Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ode to Pink: or, How I Became Female


You could say childhood was sort of a weird time for me, and that would be a nice way of putting things. I was a sexist brat by the time I could talk. I hated all things girly: dresses, dolls, lace, etiquette classes, any sort of personal hygiene, and especially the color pink. My first full sentence was, "When I grow up I'm gonna grow nuts and be a boy." This is not fiction (I did say times were weird).

I loved matchbox cars, model horses, airplanes, trucks, and firemen (because I wanted to be one). It got worse as I got older: I resented the hell out of my mother when she forced me into dresses for church or school; clad in frills and shoulder pads and those horrible things called "pumps" that made me sound like a Clydesdale clop-clopping down the hallway, I felt like a freak. A horse in a ball gown. 

The color pink stood for everything that had gone wrong with my world--namely, not being born a boy. It's like I had unconsciously decided, at some point, that pink represented the feminine and being female was equivalent with weakness. And I gave boyhood my best shot: climbing trees, beating up kids on the playground, taking my shirt off so I could hang out bare-chested like the boys who played street ball in my neighborhood, declaring my allegiance to the color blue. But I still couldn't make myself into a boy and thus, pink offended me wherever I saw it. Looking at a bottle of Pepto Bismol invariably made me queasy, and in kindergarten I once told a little schoolmate, in all truthfulness, that her Pepto-hued dress made me want to vomit. She burst out crying and I found myself in time-out, mystified that telling the truth had gotten me into trouble. 

The shift was bound to happen eventually. I was running away from something, and the something was my own body with its breasts and vagina and soft round hips; my own female brain with its desires and thoughts and passionate, freakish chemistry. I hid it all under baggy sweats and flannel shirts and the pretense that I had no feelings and thus no moods. But eventually it all burst at the seams, and in my ripe old mid-30's I finally "bloomed" and stopped trying to be a male. Other people could tell I'd bloomed because a sudden obsession with tulle and frills replaced my beer-swilling, 4WD-wielding, belch-contest-winning persona. Not that I stopped swilling beer or driving off-road. Or belching. But now I was doing all those things in a tutu, a pink one no less, and for a tomboy in her 30's that is the sign of a sea-change. It also may be a sign of madness, but I prefer to think of it as a healthy shift from identifying with (redneck) men to accepting--no, embracing--my female-ness. I was sort of like an amphibian that changes its sex from male to female just because, well, it was time.

Pink was really at the bottom of the whole thing. I fell in love with pink once I admitted to myself that constantly wearing red was just not cutting it for me. It was pink I hungered for, even as I picked red t-shirts and sweats and tennis shoes, and eventually a red car to accessorize my newfound womanly nature. Red was good to me, but it only symbolized the beginning of a love affair with pink. Raspberry, mauve, shell, magenta; the blush of sunrise; the fuschia violence of a bruise; the roseate, ravished pink of sex. The firm pink flesh of salmon, the neon of nail polish, the pink sparks of brilliance leaping off the ocean at sunset: I craved it all. It was like my brain, so long denied, suddenly went into florid hyperdrive. I dyed my hair pink. I wore pink girlie tank tops with my pink tutu. Bought shoes with neon pink laces, wore pink scarves, dressed my dog in pink. 

Recently I found this rosy factoid on the internet about magenta-philes (yes, I googled Color Psychology, don't act all surprised): With a vivid imagination and creative ability, you are a non-conformist who sees life from a different point of view. Different from what, it doesn't say. I'm assuming "different" from the norm, whatever that is. Different from before, when I hated my female self and tried in every possible way to negate it. Different from a culture that still denounces the sacred feminine. Different from the sad fact that many women, their own self-image and self-worth torn apart by a misogynistic society, will then tear one another apart in competition. 

It doesn't have to be that way. I don't have to reflect that culture, that societal norm, anymore by hiding who and what I am: a weird, emotional, nutty, sensitive, loud-mouthed maker of mistakes and lover of the femme. A pink-addicted makeup-wearing tutu-clad tomboy, a dreamer, the architect of my own future. I still love cars, horses, airplanes, trucks and firemen (because I want to bed one). I don't have to pick one way to be: I am big enough to be them all. 


















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