Friday, May 9, 2014

My Favorite Color

Around the end of the nineteen-sixties, when I was still a mad housewife, I found myself at a party talking to a charming, handsome young man my husband knew from work, an African-American. Trying to make myself interesting, as one does, I said, "I'm writing my autobiography." What I was actually writing was a bad mad housewife novel, but that's a story for another day.

"Really!" he said. "I'm reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X."

"Ah," I said. "That would be nothing like mine. I don't even have the nerve to wear yellow." My remark mystified him. What I meant by it was that I didn't have the nerve to do anything I might have wanted to do, let alone revolutionize the world like Malcolm X. Yellow was my favorite color, but it made me look purple and vaguely ill. The magazines all advised me not to wear it for this reason. I didn't even have the nerve to tell my first husband how unhappy it made me when he… well, did just about anything. He wasn't fond of criticism. After all, who is? But allow me to draw the cloak of charity over my first marriage, as well as over the novel, which was deadly dull and ended with the mad housewife's suicide.

Many years have gone by, and now I will tell the world, without shame: Yellow is my favorite color. It's cheerful, sunny, mood-elevating. Still, when Jackie Cantor, then my editor at Dell, asked me what my favorite color was, so that she could have the cover for Bury the Bishop rendered in that color, I told her, "Red." This was because I had seen studies that said red was the best color for selling things. I wanted my book to sell. Indeed it did pretty well.

Nowadays the only reason for concealing my true favorite color is that hackers might discover it and use it to break security in my online bank accounts somehow. They would have to know a lot of other stuff, though, and some of it I might have lied about, right? Because I have lots more nerve than I used to in the old days. I have the nerve to tell the occasional lie to a bank's security system. Make up the name of a first pet, maybe. Also I now have the nerve to actually wear yellow. I just bought a cotton sweater by Joan Vass in "sunset," a charming shade of yellow. Here I am wearing it. Perhaps it makes me look purple and vaguely ill. I don't care. It's my favorite color.

© 2014 Kate Gallison


  1. It's amazing how full of the lack of courage we are at a young age. And the decisions and assumptions we make based on that fullness of lack... I was tall and very thin, so I must on no account call attention to myself. I remember those 'best colors' for skin tones articles, and 'best haircuts' for face shapes -- the underlying assumption being that there was no skin tone or face shape that didn't have something wrong with it. I'm going to go put on a red shirt today and comb my hair back!

  2. Lady, you look good in yellow :)