Orange, Red, Yellow
Mark Rothko, 1961.
(Again, not understanding nor appreciating the value of his painting here, but it conveniently works with the topic I’m writing about. This painting sold for almost $87 million USD on 8th of May, 2012 at Christie’s.)
Out of the tens and hundreds in the sea of clothing that I have, only one out of all is orange colored.
I’ve worn that dress twice.
It didn’t resemble the warm, embracing color of a summer’s day sunset. It was closest to a neon, highlighter shade. I popped when I was in the dress and I felt actively responsible for my visibility for once.
I’ve always picked out more conventional colors out of preference and love, however – clothes served as an occasional camouflage for me. I could be one of those who wears “uninspiring” and easily forgettable tones in order to blend in with the crowd. I could be that person who mixes, matches, and brings the entire color wheel out of home with him / her.
I remember the time that I bought it. I was with someone I considered a best friend at the time along with his boyfriend. They asked me to tag along to a summer sample sale, or was it an exclusive pre-sale? I don’t recall – I suppose it was a pre-sale, as we were not greeted and swarmed by an anticipating crowd.
132 Greene Street, New York, NY.
That was the address where I met up with them. I’m feeling some sort of odd nostalgia hitting me now as I learned that the same store still exists. Perhaps, even as times elapse and people change, some things still do remain the same. There’s a mixture of comfort, with a dose of familiarity, and humbleness with facts like these for me, because the same people, places, and things are consistently creating new memories. Even with(out) you, with(out) me. However, there was a moment in time that was exclusively yours, and exclusively mine.
I wasn’t expecting to get anything, as we were at a designer store mainly catered to men. I went simply because I liked them. They didn’t forget me, for they scouted out a dress for me. It was V-cut, sleeveless, orange, and either a size two or zero dress with a black waistband. It carved and replicated my shape and curves perfectly.
My first instinct upon seeing it was to gasp and think no. Not because the dress wasn’t uniquely striking, but because I knew it just wasn’t me.
I’ve always been impartial about orange, whether it’s the fruit or the color.
It’s not as passionate and romantic as red, nor is it as light and carefree compared to yellow.
I’ve only felt stronger towards the fruit when it’s in juice form and combined with champagne or prosecco or cava or any other variety of sparkling wine at brunch. Or when I’m sick and forced to take multivitamins and supplements.
I’ve only felt a deeper wave of impact towards the color when the sun starts to sink without the clouds burying its entire face: the moment when its rays are dyed a bit darker than its original and blinding yellow. I can never capture the spectacle, because it’s different and ephemeral every single time. Appreciation and a brief hint of sorrow weave together with the ongoing outdoor orange painting perfectly.
(Or – a third and rare exception: when I see the painting The Scream as it brilliantly outlines the general angst and highlights mine in deep, dark orange whenever I’m feeling down.)
I tried the dress on and walked out hesitatingly from the changing room with their coaxing.
I’ve always felt a lot more comfortable when I shopped for myself alone. I could eliminate doubts and opinions completely that way, and decide for myself, whether the choice was good or bad. An autonomous decision. There were so many opportunities when I’ve said the dreadful yes instead of a simple, single syllable no, that perhaps I seek some sort of individuality through shallow decisions to gain back some sort of control, such as what to eat and what to wear.
They told me I am beautiful, and said, “Darling, this [dress] is necessary.”
I wasn’t sure whether or not I recognized myself in the mirror. I’m pretty sure I did, it wasn’t as if there were any dramatic change, but there was some sort of lingering discomfort. I’ve always been so accustomed to being comfortably uncomfortable, it was very easy to dismiss my personal sentiments.
I swallowed and disregarded any feelings of mine, and I bought the dress. It was simply because they liked how I looked in it, and the fact that I liked them made their opinions worth listening and following…more than my own.
I was an expert at focusing on the forest and turning my head away from the discordant tree. Or, when I wanted to escape from the confinement of how much I cared about others’ thoughts and opinions over my own, I focused too much on even the barks, branches, and each leaves of the singular tree.
It simply just wasn’t me.
It was a concoction of my culture, upbringing, experiences, and relationships. I’ve had a fair share of guilt and blame, perhaps occasionally (or more so) unwarranted, but it made me try even harder to blend in. I wanted, no, I still do crave to fit in. It was terrifying to rock the boat – even just a tiny bit, because I feared the potential consequences. I worried about abandonment. I dreaded loneliness.
Looking back at the beaming dress today, it was my way to fit in. It was quite nice to gain some sort of approval from others. I misinterpreted that as love and care.
I realized that I’m still the same person who want (but can never force) people I love to stay. I’m anxious about abandonment, not to mention averse about loneliness (which is different from having alone time and a certain extent of solitude, because I need and love them).
I can’t avoid any of those problems, and they will always have important, and perhaps debilitating, roles to play throughout every stage of my life. The only person I have say and control over is me, so anyone who has set his or her mind up to leave will not stay anyway.
So today, I am the same but also a different person than who I was a couple of years ago.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it burned in one.”
I tore bits and pieces of my mold and identity that was built and threw and burned those away in the mesmerizing orange flames. Rebuilding myself back up has been an arduous ongoing process of many, many days.
And the dress? It’ll stay in one of my closets until the day I decide to finally part ways. Nothing happens in just a day.