Laws that no longer apply

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Call me a rebel. I wore white and it’s not even April yet.

“I didn’t know you could do that,” a co-worker commented, referring to the white pants I had pulled from the closet and worn to work on this particular 80-plus degree March day. I’ve never paid much attention to that old rule, I confessed, and asked if they were going to make a citizen’s arrest on behalf of the fashion police. Granted, I don’t wear white cotton britches in the dead of winter, but if it’s March and it’s hot, I’m pulling them out, even if it’s not officially springtime yet.

For that statement alone, I may get my Southern Woman membership revoked.

Growing up, I never recall wearing white shoes before Easter, but you can bet your bottom dollar that come Easter morning I had bright white patent leather Mary Janes from the Red Goose Shoes store on my feet, complete with little white turned down socks with lace around the edge.


The way I understand it, more people believe that it’s white shoes you shouldn’t wear before Easter or after Labor Day – just like women aren’t supposed to wear velvet after February or drink straight from a can. (Guilty. Guilty.)

At least I can’t get arrested.

An old city ordinance in Cleveland, Ohio, prohibits women from wearing patent leather shoes in public. Why? Lawmakers of old decided that shiny footwear could give gentleman an unintentional peep show. Forget the shiny shoes, according to a city law in Charlotte, N.C., women must be swathed in at least 16 yards of fabric before going out in public. And in New York City an old law says a woman can be fined $25 for wearing clingy clothing.

Blue laws first came about in the colonial days to prohibit certain behavior on Sundays, causing much interest and litigation throughout the years since. In a handful of states, it remains on the books that you cannot play marbles, dominoes or with yo-yos on Sunday. In Salem, W. Va., it’s against the law to eat candy less than an hour and a half before church.

That must be where mama got the notion that you shouldn’t chew gum in church. I, personally, am nervous about chewing gum in church after hearing the tale of my 10th grade classmate who stood up to sing in church and right in the middle of the second stanza her Juicy Fruit gum fell into the head of an elderly woman who remained seated in the pew in front of her. Awkward.

In Illinois it’s illegal to give your pet a lighted cigar. You can’t make faces at a dog in Normal, Okla., without risking arrest. In North Dakota, it’s against the law to serve beer and pretzels at the same time.

Sigh. It seems that an awful lot of the outdated laws passed in the late 1800s and early 1900s were aimed at women.

Women in Florida can be fined for falling asleep under a dryer in the hair salon. (Guilty) In some cities in Texas and Tennessee, women are not allowed to adjust their stockings in public, and could even face up to 12 months in the state penitentiary for doing so. (Guilty) And, according to state law in Michigan, a woman’s hair belongs to her spouse and it is against the law for her to change it without his permission. (Guilty.)

And my personal favorite, from Memphis, Tenn. — women can’t drive a car unless there is a man with a red flag in front of the car warning the other people on the road. (No comment.)

Call me a rebel. I wore white before Easter. I once slept so hard at the beauty salon that I woke myself up snorning. And just last week I ate some M&Ms before church. And I didn’t get arrested.

But the day I see a man out there running in front of me and warning the public that I’m driving, well, I can’t exactly say what I might do with that red flag of his.

For that, I might get arrested.

Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at flyn1862@bellsouth.net.


myside 3 years, 8 months ago

And we seem to think that dumb action by our politicians and courts is a modern thing.


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