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If George Clooney described your violet blouse as “purple”, would you care? Probably not. But what is it with men and colour?
I may be entering dangerously sexist territory here – but why is it that the average human male can see only around a dozen colours? Where women see emerald, jade and moss, men see only green. While we extol the virtue of our new coral shirt, a bloke will insist that it’s orange.
When we want the dining room chimney-breast painted ochre, they hate the idea of yellow. And I’ve learned that they’re not being awkward; they actually do think that cobalt is … well, just blue.
But why? Little boys were just as exposed to boxes of Crayola Crayons as us girls. Don’t they remember the sheer joy of all those gorgeous colours like magenta, raw umber, sepia and carnation pink?
I admit I was a tad obsessive about my crayons – lining them up in order according to the gradual change from one colour to the next, so blue-violet was next to violet-blue, green-yellow beside yellow-green and so on. But surely men must have learned a bit about colour back then? So where did it all go? It might just be that precise colour designation is not important to men. If he likes his new sweater, a fella doesn’t care whether it’s charcoal or slate; to him it’s just grey and comfy.
But it might not all be their fault. While only a tiny proportion of one per cent of women suffer from a form of colour blindness, as many as eight per cent of the male species are similarly afflicted.
Which admittedly doesn’t explain the remaining 92 per cent, but there might be a legitimate medical answer here too. Some scientists believe that men’s brains may be less efficient at processing and understanding colours. Most women apparently see colours in the red-orange range much better than men – which might account for the female love affair with pink.
Women may have to accept that colour is just not as important to men. So it must be pretty annoying being subjected to that much detail when all you want is a basic description. And let’s be honest: does anyone actually know what “taupe” is?
But it’s not just our appreciation of colour that is so different. Take our approaches to shopping. I’m going to make sweeping generalisations here, so apologies in advance for those exceptions to my rule. For most men, a shopping expedition, when it cannot be avoided, is a matter of military precision: identify, locate, acquire, and retreat. But for women shopping is a more holistic experience. Yes, gentlemen, I know we drive you mad with our browsing and comparing, our coffee breaks and yet more browsing. Especially when we invariably return to the first item we tried in the first shop. It’s a girl thing and for that we’re sorry. But for us, shopping is an emotional issue. In order to buy something, we have to love it. We can’t just make do.
To balance things out, it’s time to admit to some genetic mutations in most of the females of my acquaintance. There is a little known, but highly evolved, area of the female brain that perfectly deducts 10 per cent from the cost of any item of clothing when required to announce it to a member of the opposite sex. And another that instantly recognises any outfit previously worn by another woman. So you see we aren’t just being greedy when we want another new dress – it’s a genetic necessity.
If all this were not enough, there’s also a language barrier that exists between the sexes. Take that horrible and contentious word “fine”. When a man describes something as fine, he means that it’s perfectly acceptable, that it fits the bill precisely. The frock that looks “fine” is “just right”. But to a woman, the word is poison. It represents the barely acceptable; it’s part of the “if that’s all you’ve got it’ll do” range of adjectives. So menfolk, if a woman tells you that your suit is fine, it probably isn’t.
It’s like a man’s reaction to the word “cute”. To women there is nothing disparaging in describing something or someone as cute; quite the opposite actually. But we’ve noticed that it’s not always a concept with which men are comfortable.
We do understand there are language difficulties and we don’t want you to panic when we ask you if we look “OK”. What we want is an honest answer. All right, absolute honesty should probably be reserved for the times you think we look fabulous. But please don’t say we look fine. Of course, if we’ve spent four hours getting ready and still look like a dog’s dinner, then a lie will be – just fine.