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Take Back the Colors in Our Adult Lives


There are some battles you don't pick. One that I wasn't going to pick happened in front of the paint color selection wall at our home improvement store.

After we had painstakingly scraped off the vintage floral wallpaper, my husband and I decided that we wanted more vibrant colors splashed in our house than just white. We were adults, homeowners, by gum. Plus, homeownership also had a novel new notion: No one can tell us what to do anymore! Later, that also meant that we were on the hook for maintenance we had no idea would be coming, but that's a story for another day.

As two sometimes indecisive people who don't share a sense of style, we knew selecting colors would be a slog. We held out on picking the colors as long as we could. Truth be told, maybe it was just me holding out.

In those early days, there were a lot of trips to the store at the end of the night, picking up new things we needed for the next day's renovation. One evening, with us both very tired, we picked that paint instead of picking of fight. It was a selection process that can only now be best described as haphazard and at worst described as a fever dream.

Two different blues for the bedroom and master bath? Sure! Tangerine for the living room? Yes! A stranger, paler orange for the kitchen? Absolutely! How about a guest bathroom in a red that reminds visitors of the elevator scene in "The Shining"? It's cozy; let's do it!

It was borderline madness, but the result? A home.

Our living room's vibrancy transitions into the comfort of the kitchen, which glows against white cabinetry. As the light from the golden hour hits differently throughout the year, sometimes the dust in the air catches the rays just so and my kitchen feels like a movie. In those moments, I sit still, breathe and wait until the light shifts from a moment that will never return.

When my daughter got her own room this year, she selected the colors— a darker purple for two walls and a cotton candy pink for the two others. We repainted my son's new solo space after his two picked favorites — a sturdy barn-house red and a cobalt blue. With the white paint refreshed in his closet, my husband remarked, "Huh, the colors of the flag?" My son replied, "Oh, yeah! How nice!"

Colors tell stories not just about our homes but about our personalities and our passions. But there is a lack of appreciation for color outside our homes— in spaces for work, for sharing meals and even for consumerist consumption.

It's at McDonald's, which stripped away its iconic reds to replace them with the damp browns. It's at the car lot, a sea of whites, dark blues and industrial charcoal. It's in the cubicles that we're being pushed back into, the bland gray walls under harsh fluorescent lights.

Adulthood in America strips color from its soul, and we should put it back. Spring for that salmon-colored dress. Go for the cool banana yellow as an accent wall to start. Throw a tie-dye scarf over the "Hang in There" cat poster in your office. Use color as a vocally quiet but optically bold act of defiance against the conformity that threatens to swallow us all.

Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma.