In Search of My Red Dress
National Wear Red Day 2014 is Friday, February 7th – it is a day of celebration and a time to raise awareness about women and heart disease.
It is common knowledge that every woman needs “a little black dress.” But if you are a woman with heart disease, you must also have “a little red dress.” It symbolizes that common bond you have with other women who share your diagnosis. It is symbolic of the struggle, the “ups and downs and all arounds” of your personal journey to get where you are in accepting and living with heart disease. The red dress celebrates the miracle of survival and the union of the struggle.
Therein lies the problem.
I do not particularly like the color red!
In fact, I have absolutely no article of clothing in my closet that is red!
I do not even look good in red!
The idea of purchasing a red dress is just not sensible. It is costly, impractical and will only hang in the closet and gather dust.
And furthermore, I do not even know what color or kind of shoes to wear with a red dress!
Do “old ladies” like me wear vibrant red dresses?!
Let it further be known that I find it difficult to find ANY dress to wear!
I did like to wear dresses at one time. I still recall wistfully the time (now decades and decades ago) I went shopping with my Mother to buy my first prom dress. The dress was magical. It was perfect – long and elegant embellished with white lace daisies on the bodice of the gown. It had a stunning and (cutting-edge design of the 1960’s) long draping floor length train that now, in retrospect, could have easily been mistaken for superman’s cape! At that time, however, it looked like a flowing and elegant addition to my YELLOW gown. YUP! It was YELLOW! (Well, I think the sales clerk referred to the color as marigold!) I guess that would be just as flamboyant as red.
And, yes, I could have danced all night in that ‘red-carpet worthy’, flirty and sophisticated marigold dress. I want to feel like that in my new red dress again.
Incidentally, my prom was perfect in every way. I also vividly recall the dress of the other gal we double dated with. Her name was Diane and her classic fitted dress had a long bow on the back of dress with the bow ribbons gracefully streaming to the floor. I also remember her having a ‘bit of an accident’ with the ribbon ending up in the toilet. How does that happen?! I remember laughing uncontrollably as she stood in the bathroom flabbergasted as I tried to dry the ribbon lengths! Now, years later I am just happy it was not my superman cape that ended up in the toilet. Ah, yes, those were teen-age problems. Now I have moved on to old lady problems and in need of a red (yikes!) dress! (Probably no cape and no ribbon, huh?!)
Those teen-age uncertainties are long-gone. The yellow dress is history. I need to look to the future — to the red dress. Where could it be? Where will I wear it… and what kind of shoes do I wear with it?
Searching for “my red dress” is a feat comparable to running another 26.2 mile marathon – a slow and unwinding process, mind-boggling and something I have not done in years. (Not to mention it will be impossible with my current medical diagnosis.) I recall a marathon poster that read “Everything you ever needed to know about yourself, you will learn in 26.2 miles.” Trying on dresses told me more about myself than I wanted to know!
As I walked the mall with my daughter and a friend, I find several red dresses – from a form-fitting cut to a frumpy Bohemian look – none that fit the model of a “perfect dress” I envisioned. I have my daughter try them on for me, as it is less tormenting that way. (Don’t want to induce any angina.) I had tried them on the previous day. That was when my friend remarked one dress “looked better on the hanger!” (Oh dear!) My friend further offered: “Maybe you would prefer to buy a red sweater.” Finding my red dress as an old lady is much more devastating than searching for my marigold dress as a teenager.
The “Go RED for Women” campaign is the American Heart Association’s movement to save women’s lives from heart disease. Its mission is to improve women’s heart health by funding research and raising awareness about heart disease among women. The “Go Red for Woman” campaign offers educational programs, advancing a woman’s understanding about her own risk for heart disease as well as tools and motivation to help her reduce her risk. It is therefore, important and necessary to WEAR RED on National WEAR RED DAY – always the first Friday in February. It may be a small way to make a difference, but it will have great meaning for any woman dealing with heart disease. GO RED FOR WOMEN!
The “Heart Truth”, launched under the sponsorship of National Heart and Lung Institute, is a national awareness campaign for women about heart disease. They created the RED DRESS as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness in the year 2002. The red dress has become a powerful symbol over the years, reminding women everywhere to take charge of their own heart health. It is an inspirational symbol, much like the pink ribbon is in breast cancer awareness.
I know I repeat it often. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the United States. Eight times more women die of heart disease than breast cancer. It is important to remind you that YOU need to take care of your heart. Heart disease is something you can take action against. Let my RED DRESS and this RED DRESS blog post serve as a “red alert” to you to learn how to protect your heart and increase your chances of living life to the fullest.
As women and caretakers and nurturers, we delay taking action in caring for ourselves. We tend to put others first. You need to put yourself in top priority. In the whole scheme of things, you will better be able to care more fully for others if your health is in top condition. Do NOT think you are not old enough to be at risk for heart disease. Do NOT say you are too busy to make changes, or too tired, or too stressed out. The message of the RED DRESS is important for both young and old. Heart disease develops gradually and can start at a young age. It is also essential that the older woman takes action to prevent and control their personal risk factors for heart disease.
Take small steps towards better health. It will all add up. MOVE. Any activity is better than sitting on the couch. Walk at the Mall or join a gym. Eat smaller meals and make fewer stops at fast food restaurants. Enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. Park a distance from your destination and walk the rest. “Know your numbers” – blood pressure, blood sugar, BMI and cholesterol.
If you cannot do it for yourself, do it for your children and grandchildren. Do it for your husband. Do it for all those people who love and care about you. Children watch adults. Serve as a role model for them to learn healthy habits because then they will at less risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes and a multitude of other chronic illnesses.
Now, more than ever, I would love to wear a vibrant red dress with no regrets or pretenses. I want to cross off # 22 on the bucket list:
“WEAR A RED DRESS WHILE WADING IN A CRANBERRY BOG.”
Well, maybe I cannot do the cranberry bog part right now. I need to be ready with the red dress when the cranberry bog is ready for me! (YUP! Wading in a cranberry bog REALLY is on my bucket list!) The more I think about it the more I realize the alliance and the freedom the “red dress” gives me — the freedom to “let go”, to be nonsensical; and silly and to be part of something bigger than myself – THE RED DRESS GROUP.
We must LOVE our hearts by eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising more, taking necessary medications, quit smoking and continue to be informed about heart health.
Friday, February 7th is National Wear Red Day. Please wear red and please take action to protect your heart.