Folk Belief – Hawaii

Do not buy shoes for your boyfriend/girlfriend as a present.

My grandma, Kum Soon Youn, first heard this superstition when she was dating a boy in high school.  She was trying to find a present to buy for him when she came upon a pair of shoes.  As she was standing in line to purchase the shoes, her mother stopped her and warned her against buying them.  According to Korean superstition, if a person buys his/her girlfriend/boyfriend a pair of shoes, she/ he will run away from them.  They will wear the shoes that they received and escape from their partners.  Therefore, giving shoes to the person would not only be encouraging the receivers but also providing them with the means to run away.

When my grandma heard this superstition, it reminded her of the Chinese custom to bind women’s feet in the older days.  The elders would bend the feet of girls at a young age to keep them small and petite.  It is often thought that this method was used to confine women and to prevent them from running away from home.  The superstition reminded my grandmother of this tradition because of the idea that men tried to prevent women from running away by binding their feet.  She believes that this superstition is based upon the same idea.  It seems to be targeted at women, indicating that they should not be given shoes or that they will run away.  She therefore thinks that the phrase does not pertain to both men and women but rather serves as a warning to the men not to provide their wives or girlfriends with any means by which they can run away.

When I heard the superstition, I had a different response than my grandma did.  I did not think that it was oppressive to women but rather thought it served as a reminder to both genders that people aren’t always faithful.  It seemed to claim that, when provided with the means to run away, or escape from a relationship, people will run away.  It remarks at people’s fear of commitment and their desire to seek quick and easy pleasure rather than to make an effort to create a long lasting relationship.  Therefore the proverb appears to serve the purpose of reminding those in relationships that their significant other may not always be faithful.