Our theme for the month of February is “color.”
The best gift I received for my high school graduation (barring, I suppose, the diploma and the admission into the great university of Calvin College), was a basic, ten-piece toolkit, complete with a multi-bit screwdriver, roll of duct tape, and what my former housemate dubiously dubbed the “cop flashlight.” I’ve used its various tools to pound holes into rented drywall, screw and unscrew countless pieces of disposable apartment furniture, and wrestle the back wheel off my curmudgeonly Fuji twenty-one-speed bicycle (and someday, I imagine, I’ll manage to use it to get the thing back on).
I don’t remember when the toolkit’s gifter, my high school theatre department’s tech director, subtly asked me what my favorite color was, but I know he must have, and that’s why every tool inside its gray-and-purple canvas case (except for the aforementioned cop flashlight), features lilacy trim, grips, or casing.
Six years later and I’m still using that toolkit at least once a month, but something has changed: My favorite color is no longer purple.
Not that you’d know it from looking at my bedroom—the one in my parents’ house at least, which they graciously keep as mine for holidays and boxes full of accumulated junk that don’t quite fit in my shared apartment. Inside is a shrine to all love children of red and blue, with purple walls, purple sheets, purple bedspread, purple curtains, and a purple lampshade. (The purple shag rug was mercifully donated to a thrift store when I was in high school.)
To be fair, I don’t know that my favorite color was purple even back when I lived there. I’d been telling people that it was for so long that I hadn’t noticed that it changed—or that I still had one at all. A singular favorite color, like a favorite animal and a favorite food, is something that we are taught we must have as kids and we know is important, or else adults wouldn’t be asking about it all the time.
Favorite color is also a good way for kids to vet their classmates. Elementary-school Annaka, for example, gave special consideration to boys whose favorite color wasn’t blue (because every boy’s favorite color was blue), treated girls (and it was always girls) who also claimed purple with cautious optimism, and avoided with a vengeance girls who expressed a zealous love of pink (when you were as desperate as I was to not be treated “like a girl,” you learned pretty early on that pink was your greatest foe).
The shift away from a preference for purple doesn’t have anything to do with me figuring out that it’s also a “feminine” color (you can buy a similar but more expansive purple toolkit on Ebay if you just search for “44 Piece Woman Home Repair Tool Set Kit Box Purple for Girls Ladies Females”). As we grow older, we start to identify ourselves more by what we are than by what we like. Gender, race, profession, religion, and marital status start to take precedence over our favorite animals and foods. There are key exceptions, of course, most notably sports teams and anything involving the term “fandom,” but rarely do we get asked what our favorite color is once we’ve crossed that mythical threshold that makes us “adult.” We have more interesting things to talk about, presumably, and adults tend to have aesthetic preferences—not favorite colors—anyway.
Someone did recently ask me, though (I guess I’m not an adult yet after all), and I said black, because it’s the color of most of my clothes and most things I own and when I had the choice between the black-handled spatula and the purple-handled one I choose the former. The asker paused to give me a somewhat bemused look before nodding and moving on. Maybe the look was because black is a boring color—most things that everyone owns are black (count the suitcases at the airport)—or because it matches my aesthetic preferences (which have been described as “charmingly morbid”) or because black isn’t a color, depending on who you ask.
Black might be my new favorite color because I’m boring or because I’m trying to be an adult or because it would be red if wearing it didn’t draw attention to my keratosis pilaris, but I think black is just my new favorite color because I like it.
And that’s the best reason for a color to be your favorite color. Adults don’t need to have a favorite color, but I do. It’s black. Simple as that.
(I still buy purple duct tape, though.)