A Hue for All ReasonsBY Alina Kenealy
To describe myself in a single word, I have to use a metaphor. This may be cheating a little, but it would be impossible to describe myself – or any person – in a single word that does not already contain many different shades and meanings. Thus, I dub myself lavender. I don’t mean the plant, necessarily. I’m referring to the color, not that I’m literally lavender, or wear lavender, but that I am many of those things which lavender represents. It’s a quiet color. Shy, cautious, and usually pretty pale. It’s not a color commonly found in nature, so it carries connotations of being rather reclusive and bookish (without, however, the nerdiness that I have in full.) That said, I also like to think of lavender as an artsy color. Purples are creative and a little wacky, and even in a diluted form lavender has that edge to it, of being clever and even odd. And as it darkens, lavender becomes fun, even outgoing, at least next to the right colors.
Usually, lavender does not receive such generously positive meanings. Even next to other pastels, it’s delicate and sickly, like a person who is physically or mentally frail. (Maybe I’m a bit sensitive, but I am not delicate.) When it’s particularly pale, lavender is boring. There’s almost no tint to it at all, and you can’t use it but to balance out a brown or a blue. Furthermore, it’s juvenile – a stereotypical little girls’ color. It’s meek and sweet and innocent in the way that only a child is. When taken instead as the name of a plant, the word lavender reminds one of fancy perfumes and lotions, of sophistication and indulgence – maybe even to the point of being stuck-up. On the other hand, it can also be naturalistic, suggesting a certain down-to-earthiness and a love of plants and gardens. (For my part, I’m not interested in flowers as much more than subjects of art.)
The word lavender is, almost always, used simply to signify that particular plant or color. But when used as a metaphor, it takes on the thousand meanings of each. I love color theory and symbolism, and I see colors as very succinct, universal ways to describe a whole host of attributes. I see myself as a darker sort of lavender: reserved, but not light enough to be timid; creative, but not yet intense. Colors also convey moods and auras: the things you “get” about a person only when you meet her, which can be tough to put into words. For all I know, I don’t actually come across as a “lavender.” Nevertheless, describing myself as such is more accurate than any lone adjective. That, at best, would describe only a tiny piece of my character – but there’s a whole spectrum of shades to lavender.