I have a vivid memory from probably the age of 5 or 6. I was sitting at the kitchen table of my grandparents’ house with my parents and I said confidently “When I grow up, I want a purple Corvette!” My favorite color was purple and I’ve been given a little toy car that I was playing with as I sat at the table waiting for dinner. I had asked my aunt earlier what kind of car it was and she’d told me it was a Corvette. I don’t remember what color the toy was, but I do remember wishing it were purple.
Without pause, my dad shut down this ridiculous aspiration with vehement opinions about the kind of person who would drive such a car. I never understood why adults need to batter their children’s idle chatter with real-world logic. Reason doesn’t apply to imagination and we all learn reality soon enough. And in his “reason” was so much racism and homophobia that I internalized for a very long time.
“What’s your favorite color?” This ubiquitous ice-breaker we learn from the moment we understand what colors are haunts us throughout our lifetimes. Adults ask us when we’re little. “What’s your favorite color?” Then we go to school and the other kids ask us. The teachers ask us. Strangers ask us. “What’s your favorite color?” Then we grow up and people are still asking us, if only ironically. “I’m not really great at ice breakers so why don’t we just go around the room and everyone say your name and your favorite color.”
It seems a silly thing to fixate on but I spent decades “trying on” different colors. I’m young and I say my favorite color because boys like blue and I want everyone to believe that I am a boy just like all the other boys are boys. If I say my favorite color is purple maybe they’ll know that I go to sleep fantasizing about romantic scenes in movies I watched with my family, picturing myself as the girl. If I say my favorite color is purple they’ll know I’m not like them. So my favorite color is blue.
Then I am a teen and beauty is everywhere. Everyone is trying to wear the right clothes and shades and shapes to be as close to the ideal as we can get and I get the idea that green eyes are especially attractive and wearing green highlights that shade in my hazel eyes so my favorite color is green. I start wearing as much green as I can stomach. Then the movie “Meet the Parents” comes out and Robert De Niro tells Ben Stiller that geniuses choose green cars so I double down. Green is my favorite color. My first car that I finance myself (and isn’t some used heap of junk my dad saw on someone’s lawn and rang the bell to ask if he could have it) is a green Jeep.
Then I’m in my 20s and trying on my identity as a gay male. My favorite color is pink. I start buying pink t-shirts from Swish Embassy with cheeky gay sayings and nice references on them. I buy a pair of pink-rimmed glasses but they sort of disappear into my pinkish complexion in an unflattering way I don’t like so I return them and get a pair that’s striped rainbow that I have yet to wear in public. I’m here. I’m queer. My favorite color is pink.
Now I’m in my 30s. Someone just asked me the other day what my favorite color was and I told them I didn’t know. Most of my t-shirts are blue or red. My primary footwear includes two pair of sneakers: a red pair and a blue pair. But I still said my favorite color was green because it’s the color of growth and my favorite pair of glasses is green. But I was very noncommittal.
When I was in high school, there was a science teacher whose name I cannot recall because everyone called her “The Purple Lady.” She may have been my first exposure to queer representation (if indeed she was queer) but she had a reputation for her complete obsession with purple. She only wore purple clothing. She had somehow gotten the school to allow her to paint the entire inside of her classroom, including the desks and lab stations, in various shades of purple. And most perplexing of all, to me, was that she wore prescription glasses with purple-tinted lenses. What might the world look like in all purple?
A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with family and there was a kid who was playing with their Amazon Echo. He kept telling Alexa to change the colors of the lights in the room where we were all hanging out. This was a jarring experience. I have been in rooms with colored lighting, certainly, but this was a party and I was already overwhelmed and somehow the colors of the lights (and the fact that they were changing so quickly) really had an impact on my mood. The mellow orange was ok but then he did bright blue and green and I wanted to stand up and yell at everyone to shut the hell up. Red made me feel like I was in some kind of drug den and the bright pink felt like an ocular migraine. But then he switched it to purple and everything felt better. The noise wasn’t so noisy. I found myself relaxing into conversation in a comfortable living room and not on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Anyway. I don’t really know that it matters much at this point. But, if anyone asks, I think my favorite color might be purple.