Lady in Red

We are back to cardinal rules of an old school diplomat.

When my Father began to invite me downstairs for their receptions, I stood beside my Father like glue, he would give me a quick rundown of each person who came through the doors. Showing me little nuances, they way they were standing, the way they shook hands, what they were wearing. Each step he said was crucial in the diplomatic world, if you open your eyes, you can glean a lot from 20 seconds and first impressions.

There she was, she came in ahead of her husband, tall, thin, beautiful and too perfect. My Father gritted his teach, I knew by his look he despised the couple, especially her (there was a deeper a more disturbing reason why he greatly disliked this couple, but that is for another time.).

She moved like a cat, her husband behind walked invisibly behind. Her heavy perfume wafted in and hit your nostrils before she even got close. She was the show, and that is what she wanted.

We greeted quickly, and there was a lull at the door. My Father looked at me and asked “What was wrong with that picture.” I didn’t know what to say, I drew a blank staring back at the couple.

My brain hurt thinking about the situation and to think about what my Father’s angle was. I looked back, staring at the woman, she was beautiful, stood straight, had amazing grace. Her husband however, was an odd duck, disheveled, slumped over, looked at his shoes all the time, and fidgeted.

My Father leaned over and said “She is wearing red, she wants attention, and the spotlight, she doesn’t care if this is not about her.” As my Father began to dissect the situation, he explained that in politics, a couple in the diplomatic world had to operate as a unit. Receptions were useful for work, you can gather information. The spouse of the diplomat can often gather gossip, the diplomat in this case my Father, always needed to find out something specific (you would be surprised how many meetings would take place in the middle of something so social). In the case of the lady in red, she was interested in the fact she was invited as a spouse, she was there to outshine everyone, and gain something for herself. She was dressed in a strapless red dress, high-heeled red shoes, and red lipstick; no one could deny she was absolutely stunning.

My Father looked at me, and said “Never under any circumstance do you wear red, unless it is a costume or celebration our National Day.”

Just like in a chess game, there are rules of a diplomatic dance, and red (according to my Father), was a vulgar colour, that in many cultures could ruin a negotiation or deal. I was sceptical of this, I didn’t understand the idea of a colour being a deal breaker, but I looked around, colour was acceptable, I saw beautiful (more conservative) outfits in blue, pink and green, the red was a contrast. The women in the room avoided her, the men, were not sure where to look, and politely walked away.

She was meant to be on a red carpet, not at a diplomatic function. I still can’t look at a red dress without thinking about that evening.

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