Healing “Ruby Sue” & the Ruse

Ruby Sue. The little hillbilly girl in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

I have a soft spot in my heart for her.

When I was 10, the budget was beyond tight in my family as it was for many families in that little town in Idaho.

When we first moved to the small berg from Salt Lake City, we were hopeful that our family store would do well. Two big employers existed in the town: Boise Cascade Lumber and Libby vegetables cannery.

By the fall of that first year, the cannery closed and the lumber mill nearly shut down, and we had missed any summer recreational traffic going to the nearby water ski reservoir. 

Winter was coming.

Those were also the Jimmy Carter years with high inflation-everything was so expensive. A pair of jeans cost the equivalent of $150 with inflation. A new, cheap blouse:$50 in today’s money.

Compound that with my twin and me with braces (ok, AND headgear!) 2 dogs, 3 cats…a new mortgage, and store building rent and well… you have a girl who felt and looked a bit like Ruby Sue plus acne and an orthodontic hardware head bandage.

The scars stretched deep into the Holler.

Encouraged by my life coach, I recently went to The Galleria mall in Houston to see if the high-end stores were as scary as Ruby used to think to heal my inner Ruby. Dior, Chanel, Saks 5th Avenue put the fear of God and Snots the Dog in her. 

She could never go in there!

“Ah caynt go in thar…They’d a look et meh like ah was no good ayt all. Then ah’d feel real bad about mahsef..That’id be thuh wurst..”

The first challenge was the Louboutin boutique. The salespeople were not interested in helping me or showing me anything (helooo…6′ tall blond Swedish woman is sort of hard to miss). 

I found it to be more of a shoe art gallery and showed Ruby all the neat designs (spikes galore) and clever marketing (red soles). We sat on the setee’ drinking a Perrier, unfazed, while our Millenial friend, who is associated with show business and has many photo ops, tried some shoes on and filmed for Instagram.
I kept reminding myself that I am not in show business (unless writers are rock stars). I was now an accomplished, retired adult who writes now. Of all professions, store clerks are among the lowest paid; I know-I used to be one of them.

The salespeople’s careless attitude cannot hurt adult Ruby.

Ruby and I made it-unscathed and sans sweating. We had the right to be in there just like anyone else. 

Nothing could have prepared Ruby for Saks Fifth Avenue, though I had been there 3+ years prior to find my wedding dress and the service was almost as lovely as Nordstroms.

Everything had changed and suddenly, the store was styled in a compartmented, rabbit-warren style.

Though Ruby & I were classically well-dressed, Ruby’s throat tightened and she gripped my hand.

The salespeople in the shoe section knew my Millenial famous friend. One salesman reminded me of my smarmy old boss “Carl” when I sold shoes at 17 at a department store in another small Idaho berg while in college. He always wanted to “scoot by me” whilst I was stocking shoes…


“Sheldon” oiled his way around the sale rack and greeted me like I was the Dowager of Downton Abby. (Charmed, I’m sure). 

“Young man, Have you read Forbes or Money magazine lately?” No. If you had, you would know that most buyers are NOT Millenials-they are Boomers and GenXers. “Let’s not write off entire generations now, shall we?” 

I let my monocle fall gently back down on its chain.

“Bah! Old people don’t need shoes! I need to get off my long 4 hour shift and go home to my safe space and juice box!”

Then I eyed the easily-accessible Louboutin sales rack. Ruby could try on a pair with her now-sweaty, stinky 6pm feet to see what the big deal is.

Ruby has been size 9US since age 9. That’s about 39 or 40 in Euro sizes. She squeeeezed the first 39.5 pair, aghast. 

“F%^*ing metrics!” Size 40.5 (11 US)- 

“yes, I’ll have the drag queen snowshoe ones in python!”

Umph. Snowshoe heels On.

She stood up.

Arrrgggah! The pain! 

These felt like the cheap shanky heels she used to buy at Payless in the 1980s. She thought of Hannibal the Cannibal: “I can hear your cheap shoes, Clairece…”


“I’m gonna shit a brick, Uncle Clark! These ain’t no good at awl!”

My Millenial showbiz friend said “Yes, many of these are ‘Valet Shoes’-from the car to the restaurant (10 minute shoes).”

My other friend admitted to me years ago that they were terribly uncomfortable and that she stashed them under her desk when not going to the next meeting.

Even Louboutin himself is known as the “king of painful shoes” (Vogue).

The sales people snickered at my famous friend while she walked with the shoes on a hard surface because she was dressed casually “Yea, she looks so DIFFERENT today…heh heh, snork.” Then all back to fake smiles when she returned.

OMG, did they NOT see me sitting RIGHT THERE within earshot?!

What ‘Ruby Sue’ lives inside us to need to impress others so very,very badly and put up with horrid shoes and bad salespeople?

Are we driven by such pain on the inside to such extreme lengths that we are willing to endure pain on the outside at any price?!

If I’m going to spend $1350 on a shoe, it should fit perfectly, look great, and be wearable for heaven’s sake. I wouldn’t expect a salesperson to rub my back and braid my hair (good luck, it still goes hillbilly on me when it rains) but simply to not complain about having a job and to be decent.

I’m open to trying higher-end brands but not at such a price that I would have to come out of retirement to impress someone else.

I like Enzo & Camuto & Clarks for $30-$150.

Ruby looked around the store; bored, with her eyes finally wide-open. The salespeople were complaining about working, other patrons trying on the death shoes, had dirty, smooshed Uggs on that had seen better Christmases long long ago when belly rings were in style.

Fake! It’s all a ruse!!

This is not Pretty Woman at all!!!

What an insolent racket!!

Ruby has grown up. She is wise and knows herself and could care less about impressing strangers on Social Media.

She is free and comfortable in her own shoes and hillbilly skin.

By the way, this is the actress today who played Ruby Sue and I bet from the smile on her face, she wasn’t wearing Louboutin’s.

Images from Lampoon’s Christmas Bacation.1989 & Pinterest


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