All I wanted was a pair of red rain boots.

The boots weren't for me, though I'd have red boots right now if they'd been available years ago, when I went chore-boot shopping.

The boots I bought were navy blue and knee-high. I chose size "huge," so I could step into them without having to sit down and tug. I wear them to the recycling bins in the garage, to the compost heap and to the end of the drive for the newspaper.

When not in use, my free-range boots live on the back porch. My husband thinks I'm asking for a mouse or a family of June bugs to surprise me in a dark toe, but so far, my feet have encountered nothing more startling than a few dried leaves.

The red boots were for my older grandson.

He had outgrown his old boots just in time for his birthday, so I set out confidently to choose from the many colorful children's boots I saw in my mind's eye.

Unfortunately, my mind's eye had a better selection than the real-life stores I visited. Some places carried no rain boots at all, and those that had them apparently based their purchasing selections on two assumptions: one, boots are gender-specific; and two, gender is expressed by color, with pink for girls and black for boys.

About pink: Some girls adore it. Others believe pink is for girls the way they believe turkey is for Thanksgiving, from habit and without emotional investment. Still others reject pink specifically because of its chauvinistic associations.

But girls clothes are not universally pink. Pink may dominate, but it's mixed with all the other colors, not to mention sparkles and sequins. On the girls side of a children's clothing store, the swirl of colors looks like an all-day sucker. On the boys side are blue, black and khaki.

In fact, a minute ago, when I mentioned children's rain boots in pink and black, I simplified the situation. The boots I saw were, for girls: pink, pink patterned, sparkly light gray and sparkly dark gray. For boys: black.

Also, nestled in a tiny flock along one side were several pairs of bright yellow boots, each the size of a newly hatched duckling.

I loved those yellow boots but listen: This grandson's shoe size goes clear up to 11.

He might have been able to wear those yellow boots on his ears.

So I bought black boots for this boy, who would have loved yellow boots or green boots or purple boots or, most of all, red boots. He'd have loved pink boots, if it comes to that, because he's a child, not a short financial adviser.

My hand hovered over the pink boots, but while he has yet to develop gender biases, I didn't want to make him a target of someone who has. I bought the black boots and resisted the urge to ask, "Why do little girls get to dress like Crayola boxes while little boys are expected to look like funeral-home directors?"

My grandson received the black rain boots last week. When he put them on and I saw his resemblance to one of the characters in the Little Golden Book "Five Little Firemen," I decided to dispense with children's-boot outrage and resume my placid life.

Outrage returned, however, and here's why: I went home and searched for "children's rain boots red" on my laptop. Yes, I should have done that in the first place.

But I try to be a good citizen who shops locally. I try to support the so-called brick-and-mortar stores in my neighborhood.

But when those stores have only pink boots and black boots, what's a consumer to do?

Furthermore, if those stores could shelve enough black rain boots to outfit a regiment of Ukrainian Cossack dancers, couldn't they have squeezed in a few green boots, red boots and boots with dinosaurs? As it stands, I'm forced to remember Henry Ford's willingness to paint cars any color customers wanted as long as it was black.

Addendum: A pair of red, size-11 rain boots is on its way to my grandson.

This may make me a grandmother of weak character. See if I care.

Write to Margo Bartlett at