I wish I had the guts to paint my apartment lime green back when I was single and living in apartments. I know that sounds odd, but some people wish they had the guts to commit suicide. “I really wish I could commit suicide, but we Stanleys have never had the guts to follow through.” I never really wanted to live in a lime green world, but I wanted to do something to cause a reaction. I loved reactions back then. The paint didn’t have to be lime green, but it had to be a color so shocking that my peers would talk about it when they returned to the office on Monday.
“What happened?” they might ask, looking around my apartment with wide eyes.
“What do you mean, I chose this color. I told the apartment complex’s office that I would be painting, but,” and here I might speak in a hushed, conspiratorial tone, as if this was our little secret now. “I didn’t tell them what color.”
What would my guests think of me? Would I have trouble in the dating world? Would decades-old friends begin questioning what they thought they knew about me? Would I still be single, if my future wife saw my lime green world?
“I’m sorry,” she would say as I knelt before her. “You seem like a nice guy, and all that, but I just can’t get past the whole lime green thang. And before you say it, I know you can just change the color, but it worries me that you chose that color in the first place.”
Would decades-old friends begin questioning what they thought they knew about me? “We’ve been friends for a long time now, but this …” they would say, looking around. “I wasn’t expecting this.”
“So, the friendship is over?”
“No, I’m not saying that, but if you’re going to party here, and you want me to invite my friends, you’re going to have to repaint.”
My apartment could’ve been my own little, personal psychological testing lab, a petri dish that I could use to compile a delicious list of reactions now that I could report to you now.
“There goes Stanley, seems like a nice guy and all, but I hear he has a lime green apartment.”
Some psychologists state that lime green might be a mood booster, as it recalls nature and budding love, and it might not have narrowed my world as much as I think.
They also suggest that lime green helps us relax, and it’s useful for people with depression. Most of their conclusions are guesses, of course, as color affects us in wildly divergent ways, and if there is any effect it is largely subconscious. My best guess is that if color has any effect, it’s negligible. Perhaps the only effect would occur within the four-walled world of the office where people talk. A single man with lime green walls would become the topic of the many conversations otherwise bored people have trying to establish their bona fides through comparative analysis. “I know he seems nice, but did you know that he painted all of his walls lime green? I’m thinking he probably spends too much time alone, thinking strange thoughts. Kind of creepy, right?” That’s probably the reason none of us have the guts to paint our walls in such colors.
“Hey, you’re Stanley Roper right?” someone might say, stopping me in the hall. “Is it true you have a lime green apartment?”
“Yeah, the complex told me they were going to paint,” I’d lie, “but I had no idea they were going to go with lime green.”
“Why don’t you move?”
“I still have eight months on my lease.”
Over time, the peer pressure would probably grow so intense that my resolve would wilt. I’m impulsive, but I’m not immune to wanting people to like me. I’m sure some dagger, like “he probably spends too much time alone, and thinks too much” would lead me to believe that following my irrational but impassioned impulses were a mistake.
I do love, and I mean love spotting a bright orange truck roll down the highway. That feller’s got a pair on him, I think. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks. I so wish I could be that guy. I think about how liberating it would be to drive down a primary thoroughfare in a bright orange truck with black highlights. Six months to a year in, however, I know that glory rubs off. I did it in grade school. I wore a shocking pair of bright, baby blue tennis shoes, and I loved the instant reactions it caused. I was a fella who shocked his world in a pair of bright blue tennis shoes, but I went from being a guy with those shoes on to the guy who wore a shockingly bright blue pair of tennis shoes, and I didn’t enjoy that characterization over the long haul. I tried other things. I tried a shocking, new hairdo. I received all the reactions I wanted and then some. I found that there were days when I wanted to shock my world and others when I didn’t, but once you start shocking the world it doesn’t matter what you want tomorrow. You don’t have the light switch control you think you do. Their impressions become the impression they have of you.
Most of the websites that discuss the psychological elements of color devote most of their space to the positive, pleasing reactions to them. Their reads on the effects of color remind me of descriptions of personality types under the zodiac: mostly positive with a few nuggets of negative information thrown in to make it interesting without offending anyone. Awful people are out there too, and I think we would all give astrologists and psychologists a lot more credence if they allowed for that. “All astrological signs are uniquely wonderful in their own unique ways, except for the Taurus. We’re not going to say all Taurus are awful, as we’re sure a few of them do some nice things for people, some of the times, but an overwhelming majority of them enjoy watching other people get hurt, and they are prone to lie, cheat and steal if they think that will give them an advantage in life. Most Taurus are pieces of dung.” If a reputable and respected astrological publication put out such a reading, its audience would probably bombard them with letters calling for a retraction. “My aunt Mary Louise is a Taurus, and she is the nicest, sweetest human being on the planet. How dare you suggest that she’s a piece of dung.”
“First of all, sir,” I would reply, “that’s our reading, and our reading is gospel. Your aunt is probably a piece of dung, and either you’re not willing to admit it, or you don’t know it yet. She’s probably old and done with life now, but when she dies, you’ll probably hear all the piece of dung things she did in her prime. You should also know that there’s no evidence behind anything we write. We just make dung up as we go along, and your suggestion that we change our reading suggests that you know that. We’re just writing dung for dung consumers who believe in this dung. It has no bearing on personalities. If you believe us when we write that you, as an Aries, are a trailblazer with boundless energy then you’re dumber than you look. Furthermore, if our Taurus reading actually offended you, sir, you’re probably not ready for primetime. Thank you for your letter.”
If we’re going to analyze a group of people in anyway, I would suspect that we would arrive at some negatives. Thus, if we are going to create a relatively specious way of analyzing human nature through astrology, their favorite color, or their favorite football team, we should have to create some negatives just to counter-balance all of the positives. Doing so might lend greater credibility to the reading, and establish some level of science to it. It might seem an impossible chore, but I think we would all appreciate the effort.
Some websites do provide some negative attributes, but they’re usually in the bullet points beneath the primary paragraph, and they usually attribute negatives to extremes. There’s nothing wrong with the color orange, they write, but be careful to avoid intense colors of orange, as they can lead to aggression.
“What is going on? Every time I invite someone into my home, they try strangle me. Last week, the meter reader started pointing his meter-reading gun at me, making gun sounds, like a little kid. I thought he was joking, but he had this menacing expression on his face while he did it. I forced him into my mauve kitchen, and got him a glass of water. He finally calmed and said, “I don’t know what came over me.””
“Wow, I thought the color orange reflected emotion and warmth.”
“Well, I didn’t go with a soft, friendly tone,” I replied. “I went with an intense color.”
“What’s wrong with you? Don’t you know that intense colors of orange can lead to acts of aggression?”
If I had the guts to paint my apartment an intense orange or a lime green, thus creating my own little petri dish of an apartment, I might see how profound the affect color can be. I might not see acts of aggression, but how would such colors affect the otherwise mundane conversations I’m having with them in the foyer? Would their emotions alter in any way based on their surroundings? I’ve witnessed the effect music can have, as I switched from one extreme to another with the volume level at the exact same level. There were at least two occasions where the switch was so extreme, it was almost comical.
What would be the long-term effect of a bright, loud orange? Would my friends avoid me if they learned about my lime green world? What would my co-workers say if they found out that I decorated my home with nothing but periwinkle home furnishings? Would they eat the food I served them if it came from a maroon kitchen, and the kitchenware on which it was served was a uniform canary yellow?
“You’re not talking to Stanley anymore, because he served you veal cutlets on a canary yellow plate?”
“You don’t understand, the silverware was canary yellow too,” they would reply. “You didn’t see his feldgrau cabinets, or his cerulean coffee table. Who paints a coffee table cerulean? You weren’t there. You don’t know unsettling it all was. You weren’t there.”
I know it sounds odd, and a weird way to waste money, but I would’ve loved to do all this and hire an independent body to interview my apartment guests before and after their brief stay in my apartment. I would love to have intricate and intimate details of how their perceptions of me changed. The final, and perhaps most interesting, interview might be the one of me.
“Did you achieve everything you wanted to by painting your apartment lime green and purchasing an intensely orange truck?”
“I did,” I would say. “Some people won’t talk to me and others can’t stop talking about me. Now that it’s all over, though, I must admit I regret it, because now I have to live in a lime green house and drive an intense orange car to work. I wanted to be that guy, but I now realize I didn’t want to become that guy, not long term, if that makes sense.”
I might be alone when I write this, but I think some of us find “the weird” intoxicating. We would love to enter a room wearing a clown nose just to get some sort of reaction. Every other element of our entrance in that room would be normal and deadpan, except for the clown nose, and we would provide no explanation for it. What would people do? What would they say? How would that affect our relationships with them going forward? Am I so uncomfortable in a normal world that I need to do, say, or be something different to shake up their world to prove their normal world is not so stable anymore? Or, do I relish my ability to take that clown nose off and prove to the world that I am actually relatively normal and thus worthy of entrance into their world? If we were sentenced to a life of weird, we would do everything we could to convince the world that we were normal. We know normal, and it bores us so much that we wish we had the guts to test the boundaries of what’s acceptable, so someone, somewhere might call us weird, until they find out how normal we are. That’s a reaction, and it’s interesting, hilarious, and all that, but we don’t want to test those boundaries, because we want to have friends, girlfriends, a wife, and a normal life. After we achieve that, we appreciate it for what it us, but we still would’ve loved just a little taste of what we could’ve achieved with some lime green walls, if we had the guts to follow through with it.