My husband Mike is colorblind. By that I don’t mean he would make a very PC hiring manager — I mean he literally cannot see colors the way the rest of us do. Approximately 10 million American men — seven percent of the male population — are colorblind. Either they cannot distinguish red from green, or see red and green differently than other people. And that doesn’t just mean Christmas looks like the Twilight Zone to them – red and green make up a lot of other colors. Easter is pretty drab, too.
It is hard for me to imagine the world through Mike’s eyes. The best description I’ve read is that being colorblind is like seeing our world at dusk, when the lack of light causes colors to appear dull. Whatever he sees, I know it is bizarre, because in the past I’ve seen him using at a computer screen where the red channel is totally missing. I took one glance at the green faces on his monitor and asked, “What the heck is up with your screen?” to which he responded, “What do you mean?” When everyone on the television looks like Kermit the Frog and you don’t notice, chances are you are colorblind.
Mike and his brother Gary, who is also colorblind, insist it is no big deal. I tell them that if I could let them see the world the way I do for a day, they would think they were on LSD. They refuse to believe there is much of a difference, which drives me nuts, and it isn’t wise to piss off the only person in the house who can see colors. The next time Mike asks me “does this shirt match these pants?” I might not be so kind. Or I can just ask him to grab the “pink” shirt from the closet and watch the hilarity ensue.
Learning their colors in Kindergarten, I can’t help but think the teachers must have thought those poor Brunell boys were a couple of little morons. It must have been frustrating for them, too. When some lady is telling you one thing is “light blue” and another thing is “pink” and they look identical to you… I would think that would foster a fundamental distrust for authority figures. Actually, that explains a lot.
The funny thing is, Gary spent a big part of his life as a Master Electrician. Next to “Bomb Defusor” it is pretty much the only other profession where not correctly identifying the right colored wire before you clip it could kill you.
MacGyver: Gary! We have to defuse the bomb! Cut the green wire!
Gary: Um… they’re both gray…
MacGyver: What?? No, cut the GREEN wire! What ever you do, don’t cut the RED wire!!
Gary: Um… ok…well, this looks like —
Early on in our relationship, when Mike and I were driving up to a flashing yellow light he would always say, “Flashing yellow?” out loud. I thought the poor thing was just having trouble with his contacts or suffered from some sort of mental disorder like a rare form of Turrets that makes a person shout out really obvious facts.
Mike: Grass on the ground!
Mike: We’re in a car!
I know now that Mike doesn’t know if a flashing light hanging in the center of a road is flashing red or a flashing yellow. Traffic lights at least stick to a pattern, with red at the top. A single light is anybody’s guess. All these years Mike has had to take cues from his passengers or the other cars on the road to make the appropriate move at single flashing lights. Mike mentioned before he was the sort of guy who always had a girlfriend. Now I know why. He can’t drive alone.
I wonder now — does he really love me? Or is he just using me for my seemingly super-human color-identifying ability?
Mike runs our online embroidery stores: DoodleSport for dog people, BabiesAndChildrensGifts.com and TalkPolos.com (use coupon code kidfree for 10% off at any of them!). This means Mike spends part of each day running the big, noisy embroidery machines. There are two problems with this.
First, when he started, all of his friends thought it was hilarious to ask him if he could hem their pants. He had to explain to them that he had not become Betsy Ross, and that he did not use a needle and thread. He ran big, scary, industrial embroidery machines. Usually, after explaining this, his friends would nod and say, “Right. But seriously, I only need them taken up like half an inch…”
The second problem occurred to us when we needed to stitch something in hot pink and he walked up with an aqua blue spool of thread. Clearly labeling things became a big part of our stitching world, and even with all our precautions occasionally someone will still get a purple Schnauzer.
Mike used to manage a retail furniture store. People used to ask his advice on fabrics all the time. I wonder now how many truly terrible color combination the people of Annapolis have in their homes thanks to him. Those people saw color but had no taste, Mike has taste but can’t see color. I can see them now, justifying their purchases because “the guy at the store said this would totally match a pink carpet…”
The most tragic part of the story is that Mike was unable to realize his dreams. He always wanted to be a pool boy. He wanted to spend his days in the sun, traveling from luxury home to luxury home, hot cougars beckoning him into their mansions…
But he can’t read the PH color chart.
NOTE: Colorblind people will clearly see a “5” in the design above. The rest of us will have trouble making that out. I like this test because Mike can’t understand how I can’t immediately see the “5,” so he can finally knows how I feel when he holds up two TOTALLY different colors and insists they are the same.