One evening while over for dinner I was helping my grandfather to set the table. He told me to get the green plates from the cupboard. I grabbed them and put them om the table.
My grandmother overheard this from the other room and came in – quite confused – to ask were on earth I got the green plates from. Apparently the green plates were blue.
My grandfather had had this set of plates for many years but never knew or realized they were blue.
Now, this might sound weird. How can a man for many years eat from the same plate and never realize that they are in fact not green?
It’s safe to assume he never really asked himself what color they were, he probably had a general idea but he never put a name to it. Only when he actively had to think about the color it became apparent that he was wrong.
This is not that strange, to the colorblind the name of a color is often irrelevant. They think in groups; blue/green/grey, orange/red/brown, black/green/grey. Naming a color is a frustrating process, prone to mistake. Something can without a doubt be green, but most of the time you really can’t be sure.
There are so many objects which I was certain I knew the color of when someone asked me: the couch in our living room, our cat (animals can’t be green?), the hair color of a friend and Luigy from the mario games. All wrong.
Not being able to get something right that everyone else seems to just know is a big part of the frustration. You have to look at a colored object from different angles, keep it in the light, put it next to another color or try to apply some sort of logic to naming it. And even then you’ll get it wrong.
Color is usually something undebatable. Grass is green, roses are red and the sky is blue. Cats can’t be green, but no one ever told me. Imagine singing along with a popular song, only to find out that you’ve had the lyrics wrong for as long as you can remember.
This explains why a lot of color blind don’t really ask themselves what color something is. It’s embarrassing and generally not worth the effort for a lot of colorblind people. It’s easier to stick to generalizations and avoid mistakes and embarrassment. “Blueish”, “kind of red”, “green, or grey”.
In the end, is it really that important? My grandfather and I had an understanding; to him the plates seemed green, to me – when he told me to get the green ones – they were green.
For the purpose of communication the color served its job. It didn’t matter what color they were as long as I knew which plates to grab.
But what if it would have been my grandmother telling me to get the blue plates that night? We would have eaten from cake plates or soup bowls.. and I would have been embarrassed.
Not everyone is part of this colorful world we all think we live in. Sometimes it’s better to tell someone to get the big plates from the second drawer on the left.