Color of Preference

Have you ever suddenly realized that the way you saw yourself, the way you explained yourself and your actions to yourself… isn’t accurate anymore.
I don’t mean you look in the mirror and think “Wow, when did I get so old?” or eat cabbage for the first time since you were force fed it as a child and realize that you actually don’t mind it.
I mean you justify an action based on a personality trait only to have someone point out that you lack that particular personality trait.
Yeah, that.
I was looking at purses the other day with a friend and she pointed out a slightly colorful purse / backpack…. While I had migrated over to the plain brown purse / backpack.  “Nah,” I explained, “I always like my purse or whatever to be as unnoticeable as possible.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Well,” and before thinking I launched into an explanation that was so ingrained it took no thought, “Riding the bus, being out in public, I am just more comfortable with not being flashy, with trying to just coast a bit under the radar.”
This is true. When I pick out my clothes, when I pick out my accessories, I do tend to go for the simple tones, the not too noticeable colors, the solids, the muted or at the very least the unimaginative.  Unless, of course I want to be noticed… buying a dress to raise eyebrows is one thing, but most of my clothes, shoes, bags, etc fall more into the “nothing special to see here, move along, look at someone else” category. 
And it has been that way for as long as I can remember.
Partly because I know that people tend to remember me, especially once I open my mouth, no matter what I am wearing. 

… or I get on the microphone…
Partly because I did used to ride the bus, take the train, walk alone in neighborhoods not known for their safety… and blending into the background is an important skill. I have been mugged, several times, and I have been hassled, hit on, bothered, followed, and yes, even stalked. And yes, I have written controversial essays, letters, articles, etc. I have protested and been on the news and on the radio, and on the microphone in front of cameras being loud, being proud, being counter-culture. Yes, the ability to climb down from the stage, pull on a hoodie and simple fade into the masses and not get recognized as the girl who was throwing paint or outrunning the cops is a useful skill.

So, my desire to blend into the background unless I chose to open my big mouth and get noticed is partly a survival technique and partly a way to deal with being shy.
Because, yes, I am, I can be, very shy. I get very nervous in some social situations.. not all, but if there are new people, or even people I don’t know well, or even the chance for people I don’t know to be anywhere nearby, I wrestle with anxiety. 

And part of how I deal with this sometimes crippling, fear is by controlling my outfit… controlling the persona I will be presenting. I strive to find an outfit that won’t really be noticed (it can’t be mocked if it isn’t noticed), that won’t draw attention.
My Maifan-San can tell how nervous I am before a social event based on how many times I change my clothes, trying to find that perfect outfit that says “I’m a nice person, but ignore me until I talk to you.”
(Of course, to be fair, like a lot of other shy people, I often overcompensate for my shyness by being overly talkative and loud…. Alcohol helps, but that is a whole other blog post.)
Anyway. So yes, I prefer to blend in, to not catch anyone’s eye and I figured the conversation in the purse department was over.
But my dear friend is a skeptic (that’s actually how we met, at a Skeptics Brunch) and she pushed me: “How much blending in do you do with that rainbow bracelet on your wrist?”

“I…. uhh…”
Because she’s right. I proudly wear my rainbow bracelet (from the Rainbow Delegation) to show my support for the LGBT+ community. I get asked about it a lot and I have no qualms explaining to people, even crazy scary bigoted people, what it means and why I wear it.
It is a bit of a rainbow target on my arm, it has gotten me yelled at, drenched in water, glared at, and lectured to. But I insist on wearing it…. Because it is important for me to face that anxiety and deal with it.
Because my liberal guilt doesn’t let me pass as “normal” or “straight” or “uninvolved” if I can help it.
And, let’s be honest… I hardly ride the bus anymore, I am not out in public alone all that often, and I don’t walk in dangerous neighborhoods. My lifestyle has changed… and with it a few of my fashion and accessory choices as well.  
Which means I could probably pull off carrying a multi colored purse or backpack. Or wearing flip flops with a  bit of sparkle to them. Or buying shirts that are slightly bright and not all mostly black or dark blue. Or wearing that hand me down maternity dress that has the bright floral print on it.
But … but… I don’t want to.
There’s a little bit of color in there….

And if my reason for not wanting to wear bright colors and interesting clothes started from a place of safety and a desire to not be noticed, it has now become such a part of me that despite my safety not being as much of an issue, (I do still get hate mail) I still prefer boring muted colors and solids.
So, the personality trait might not be the same one I thought it was, but the results are.
Ultimately I had to shrug at my friend, raise my rainbow bracelet and admit that I just didn’t like the colorful bag as much as the plain brown one.
And you know what? I think that’s ok. I think it’s ok to prefer boring clothes and accessories. I don’t think I need to trot out the whole safety thing… I can just prefer black over bright and call it a day.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter why my wardrobe suffers from what my sister calls “a sever lack of color, style, or attitude” or what a college friend termed “the irony of an interesting person dressing in the most uninterestingly way possible.”
The why doesn’t matter, I don’t have to justify it. I can just acknowledge my preferences and enjoy my blandness.
Bland… but powerful!

Published by kayliametcalfe

Queer,loudmouth,skeptical-agnostic-pagan,book addict,coffee lover,wine drinker, SAHM,writer,editor,producer,podcaster. -She/her

One thought on “Color of Preference

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