My relationship with pink mirrors my winding path to self-acceptance.
When I was a little girl, I gravitated towards pink. This seemed to surprise everyone, as I was a tomboy who would choose a Monster Truck over a Barbie any day. But back then perceptions of gender were black and white – and I defied them. I could never really put my special affinity for pink into words. There was something ineffably soothing about it; pink felt like a tight, warm hug.
As I approached my teen years, the pink I had always adored as a child began to jar with me. It got brandished as ‘girly’, ‘babyish’, ‘meek’ and ‘sickly sweet’ – traits I didn’t want to be associated with, nor recognized within myself. More than anything, they symbolized unwelcome, tell-tell signs of youth – something my teen self was desperately trying to flee from as I began my transition into womanhood. During this tumultuous time, while trying to navigate my identity and every new contradiction it revealed on a daily basis, my conflicting relationship with pink became too much to bear.
I stopped wearing pink. I pushed it into the darkest recesses of my brain so there was no chance of its brilliance shining through. I thought that if I could dissociate myself from it, putting it into a box just as others did, then perhaps I would come closer to unravelling my own identity. When people asked what my favorite color was, I would say I didn’t have one or that it depended on my mood (only later would I discover neither was true). My bedroom remained painted 50 shades of pink, but I began to see it as one flat, redundant, lackluster color. Yet it continued to haunt me – the color I denied myself still seeped into my life every day.
It wasn’t until I turned twenty that I came to understand the heaviest contradiction that had been weighing me down. My preoccupation with my favourite color had been quite misplaced. The biggest conflict I was actually facing was accepting my mixed race heritage: I was half pink and half brown. I was neither one nor the other; I was both and everything in-between. Rather than trying to reconcile my mixed identities, I spent my teen years trying to run away from them.
The penny dropped the moment I realized I was straightening my hair to look pinker. The media had spoon-fed me images of conventional beauties my whole life, gracing the pages of the glossiest and most desirable magazines. I never saw a version of myself to aspire to, so naturally I wanted to look like them. I wanted to do everything in my power to avoid being even more of a contradiction.
With age came greater self-awareness and self-worth and I realized that I had unwittingly been playing into the media’s game. I had falsely believed there was only one kind of beauty to aspire to, worthy of celebration – an unyielding objective beauty – to which I would never fit the bill. I began to see through the media’s misrepresentation and understand beauty’s true subjectivity. I started to fully appreciate beauty in its myriad of colors, shapes, and forms – never yielding to a singular definition, but all the more gorgeous for this reason.
As an act of rebellion, I stopped straightening my hair. I realized I didn’t want to run away from my contradictions. It was draining, but more than anything else, I shouldn’t have to. I wanted to feel comfortable in my skin – the skin life had gifted me with; the skin my toes could never carry me away from. It was at this time that I began to see pink, no longer as flat, but as an endless combination of magentas, amaranths, fuchsias, peaches, and Persian roses. As I came to embrace all of its different hues and contrasting traits, a romance with pink was born again. Despite the struggles, denial, and shame that my relationship with pink had endured, it remerged triumphantly into my life. Pink became powerful, transformative, and indelible; it became a space of infinite possibilities and healing. When I reclaimed pink, I came to love and accept it for all of its contradictions, and, in the exactly same manner, I made peace with myself.
Siobhan Lawless is a freelance writer in London.