Allergic to Colour: The North American Bias!

October 9, 2002

What colour are your home’s walls? White, by any chance? If they are, fear not, you’re not alone.

When Larry and I got to the point where we could become homeowners I started watching the idiot box for decorating shows. First, they’re fun. Second, they have a bunch of neat ideas for free. Third, I learn best when I see real people having doubts about themselves and triumphing anyway. The heck with Martha Stewart getting it right every time! The final elements that came into play are that I had wanted colour in my life for eons. As well, I’ve never been a visual brain and I walk into a room and lack the ability to imagine what else I could do to the walls, floors or furniture. I can usually get some basic ideas by moving furniture around but it’s really very lame.

One show came on and began talking about an international furniture store from, I think from France. ZOWWIE! The couches had sharp colours that hit me in the face and the rugs were fantastic compliments. Just as I was thinking, “What was the name of this store?” they changed to the North American-based counterpart. UGH! The plain-Jane colours and textures left me with a complete downer. Everything was beige, tan, black or white. I found myself listening to a company aficionado who informed the viewers that North Americans are allergic to colour.

I snarled, “I’m not,” at the TV and picked up the remote. Something else must be on:something with zing.

What I did then was hearken back to my early childhood with mom. Mom was allergic to staying put, so we moved to new cities sometimes once a year and always bought our meagre furniture at the Salvation Army. A chair would not match a couch. A TV was ten years old, and back then we used rabbit ears.

After mother and I moved back to Alberta a second time I put my adult foot down. “Okay but no more Salvation Army. I’m not moving again.” Mother was nervous. She whined. She wrung her hands (she really did!) and she worried. She did the “but I wonder if:” a number of times to me before she appeared to calm down. I stayed put, so she did too. Is that freedom to “run away to anywhere” part of the reason she was one of the youngest women in the family to die? I’ll never know on this earth, but you can be sure if I see her up there I have a few questions! “Hey Mum! Why’d you :?”

So what should we ask ourselves the next time we go shopping if we want to challenge this colour stuff? How about, “Do I have to buy BLUE jeans?” “What about some snappy coloured pants?” “How do I feel when I wear certain colours?”

I knew a woman friend in Edmonton who only wore the previously mentioned clothes because, “I don’t want to draw any attention to myself.” True enough she had suffered with the final bout of Polio that had blown through as a child. It left her back deformed and she walked hunched over. I watched her blow off the attentions of a man, stop wearing a bright fuchsia dress I made for her and keep her home exactly the wrong way for Feng Shui to assist her. Cluttered! But the dress style and colour brought out the beauty in her skin and eyes. She looked great. Why run from what helps?

Are there emotional components to colour? “Absolutely” say true experts. Prison officials in the United States have found that painting a prison cell for violent offenders in a specific shade of pink calms them right down. How many hospitals have you seen painted in calming colours of blue or purple? These are colours for healing. Green is another big choice. I don’t think it’s a designer choice. The lights are chosen for two purposes capability to see the problem and ability to turn down low to invite rest.

Chakras, those invisible centres of energy, said to be in everyone’s body are each different colours. It is often said we are keeping ourselves sick or tired by wearing only one or two colours or that there is an abundance of other colours in our “aura”. I really couldn’t tell you. If we are keeping ourselves sick, is this the North American mentale again? Like eating junk food and being less active than other nations. Do we also choose to be less colourful? I shudder to think of myself in those terms! So I’ve been painting my walls! I’ve done the dining room and the office. Larry and I love the look. But of course, SO many friends come in and go quiet. They eventually say, “I’m not much on bright colours!” So surprising! Maybe I’m a European and I don’t know it yet!! What are you? Let us know at the Voice.

Laura Seymour first published herself, at age 8. She has since gone on to publish a cookbook for the medical condition of Candida. She is working toward her B.A. (Psyc).