Full disclosure: I am a tad color blind. I’m not exactly sure what color those two words are – they both look green to me, but I know I didn’t click on the same “hue” when I typed them. I recently learned something in my on-going education under my partner’s long-suffering attempt to educate me as to how to properly do the laundry. I’ve always thought of separating out the “coloreds” from the “whites”. That isn’t a problem for me because I recognize the color “white”. If the article of clothing wasn’t “white”, it automatically goes in the other wash – the “colored” wash. This has led to four decades of discussion, sometimes heated, standing in front of the washing machine.
“No. No. NO!” I would hear. “How could you put that in the dark wash?!”
“It’s not white!” I respond with equal vigor. “I put all the colored clothes together and all the white clothes together!”
We had a breakthrough last Saturday when Jan looked at me, holding my hands in front of the washing machine. “Mark,” she said softly, “let’s not think about ‘colored’ and ‘white’ anymore. Let’s think differently about this …”
This is a testament to Jan’s patience, her pedagogical prowess, her love for me, and her determination that the clothes were going to be laundered as she knew they ought to be laundered, and no other way. How many times she has thanked me for doing the laundry. She is so appreciative, even as almost every expression of gratitude over the years has been qualified with a “But …” Not wanting to discourage me or deprive me of my enthusiasm for the task, she has closely monitored my activities around the collection of dirty clothes and the machines we own to return those clothes to their pristine potential. Last Saturday, she opened my eyes to a new way of seeing those grimy garments …
Her eyes soft, her voice low and seductive, she said: “Let’s think in terms of the spectrum of light!”
Honestly, I had never conceived of our dirty laundry in this way. It had always been rather black and white for me, never anything I had thought about in terms of a “spectrum of light“. She had my attention.
“Try to see this,” she continued … “See the spectrum of light. Don’t think anymore in terms of ‘color’. Can you see the spectrum?”
My eyes were closed now. She still held my hands.
“Yes …” I said in a semi-hypnotized state; “I see the spectrum! It all looks kind of the same …”
“No,” she said. “Concentrate … See the hues on the spectrum – how they move from dark to light?”
We were pushing the boundaries of my mental capacity now, to say nothing of testing the limits of my ability to discern “hues”.
“Hues?” I said, with one eye now open.
“Close your eye!” she said. “Yes – hues – see how the spectrum moves along? You need to stop thinking about color and begin to think in terms of ‘hues‘. It doesn’t have to be white to belong in the light hued wash.”
“Ahhhh …” said I, feigning comprehension. I can’t tell pink from red or blue from green, “Teal” is a faux color other people have made up to keep people like me confused. But this moment was so tender, and she had so much hope in her voice that I couldn’t let her down.
“Yesssss …” I said; “I see the hues.”
“Alright,” she said. “I am so grateful that you do the wash …”
Wait for it ….
“BUT …” There it was …
“BUT you need to stop thinking in terms of ‘color’ and start thinking in terms of the hue of the garment. The lighter hues get washed together – like this light pink turtleneck …”
“You mean the red one?”
“It’s not red! It’s pink – a light lavender. See the hue, Mark, see the hue.”
It was like Obi Wan telling Luke to Use the Force, Luke; use the force!
I don’t know if this is going to help me with doing the wash the “correct way”. But here’s something I took away from this conversation:
Too many people still look at other people using categories of “black” and “white”. Too many people still are blind to all the various hues of humanity – in terns of our skin and gender, our abilities and “usefulness to society”. We’ve got to learn to start thinking in hues – the gentle gradations that are part of our individuality, even as we are all on the same spectrum. I desperately want my wife’s lavenders and pinks to come out clean, pristine, perfect to her eyes. I don’t know if I will ever have the capacity to see it her way; but I am determined to keep trying. And so far, she is willing to let me. I like the tack she is taking recently – that softer, gentler tone with me, holding my hand, hoping I can see the hues.
That’s the best way to teach. That’s the way that makes me want to keep learning and trying.
Today … See the hues. And lighten up.