Do You See What I See?

When I was little, my parents bought a house that wasn’t finished on the inside. They had to paint walls (in some areas, put wood paneling on the walls because it was the 70s) and install carpeting.

I could not, for the life of me, understand why they put green carpet in our basement when everything else around was brown. My mom would laugh, and tell me the carpet wasn’t green, it was brown. I was constantly frustrated by her inability to see the carpet for what it was-green. This happened with my choices in clothing, (I was convinced my shirt was blue, she said it was black) as well as not understanding why she would do oil paintings with the wrong colors for certain flowers.

By the time I was a teenager, my ability to see far away became an issue, so my dad took me to an optometrist. This was the first time I had done an eye exam this extensive, and half way through it, he called my dad into the exam room and said “Did you know she’s colorblind?” My dad starting laughing and said no, he and my mom did not know that. But that would explain why I couldn’t help him choose the right socks to match his suits anymore than he could himself. My dad was colorblind, but they didn’t know women could be, and they just thought I was being stubborn about what I saw.

It turns out that 1 in 12 men in the world are colorblind, but only 1 in 200 women are. This genetic issue is passed down directly from the mother for men, but women get it when their father and their mom’s father are colorblind. My mom’s father passed away while my grandma was pregnant with my mom, so none of us ever knew him or anything about his genetics. When I got home, I told my mom the news (you have no idea how happy it made me that I had a reason I was seeing  green carpet all those years) so my mom called my grandma to find out if her dad had been colorblind. He was!

And because genetics are awesome, I passed my colorblindness on to both of my sons. I knew this early on because extensive eye exams are performed at school now, so I got the panic letter sent home when Ryan was in first grade “HE CAN’T SEE CERTAIN SHADES OF RED AND GREEN. TAKE HIM TO HIS DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY!” And the less panicked letter two years later when Nolan had the same exam at the same school “I’m sure you are aware of this, but Nolan appears to be colorblind. Please follow-up with his pediatrician.” Um…ok.

The saving grace for the three of us colorblind family members is that Wil is not colorblind. So when we all drove by that new house in our neighborhood and freaked out that they painted it purple, Wil was the voice of reason in reassuring us that it was brown. And if we were lucky, he’d catch us before walking out the door in clothes that didn’t go together AT ALL so we could change. He also has to be the one to point out that we’re moving the wrong piece on the board when we’re playing a game, because we thought it was a different color than it actually was.

And since so many people asked me, I will tell you. That dress is not white and gold, nor is it blue and black. It’s tan and purple.

Hey, I’m just calling it like I see it.

21 thoughts on “Do You See What I See?

  1. I had a friend at school who was colorblind, but he had it the worst. He just saw everything in shades of gray. no colour recognition whatsoever. of course, he never knew any better. so it didnt really bother him.

    1. I dated a guy in school who was completely colorblind like that. His parents only bought him black, white, gray, and blue clothing so that he could choose his own outfits without clashing. [Funnily enough, the only other-colored clothing he owned was a ST:TNG captain’s uniform for cosplay.] Occasionally our friends would have fun quizzing him on what color he thought things were, but I could tell that was annoying to him sometimes. We haven’t kept in contact, but I don’t think it’s affected his life too much since I know he’s [surprisingly] in the military.

  2. The best part of being colorblind is: convincing your friends a certain object is indeed green and not as they (the non-colorblind) see it brown. Sure, it took some kick-ass debating on my part and maybe they just finally gave in just to shut me up, but at least I was right once.

    My mom remembered fondly the time the nurse at the baby-checkup thingy (don’t know what it’s called in english) came to my mother bearing tragic news: Ma’am, your son might be colorblind! To which she replied: I have known that for years already (I was 5). She noticed the same mistakes her dad made I made.

    My color-pencils had numbers taped to the non-writing end with numbers on it and in the lid of the box my mother put a numbered list describing the colors, like grass-green, apple-green and sea-green. One day at drawing class I was drawing a scene where a river flowed through a forest. Halfway into coloring my river my classmate next to me asked: do you always make your rivers purple? To which I replied stoically: Yep. And continued coloring (I forgot my own pencils and just used the class ones, without numbers) as I already was half-way and I made sure I always told my teachers at the beginning of the schoolyear.

    Try playing Settlers of Catan as a player+bank (the one who hands out the resources) and you have to distinguish the green and brown villages/cities.

  3. It’s hard to believe your parents never twigged to you having an actual issue seeing certain colors, but I guess if you think of it only affecting males… Anyhow, I just read an article online a couple days ago about an accidental breakthrough in making glasses to help colorblind individuals see colors correctly. The company mentioned in the article seems to already be selling sunglasses for the colorblind, and will roll out non-tinted lenses soon.

  4. You rock! I have actually seen several pictures of the dress and all of them look a little different. I was wondering about the lighting and the type of flash on the camera.

  5. My first husband was color blind. He didn’t find it out though until he was laying tile in a trailer and mixed up the colors! Not the best way to impress the boss.

  6. You are the only other woman I know who is colorblind! And I didn’t even try to figure out what color the dress is!

    1. I, too, am a colorblind woman! Everyone at the lunch table at work was trying to figure out what color the dress was, so I let them know that the true color was purple and brown. That caused a whole other conversation to take place.

      What I’ve always wondered is why I see something as green and someone else sees it as blue — why didn’t I just learn to call that color blue when I was a kid? How do I know that the green I see is green to me when everyone else thinks it’s blue? Hmmm…

  7. Hmmm I saw many colors, not one set or the other. Dress may be faceted shiny material that shimmers colors around it. I saw the color of an oil slick, haha..Um energy use, oil slick? Ask Wil.. (:Wink:)

  8. My husband has mild red/green colourblindness, but it’s only in low light! In bright light he can tell most red and greens apart. For what it’s worth, he sees the dress as light bluish purple and gold. I see white and gold.

  9. In college, my friends, knowing of my colorblindness, mismatched my socks in a way that I really could not tell. Then as the days went by, they pulled up the cuffs of my pants to laugh that my socks were not the same.

  10. You may not have the Color gene, but you sure have the writing with honesty and entertainment gene. I love your posts, I admire your great work for animals and I applaud your all round awesomeness.

  11. My Dad was severely colorblind – old school used to refer to blue/green and red/yellow and he was both. He bought our first color TV in 1964, carried it in, set it up, and adjusted the color to his satisfaction with the admonition that none of us were allowed to ever touch the color adjustment slide bar. My Mom and I just looked at the screen and then at Dad and nodded. When he left the room, my Mom told me to do something about the color. The people on the screen had green hair and orange faces – seriously, years later when I saw the Oompa Loompas I nearly fell over in hysterics. My adjustments were successful and covert so Dad never seemed to notice the difference.

  12. This was interesting. I hadn’t heard of that kind of colorblindness before. My step-dad can only see red, yellow, green, blue, gray, brown, and black. He always likes to tell people my mom wore a brown wedding dress when they got married (it was pink). I have issues with blues and greens. Anything labeled turquoise or aqua look the same to me and I call them blue, though I’ve been told what I’m looking at is more green than blue. This has only been an issue when I did some copy writing for a clothing seller and I got a note saying the dresses were not blue they were green. I never even knew I had an issue for most of my life.

  13. A member of our game night crew is severely red/green colorblind and it makes some games very difficult/impossible to play. We’ve even had to modify a few and add dots to the reds so he can tell them apart from the greens. He’s very good natured about it though.

    Also I love the very unique perspective on the #thedress mania. At least it has sparked a lot of cool scientific discussion.

Comments are closed.