was 13, my younger sister and I went to buy new shoes for the upcoming Nowrouz ceremony. This is the first day of spring and our new year. At this time of renewal, we are expected to clean our homes thoroughly and wear new clothes while visiting all our relatives. In many ways, this Nowrouz proved to be a new beginning for me.
That night, the seller suggested a pair of fancy shoes for my sister. They were neat and formal, made of light brown leather with round toes partly covered by a pair of beautiful bows. The hard sole made some noise when you walked. When my dad asked me if I would like to have the same shoes, I agreed. The seller came back with a pink pair because other colours were sold out. I fell in love at first sight. I didn’t think that my dad would agree to buy them because of the colour, but surprisingly, he did.
For the first time, those shoes created in me an awareness of my own distinct personality, my own nature, something different from how I grew up. My essence and my femininity showed themselves for the first time. These shoes opened a door to a new possibility of who I am—or another part of who I am.
So, I grew up. I became a doctor. I always tried to fulfill my dad’s expectations and make him proud of me—as if my goals were nothing but the goals that he wished for his daughter, being strong and independent like a man. I was happy in my role, but something was there that was dying to express itself. The thought of my pink shoes and the self-image they awakened hadn’t faded. I began to express another part of myself, my true self, by wearing pink outfits, no matter what others thought.
In my traditional culture, you wouldn’t normally see a professional woman appearing in public, especially at work, dressed in pink. But pink was my favourite colour. It gave me a sense of youth and freedom, freedom from what constrained me to express my own wishes and my womanhood. I needed moments of happiness, the enjoyment of laughing loudly, discovering new experiences like a young girl. I wanted to relive the experience of that feeling of freedom when I first wore my lovely pink shoes.
Now, several years later and thousands of miles away, I am here in my second homeland. I no longer feel I have to fulfill any wish outside myself. It is my own choice to wear any outfit in any colour and do anything that I feel is right. I am at a stage where I feel confident in myself. I am proud of my strong personality and my femininity which I see as elegant, not weak.
I have kept some memories of the past and let others go. Some events are with me forever though. One is the day I fell in love with pink shoes and discovered the first stirrings of my own individual self.
Mojgan Zarif is a physician from Mashhad, Iran. She and her family lived there for many years before coming to Canada in 2012. She now works at Toronto General Hospital as a research fellow in her medical specialty. She tries to be a role model for her children. During the weekends, she makes delicious Persian dishes for the family.