Disclaimer: I wrote this at 3:30 a.m. Stupid jetlag!
As an elementary school teacher, I’ve had the “favorite color” conversation millions of times. Ask a first grader what his favorite color is, and he’ll respond with the confidence of someone who has given it great thought. “Blue,” he’ll say confidently and then add with equal commitment, “No, purple.”
You can gamble on pink with little girls, which I can only attribute to TV commercials. In many Asian countries, pink is considered a masculine color, so my students in China – boys and girls alike – often expressed love for pink. However, it was an American school, and it didn’t take long for the color bullies of the west to convince the Korean and Taiwanese boys that “pink stinks.”
And then there are the little rebels who say their favorite color is black. The other kids get upset and argue that black isn’t a pretty color or it’s not a color at all, while Smug Rebel Child happily colors black rainbows.
By third grade, children have seen the big box of Crayola crayons. They have mixed paint in art class. They have learned the more esoteric names of hues and tints, exploding their favorite-color options to almost unimaginable dimensions. “I used to like teal best, but now I’m really into periwinkle,” one little girl told me.
I am equally fickle on this question. You would think having answered “What’s your favorite color?” at least weekly for 12 years, I might have formed an opinion, or at least developed a well-crafted answer. Instead, I fumble. “Do you mean, like, to wear? Or to eat? Or to paint – and would that be interior or exterior paint? Hair color? Eye color? Skin color? Or my favorite color existing in nature?”
My brain hits “play” on this internal monologue every time an innocent kid poses that confusing question: My “Color Me Beautiful” consultation in the 80s determined I was a “spring,” so I know I look good in peach, gray and some shades of coral. But I’ve opted for red hair in recent decades, which I like to accessorize with autumn tones. Favorite edible color? My friend Tarren loves to eat blue things, and I think she’s on to something. Sno-cones doused with electric azure syrup are pretty awesome. Interior paint colors are overwhelming, but I lean toward bold deep shades of red, brown and green. Exterior? Tony and I both loved a cottage we saw painted a dark charcoal with white trim. As for human coloration, how can you narrow down the infinite combinations that result in beauty?”
Now, my favorite color existing in nature is easy. Green. It’s kind of a cheat, though, in that green is really the chameleon of the color world. Driving from Stratford, Ontario, back to Michigan a few weeks ago, I challenged Tony to see who could spot the most shades of green. (There’s not much else to do as you roll through the farmland …) Newly fallen rain and the morning sun fighting through dark clouds created a rich color-saturated landscape with green’s lusty palette dominating in all directions.
Green’s power over me is global. From Canada’s farmland to Michigan’s meadows and woodsy bike trails. From Borneo’s wild rain forests to Bali’s sculpted rice terraces. From southern Turkey’s scrubby wild sage to the pine-scented hikes in Bavaria. After a 2009 bike ride in Laos, I blogged this:
The rainy season’s gift of green in every hue includes the crackling fronds of the coconut trees, the nearly teal floating pads of the water lilies, the waxy dark leaves of the magnolias, the yellow-tipped fluorescence of the rice plants, the seafoam-colored potted plants with twisted prickly stalks, and the bright tufts of doomed little weeds in fields where oxen graze.
So, here I am in Delhi, along with around 20 million other people. Sometimes the brown and gray overwhelm the green so much that I really do feel blue. But this city has a surprising commitment to its green spaces, and for that I am deeply grateful. Here’s an interesting article about Delhi’s battle between urbanization and environmental conservation.
School starts next week, and that inevitable question will arise. “What’s your favorite color?” Maybe I’ll just keep it simple this time.
Blue. No, purple.