#513: White People Are Ugly and Other Revelations of a No-Longer-Colorblind Man

August 7th, 2015

I recently realized my writing is a lot like Malcolm Gladwell’s. More of my friends claim to read it than actually do and I can pretty much get whatever gibberish I want to a global audience at a moment’s notice.

So a break from tales of little old ladies, steelworkers and fetishists to talk about my eyes.

Some of you might know I’m colorblind and, for those just learning this now, I do not have any idea what color your shirt is and if I could describe what green looks like to me I wouldn’t be colorblind.

(Seriously, do ask tone deaf people what D flat sounds like to them? Do you make nearsighted people read distant signs so you can say “OMG, you can’t read that? Really?” But I digress… jackass.)

My mother always felt guilty at passing my late grandfather’s colorblindness onto me without suffering it herself. You see, the gene for red and green color receptors are on the X chromosome, of which males have one and females have two. Therefore, a woman would have to have the same gene defect on both of her X chromosomes to be red-green colorblind and no I do not have any idea what color your shirt is.

So to assuage her guilt and snap me out of some of the economic funk that made for Wednesday’s snivel of a story, she bought me those new glasses that make me see like you tonals.

She and my father came to town Thursday to give me the glasses and a box of crayons to test myself with. We went off to the community garden where I volunteer and then drove to lunch so I could look at the new world around me.

Here are a few things I learned:

1. White people are ugly

As a white person myself, I always thought of us as a pleasant enough khaki-colored people. We range from beach sand to grocery store bag and, when not puffing up on Twitter that something in the world dared to exist without consulting us, are a basically bleachy-tan folk who enjoy excessive chest hair, aluminum bicycles and idealized versions of history.

Now I know the truth. We’re pink. An ugly pink. An ugly, gin blossomy pink-tan-red that made me thank whatever deity isn’t out there that I was looking at my own arm instead of a ginger’s. Or Kelsey Grammer’s.

I could see these blotches of blood and melanin pulsing underneath the faded khaki I spent my first 35 years thinking was my skin.

Horrifying, and another apology we owe the Native Americans.

It’s like, “Um, what did you just call me, pilgrim guy?”

2. Information has entered my brain without my knowledge

Interaction with my parents while driving to lunch after the garden:

Me (flipping the glasses up and down at every street sign): “The weird part is street signs. Without the glasses, they’re hunter green, but with them, they look more Kelly green.”

One of my parents (because all pink people look alike to me now): “They are Kelly green.”


The other parent: “How do you know what Kelly green is?”

Me: “I… don’t know.”


3. Crayons have some stupid names

I can be forgiven for not being able to identify “Atomic Tangerine” with or without the glasses.

4. I’m good

Once people stop asking me to color ID their shirts and spout dumb questions about traffic lights and Christmas, there’s usually a brief pause and a weird grimace.

The grimace is usually followed by some backtracking nonsense wherein they’re worried they offended me, like they found out I have cancer and their response was to ask if that gives me handicapped parking.

No, I’m not offended, although I think the actual grown human adults who have asked me if I see the world in black and white are idiots. (Yes, I do see the world in black and white. It’s just like an old movie. It’s black and white, everyone wears hats all the time and there’s a 1990s Turner Classic Movies logo in the corner.)

In general, the questions annoy but don’t offend. That’s because, and here’s the kicker, there’s nothing wrong with me.

Sure, I failed that geography quiz in grade school because I couldn’t figure out why they colored all the nations of Europe tan, and I wouldn’t trust myself to judge the ripeness of a tomato, but since I’m not a fighter pilot or professional paint swatch analyst, this really has affected my life very little.

I personally have great vision. Never needed glasses. My world looks crisp, clear and laden with detail and nuance, even if some of the shades aren’t what you see.

When it snows at night, the sky looks green to me. You don’t get that.

I love these glasses, I do. My next stop with them is going to be the Art Institute. I’ve been riding around looking at street signs all day, and even tested out the crayons. “Inchworm” and “Neon Carrot” are also stupid names. Get your head in the game, Crayola!

What I like is having the option to go back and forth, to choose between snow-green skies and properly Kelly signs, to pick the best of the worlds I now can see.

What color is your shirt? Whichever option I prefer.

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On green skies and coral lightning

On strangers in the darkness, blind to each other

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