Friday, March 19, 2010

A Lighter Shade of Pale {green...}

[This post originated at iMod.]

Trying to live in this murky limbo of packing up means that my house feels like just that: a house. A topsy-turvy shell which feels empty - bereft of the care and attention to detail that is my signature (and somewhat bohemian) style. Ag ja - 'bohemian' is such a cliche these days, but it perfectly defines everything about me with its connotations of nomadic romance... And actually, I'm going to ditch the original thing I was going to write about, and tell you instead about how I have come to find myself in all the colours of the rainbow where I once lost who I was in a depthless pool of black.

I hardly ever talk about it now, but like a jagged, keloided-over scar the remaining evidence of a previous violence, I was married before. Yip, I'm a remarried divorcee. My ex-husband has also recently remarried - but that, my friends, is another story I'll have to leave for another day... Anyway, before my 15 year old self met him, my personal style was already um, rather quirky. My mom indulged me endlessly, sewing up all my own sketched designs with that particular brand of joy that only mommies can feel as they watch their daughters becoming young women. One of these dresses, which so reflected my undying passion for the 1960s and '70s, was a black ankle-length, empire-line maxi-dress - with wide bell sleeves, all trimmed with flowery braid chosen from my mom's stash of vintage ribbons I could spend hours rummaging through - brain amok with fashion fantasies! (Don't even get me started on her chocolate box of sequins and beads... Ooh la la!) If only I could remember what shoes I wore with this dress... Another outfit combination I wore with happily rebellious pride and which made my poor dad visibly cringe when I was with him in public, was my knee-length floral skirt in a reddish granny print chiffon (also devotedly made by my mom as per my instructions), worn with a t-shirt, a cream cardigan I was very sentimentally attached to and which I tied round my hips thereby ruining it into overstretched oblivion forever, and on my feet: my mom's hyper-chunky, heavy-as-hell Italian hiking boots. (This was before I was bought those iconically grunge/punk boots: Doc Martens!) And then, ahem, there is the matter of my hair. My sweet mama let me dye it a ludicrously cheap red tinge - which I just loved for how it made me feel (no matter that it was completely the wrong tone for my skin!) Of course, let me not forget my ultimate style accessory I have never been able to live without since I was eleven: lip-gloss. Due to an unexplainable addiction and the fact that I lick my lips perpetually, especially when concentrating, I make VERY sure I have a variety of tubes in my immediate vicinity at all times: whether it's paddling down the Orange River, writing a particularly strenuous exam essay, or - more recently - giving birth! (While I was changing Layla's nappy this morning, I noticed her carefully watching me while she licked her lips back and forth -- and I realised she was copying me! Noooooo!!! Is my child doomed to inherit my lip issues?!)

So before I met The Ex, I was radically exuberant in how I chose to express myself through colour and style. My Ex, however, came from a creepily conservative Rondebosch family, and I found myself toning things down by self-conscious degrees, so that by the end of the second year, I was a boring clone of all that is mediocre and 'normal'. A couple of years later, and I was suddenly swathed in black, black and more black. My excuse was that it fit my art student persona and my budget: i.e. everything matched! But looking back, I can see I'd lost the ability to be myself, and I was drowning, slowly and somehow defiantly, in this relationship - and black was the colour of my heart then: I couldn't see the light I craved through this pressing, suffocating thing I believed was love.
Here is another story about the way in which colour can so magically diagnose maladies of the heart. My sister, Mandy, had a particularly unique and vivacious relationship with colour - and bucked the trend, as she continues to do now, by replacing the predictable norm of blue skies, yellow sun and green grass with audacious choices of orange, purple and zingy pink! Until... she, out of the blue, replaced it all with harsh scribblings of black. Alarm bells rang for my mom who dashed off to the school to investigate. Turns out the teacher was exasperatedly trying to teach this left-handed child to be right-handed -- by smacking her errant left hand with a ruler!

My wearing black as a young woman continued unabated, broken only by the odd colourful garment. Even my paintings became drained of colour, and I chose only to work in graphite, black and shades of sepia. Even until about two years ago. One of the most notable things about colour choice, in my wardrobe and art, was that I never, ever used green. It was only once I managed to leave The Ex and return to Cape Town, that I suddenly started to add green to my life: from the sophisticatedly sombre tones of olive all the way through to the most fanatical of lime! I'd always been extremely aware of the fact that I'd never been a 'green' fan - but never quite grasped why... until I began incorporating it into my personal pallette. At the time, I was working (and playing!) as the art director for a nationwide fashion house and, in my trendforecasting analysis, discovered this intriguing snippet of enlightening info: people haunted by depression exclude the use of green in their personal expression, be it art, interiors or fashion. Wow! (to say the least.) It all made so much sense in retrospect, didn't it?

Needless to say, every inconceivable shade of green can be spotted in my life now - and that says a lot, hey? (*wink*)

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