MARTHA SEZ: ‘Wear white underwear if you choose; that’s nobody’s business but your own.’

All right, everyone, put away your white shoes. Labor Day is over, and Columbus Day is right around the corner. Leaf season is beginning. Yes, it’s hot out, but it’s meteorological fall.

No matter how many things I forget, I always remember the rule about wearing white shoes after Labor Day. Don’t do it!

Such rules may seem shallow and meaningless. This is because they are shallow and meaningless. Nevertheless, they are important because they give the impression that we are in control of our lives, lives that are orderly and predictable. Without this illusion, we would be even more nervous than we already are. Eastern meditation and Western medication might not be enough to do the trick anymore, in which case the structure of our carefully balanced lives would just fall apart.

If you want to take that gamble, go right ahead. Keep wearing those white shoes.

It is worthy of note that even during the turbulent years of the 1960s and 1970s, decades of sweeping social change and youthful rebellion, you didn’t catch a whole lot of people wearing white shoes after Labor Day. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be acquainted with hippies and other alternative groups during that time period, and I can tell you that, however zealous they were in flouting American conventions, they never went so far as to wear white shoes after Labor Day. It was as if they instinctively understood that was the limit. It’s kind of cosmic.

When I lived in Houston, Texas, during the 1970s, the main people I saw wearing white shoes at any time of year were businessmen and evangelical proselytizers. Clearly, they meant to demonstrate that they had made a clean break with such occupations as cattle roping and farming. Who could step out of a corral or a barnyard with footwear so pristine? This implied message, conventional in its own way, was apparently considered by some to be important enough to supersede the no-white-shoes-after-Labor-Day dictum. That doesn’t make it right, though.

There are exceptions to every rule. At any time of year, brides may walk down the aisle in white, while wearing white shoes. White shoes may also be worn with impunity by toddling babies, nurses and athletes.

While you’re putting the shoes away, you might as well pack up your linen blouses and white skirts and pants, unless they are part of a uniform, in which case leave them out by all means. I don’t want to get you in trouble. Winter white woolens are all right. Wear white underwear if you choose; that’s nobody’s business but your own.

Have you looked at your refrigerator door lately? You need to replace all of the summer schedules with fall and winter schedules.

A woman told me recently “I don’t do magnets.” What! American refrigerators are essentially giant bulletin boards, scrapbooks of our lives, I told her. She allowed that, while she herself does not do magnets, she considers the refrigerator door a folk art medium. Someday I’m going to do a photographic essay on it.

Whether or not it’s Art, your refrigerator door is due for an overhaul. Pile all of the invitations, brochures, postcards and other once valuable pieces of paper on the counter, along with the magnets. By the way, that orange juice carton is teetering. Yes, it’s an accident waiting to happen, and while one could easily put the carton back into the refrigerator, the gamble is a kind of challenge. Will the carton stay put, or — Darn it! Now I have to wash the floor too, or my shoes will stick to it. Not my white shoes, though, because I am not wearing them. They’re in the closet.

I have already started the process of reorganizing my closet by flinging all of my summer clothes off the hangers onto the floor. I have been careful to step over them for the last couple of days.

“Oh well,” said my friend Lou, who wants me to come outside to check the progress of leaf season. Some leaves at higher altitudes are already starting to turn. “They’ll still be there in the morning.”

I know, I say, that’s the problem. Lou says she regrets not climbing Giant Mountain, which was one of her goals for the summer. I say Giant Mountain will still be there in the morning, too. I suppose I’d better make sure the leaves are changing color on schedule.

Have a good week.


(Martha Allen lives in Keene Valley. She has been writing for the Lake Placid News for more than 20 years.)

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