We all love black for the same reason, it’s easy. It’s a chic default. It’s a uniform and a shield. It’s safe and accepted. Black goes with everything and frees up our mental energy to worry about the other big and small emergencies life throws at us. This is a story of how my husband slowly pulled me out of my black security blanket and into a world of color.
When I met Sam in my early 20’s, I was always trying so hard to be cool. At the time that meant wearing all black, hanging out with my artsy friends also in black and quickly throwing judgment at anyone who was not like us. I spent a lot of energy cultivating what I assumed to be a stoic image to hide my own feelings and anxieties about myself and my inherent quirkiness – something that Sam saw right through anyway. Our first date was surprisingly not as awkward as I thought it would be, so we went out some more.
Sam was different from all the other guys I dated. I was so used to chasing mysterious, emotionally distant, slightly depressed types – other people who wore black – so I was skeptical at his genuine attention towards me. He was loud, extroverted, dressed like a hippie and was a complete gentleman. Despite being initially uncomfortable with his perky demeanor I quickly grew to love him, it was too easy.
Now that I had a refreshingly great boyfriend, it was time to give him a makeover. He loved pattern, color and Hawaiian shirts – everything I convinced myself was unfashionable and immature. I tried to pull him into the dark side to match me and my aesthetic but the black cardigan and shirts I bought him sat unworn in the back of the closet. One of his pieces in particular that made me cringe was an Aztec patterned shirt that was way too bright in mint, hot pink and neon orange. When he wore it, it made him feel happy but it made me feel uncomfortable that my boyfriend wore neon.
That’s the thing with color, it makes us feel feelings. To live with color is to engage with the world around you and to welcome everyone else’s attention and opinion. With Sam, color boosted his mood despite me being a complete scrooge about it. I used to associate color with how fashionable it looked rather than focus on how it made me feel. It took me many years to embrace it for myself, but I became okay with being seen sitting beside my Rainbow Brite date. I was the dark cloud and Sam was the sunshine.
To live with color is to engage with the world around you and to welcome everyone else’s attention and opinion.
Fast forward a few years, we get married and find ourselves in Boston in the beginning of the pandemic. Sam got here first to start a new job while I was in the middle of moving with most of my things still in boxes far far away. All I had was the essential winter items and old cozy sweats. My short visit turned into a lockdown and I was stuck. I felt all the sadness, stress and helplessness like everyone else during this period but was hesitant to admit it. I also made the decision to try to be an artist as my new career path which added to my internal turmoil.
To get me out of my funk, Sam suggested I do some online shopping. I was not yet earning my own income and this seemed unnecessary to me. I could just borrow his old clothes, it was not like we were going out anyways. I eventually succumbed to the colorful Instagram ads and bought a tie-dye sweater and shorts set. It was an erratic swirl of black, pink and mint – a risky purchase but with free returns just in case. In the privacy of my apartment, I put it on for the first time and felt my mood switch instantly. I felt electric.
From then, I started to acquire more items in all the colors. Nostalgia has been a big trend during the pandemic and I considered purchasing happy, cutesy things around me during this time a form of self love. In my art, my usual monochromatic charcoal drawings evolved to experiments with paint and using all the colors. I started seeing a therapist and we’re working on actually feeling my feelings and being more myself. To be honest, it involves a lot of crying but journaling in a hot pink journal really helps lighten my mood. I learned that to pursue my artist dreams, it was my job to be my most authentic self and to let go of trying so hard to be the cool girl in black.
I did not expect a boy to influence my perspective with color in this way. As the artsy one in the relationship, it’s strange to admit I was the one who was blinded and living in the dark. Today, I still default to black as my safety blanket – there is a comfort to dressing like an urban ninja. But at least in my own space, I now greet the mornings in a bright turquoise robe and my yellow house slippers sipping on my blush pink coffee mug. Exploring the nuances of color in my art and in my life is way more exciting and I’m just getting started.
Your relationship with color should be based not on how it looks or the meaning others have assigned to it – but how it makes you feel inside. I encourage everyone to trust the spark inside you who wants to pick the brightest, shiniest, boldest thing once in a while. Don’t resist, lean in.