playful pinks

Pink and I should win an award for Most Improved Relationship Between a Color and a Person.

I don’t remember a single pink article of clothing or object in my household growing up. It was the 70’s, and avocado, brown, and other earth tones made up the color landscape. Oddly, kids’ clothing seemed to be manufactured only in navy blue, sky blue, or red. My mom sewed most of our clothes for years, so if I had very much wanted pink clothing, I am sure she would have made it. I do remember wearing pink (for the first time?) when I dressed up one year as Wilbur the Pig for Halloween. Otherwise, I associated pink with Barbies, which I considered ridiculously girly.

But pink and black made a splash in the early 80’s as we looked back to the 50’s. Boys in junior high showed up in pink oxford button-downs—with the collars up, of course. Pastels hung around tenaciously for years and, finally, in high school, I bought an icy pink tee-shirt. Turns out, pale pink makes me look really, really ill. I swore off pink at that point, and even vaguely recall saying in my twenties that I would never allow any pink object to enter my home.

Enter: life. I have a garden, and pink flowers are pretty! I have daughters. We chose gender-neutral colors for years, but by preschool, there was no stopping the pinkness, and why would you? To see that much enthusiasm about a color is a lovely thing.

There is something weird about letting a color have too much negative meaning. All colors can convey multiple, opposing meanings. Recently, I nearly fell over when I heard a junior high student say their teacher had told them “black means death.” The meanings and uses of the color black are enough to fill a book. Yes, we sometimes associate it with death, but also with elegance, wealth, professionalism, and many other messages depending on its context.

By the time my girls were in grade school, I found myself wearing more pink—medium salmon to deeper fuchsia tones. While pinks will never be my most flattering colors, I am very drawn to them in small amounts. It’s no surprise to me, looking back, that becoming a mom and getting more comfortable with feelings in general allowed me to loosen that rigid rejection of a color that symbolizes a softer, sweeter side.

Pinks are still usually seen as quite feminine, and are associated with romance, emotions, and even vulnerability (think breast cancer awareness, cupcakes and confections, Victoria’s Secret). But it’s great fun to use it defiantly in a “femininity rocks—deal with it” kind of way (Pink, the singer), and to see it used more diversely by companies like T-Mobile that have no obvious connections to the usual usage.

I use pink quite a bit in my work and always will. For years my logo was bright pink, with dark chocolately brown, a wonderful color combination. It’s like red—attention-getting—but more playful. I heart pink!