Friday, August 03, 2007

Musings on the color red

Spitgirl here. Since Rhonda's on vacation, I thought I would post a little something to keep y'all entertained.

Last weekend, my fiancé and I had the opportunity to celebrate my grandparents' 65th anniversary with my family. Here is an approximation of the conversation I had with him that afternoon, which probably is fairly familiar to those of you who are or have been married:

Him: So where are we going tonight?
Me: (name of restaurant) You know, we've been there before.
Him: Hmmm, I don't remember it.
Me: No, don't you remember? It was where we went the last time we had a family gathering. It's in (insert name of city here)
Him: No, I'm drawing a blank here.
Me: Trust me, you'll recognize it when we get there.
Him: So what's the dress code?
Me: Well, it should be pretty casual.
Him: Okay.
Me: (pause) But you should wear red.
Him: (pause) Why?

This is the point where we both started looking at each other as if the other were crazy. Him, because he couldn't understand why the color mattered, and me, because I couldn't understand why he was asking. The conversation went downhill from there.

Me: Because it's considered good luck.
Him: Okay, I have one that I can wear - it's a pullover with a collar, with yellow stripes.
Me: (unable to picture the shirt) What?
Him: You've seen it before. I wear it all the time.
Me: Uhhh... okay, that should be fine.
Him: So red is the color to wear for anniversaries?
Me: (struggling not to laugh... engineers are so literal) No, it's the color you wear for anything - weddings, birthdays, anniversaries.
Him: Oh, okay.
Me: Except funerals. You wear black at funerals, unless it's your parent. Then you wear all white.

I expect he, as a Caucasian man from the south (and someone who is apparently unable to distinguish "yellow" from "tan") was just about to go crazy from the exceptions.

The funny thing is, I don't know everything about what color to wear and what color not to wear. I'd never heard until I was in college that blue (or was it green?) was supposed to be unlucky to wear for birthdays, because it signifies death. However, I heard that from someone who speaks Cantonese, and cultural traditions can be significantly different between even those two major language groups.

The thing is, color - specifically red - is a significant part of Chinese culture as a whole. There are red envelopes (hong2 bao1) to give money to children, the roofs are red, the gates on the street where my grandparents lived when I was a child was painted a bright, primary red... you wear red to anything celebratory - Chinese New Year, birthdays, weddings, etc. Some Chinese traditions have a 100-day celebration of their child's birth, where they serve - guess what? - eggs dyed red.

Morals of the story? Red is a culturally significant color in Chinese culture. And don't trust a male engineer to know more than 9 colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, brown, and black.


Janet said...

Male engineer= color blind.

(my husband is "one of them" too...) said...

Gotta love em though, right?! Great post!