Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Color and Sex

Men are four to ten times more likely to be colorblind than women. Color is important to women. Men don’t generally care about it much unless they’re gay.

When my daughter bought a house last summer, all the women who checked it out said the house was “cute.” Without exception, however, they were appalled with the blue-painted woodwork in the living room and the pink walls in the bathroom. “I can’t live in here until I paint that over,” said my daughter, while the other women nodded gravely. Several volunteered to help put on a new color because it would have been too much to expect any women to exist in the presence of that blue. “Why would anybody do that?” they asked each other, referring to the previous owner’s color selection.

None of the men noticed the paint. None. They looked at the roof, siding, plumbing, wiring, septic system, and boiler. “Nice,” they said. The women didn’t like the yellow paint on the outside either, but the men were unaffected. “What’s wrong with it?” they asked. “It won’t need to be painted again for four or five years.”

“That yellow is icky,” said the women. The men shrugged.

Another woman told me how she saw a beautiful blue in the sky above the ocean one day and tried to capture it with her camera. When she got home and examined it, she was so disappointed, she cried. “You actually cried?” I asked.




“Hmm,” I said.

Colors are related to creativity,” said my wife. “They affect your mood and women are more attuned to their mood than men are. Color affects mood for everyone, but women are more aware of it.”

That reminded me of something a poet said several years ago contrasting women and men about how they deal with their feelings. Women, he said, have a huge vocabulary to describe how they’re feeling and they tend to discuss it endlessly with each other. Men, however, do not, and if they should be feeling something strongly, they won’t necessarily know what’s going on inside them. It’s as if they turn their eyes backward and look down into their chests, he said. They see a maelstrom of feelings swirling there, but can’t label any of them.

Women have a huge vocabulary for colors too - several dozen at least - whereas most men I know have only six or seven basic words describing color corresponding to the spectrum. Men could talk on and on about the advantages and disadvantages of forced hot air heating systems compared to forced hot water or radiant heat systems. How they feel about them would never come up.

A University of Maryland study discussed how something called the OPN1LW gene for perceiving color resides in the X chromosome. “Because females can have two different versions of this gene, but men can have only one, females may be able to perceive a broader spectrum of colors in the red/orange range. Men and women may be literally seeing the world differently,” said one of the researchers.

It’s not just what they see that makes women different from us. How we process that data is important too. On any given day, men tend to use their heads more than their hearts, so color and mood would not be as significant for them as it would be for women who tend to use their hearts more than their heads. Head and heart are each necessary for an integrated human existence but balancing the two would seem best. Some men and women do this individually, but most of us have to do it in union.

While reading recently, a quote about mood and attitude jumped out at me: “We see the world not as it is. We see it as we are.” Since we’re all different, our existence would be awfully narrow if we didn’t listen to and ponder how people around us see things. I’ve lived long enough and been married long enough to know that men and women do indeed perceive the world differently and only some of that has to do with color. Most of the rest is still a mystery and likely to remain such - for me at least.


Unknown said...

...i do appreciate that I can see all the colours. So lovely on fall day, or sunset.

My friend is red and green blind. So I ask him, "how the heck do you drive and know when to stop at lights?"

"The bright one is on the top or left" he responded.

Hoooooooookie. I'll drive on even days and you on odd...

Unknown said...

...when it comes to sex, I'm color blind.


Did I just say that?