One day, I was looking at my wardrobe collection and realized it didn’t have any yellow clothes. It struck me as weird. I felt curious — was it a coincidence, or was there a reason? If there was a reason, how could I, as the person who assembled the collection throughout my lifetime, not know about it?
I started to think about my past, but I didn’t immediately remember anything. The probability of it being a coincidence seemed low, so I wasn’t ready to accept it just yet. But then a memory surfaced:
During high school, while shopping at a store, I noticed a yellow shirt with black paint splatters. As I imagined wearing it, a wave of uncomfortableness came over me. My face was flushed, and my body was clammy. I didn’t know why. So I walked away.
But the shirt was still tempting me, calling out to me, so I glanced at it out of the corner of my eye. But then the feelings jumped at me again. Damn! It would take some real guts to wear this shirt, like gambling with more money than a person could afford to lose. So this time I ran away.
Now, it was haunting me. Before even looking at it again, I felt the tension rising. My heart was pounding in my head, I was deaf to everything else, and my strength was low. The mighty shopping gods demanded an answer!
A fight came from within, one side wanted to run, and the other side wanted to stay. I remembered thinking, “Even if I bought it, I would not wear it. And even if I wore it, I would feel weird.”
Then with a burst of courage, I summoned all my remaining strength, crawled to the cashier, and barely managed to purchase the shirt. Right then and there, I collapsed in the store, exhausted.
Why was it such an effort to buy the shirt? Upon reflection, I realized it was because I thought yellow was a color… for girls. Eek!
In my perception, I think most US-Americans would agree that pink is a girly color. For gender, light blue means “it’s a boy,” and pink means “it’s a girl.” For example, when I was a kid, the toy aisle for girls was full of pink things, and the section for boys was lacking, so the conclusion that “pink ain’t for ya, ya hear?” could be understood.
So men have been socialized to avoid pink, and in my opinion, also light purple. But how did my wires get so crossed that I was also avoiding yellow? What made my man-brain so dang fragile?
Well, after searching my past, I found another memory, one from when I was even younger:
During middle school, while in class, a friend whispered, “Do you know what I heard?”
“What?” I asked.
“If you wear yellow on Thursdays, you’re gay,” he said with a smile.
In a panic, I looked myself up and down; no yellow. And it wasn’t Thursday either. I was puzzled. I didn’t know how to process this information. It could be a joke or advice. For context: at the time, I was super-shy, with crooked teeth and smelly breath; in other words, insecure about myself. I didn’t fully understand what gay meant but knew it was an insult (sorry.) And I was afraid to be called gay. To be safe, I decided to never wear yellow.
So it seemed that this experience was still influencing me. And even though I almost completely forgot about it, the fear stayed. It was still affecting me years later — like a wound that wouldn’t go away on its own.
After realizing all of this, I pushed myself to buy something yellow. It was a yellow, white, and black striped sweater. And at the time, it still felt uncomfortable. But I hoped seeing it in my wardrobe collection would slowly normalize it.
During this time, I watched more closely what other men wore. And to be honest, I didn’t see many wearing yellow. But then one of my good friends had a similar-looking shirt, and it inspired me to feel more confident.
So I wore it once. And then slowly a few more times. Eventually, I liked the shirt and felt good wearing it. After a while, I reflected on this change and was impressed to see such a big difference. Something that used to create such a negative response was now pleasant. It felt like a distant dream that was fading. This is what the healing process is like, I guess. But I don’t know. I’m not a therapist.
Thanks for reading folks! If you enjoyed the story, please let me know by clapping or making a comment.
Author’s note #1: while researching, I found that the idea didn’t start with my friend. People in different parts of the western world have heard this statement before, but more commonly about the color green. At our school, we had to wear a uniform, either a white shirt or a green shirt, so that might be why it was yellow instead.
Author’s note #2: homophobia isn’t cool, m’kay.