“What’s your favorite color?”
Do kids really expect me to have a single answer to this question? Today I’m wearing a pink jacket, so I guess it is pink, the color that suits me today. Not red, too forceful. Not maroon, like wool, too heavy, too velvet. Not orange, too October. Pink. Yes, that’s it.
But yesterday it was lime green. Definitely lime green. A color yearning for spring to crawl out of the ground like cicadas. Needing a break from this malingering winter, choosing its favorite, most pervasive color – new green, I hoped Spring would find that color attractive and come to me. Lime green.
But last week, it was most decidedly yellow. A rebellious statement, a refusal to accept the dreary gray perpetuated by the sky, the drab, salt bleached roads, the overslept trees. Yellow was my statement, my I’ll-show-you. Of all the colors – Yellow.
Still, of all the questions in the rainbow, why do kids almost always ask me this? Other questions may be more obscure (where’s your doorknob?) More direct (are you married? Why not?) More personal (how old are you?). But this question is the most ubiquitous. What’s my favorite color, as if I should have an answer to this. As if.
I used to make up answers based on my whim d’jour. For a while I tried to be consistent for the sake of . . . well, consistency. But doesn’t that somehow fall under the “because I said so,” heading I’ve spent a lifetime rebelling against? For a while I would just answer with whatever color felt right that day. Recently, I’ve been skipping over it, “next question,” risking hurt feelings and embarrassment. I even get asked this question by student journalists from their lists of pencil smeared prepared questions copied carefully, spaced out on the page with room for written answers. Don’t they want to know my take on first amendment rights and poets? Don’t they want to continue the discussion of the peaceful art of exchanging images in an effort to find mutual understanding that we began (er…I began) in the assembly presentation? How journal and poetry writing can help us form a personal philosophy for living, words dropped like bread crumbs to help us find our way home?
Instead, I feel myself floundering in response. I want to ask (scream?) Why are you asking me this question? Not that I think any one of them would have any clearer answer than I do or that the kids who ask really want to know. Its probably no more than an excuse to raise a hand and speak aloud after they have been admonished to be respectful and polite and (by implication) QUIET. A stand out moment. A question that reveals nothing personal about the questioner like it would be if the kid asked, “did it hurt to write that poem about your mom’s drinking?” But still a question, a way to connect for a moment with the stranger in their midst. Like reaching out to touch a strange dog, it’s perilous, daring, foolhardy to ask a question at all. Often questioners get pelted by punches, woo-hooed and slapped around so much upon their asking that it is impossible for them to even hear or digest my response, assuming I have one (the color question notwithstanding) and that they wanted to know the answer to begin with.
Do you have any pets? Do you like Michigan or Ohio State? Are you a Browns fan? An Indians fan? Have you ever met Drew Carey? These are kids asking me if the person who put the words in the book that their teacher made them read is a real person. I respond to them with the same sincerity as when kids ask me to name my favorite poet, how do I know when a poem is finished, where do I get my ideas, do I revise, do I ever feel insecure? I want them to know I am real, hoping that if I wade through enough of the nonsense questions someone will also become real and venture one real question that will help us connect as writers and world community members, not just tight-lipped watchers on the sidelines, but as seers and participants. Maybe that question would spark a discussion giving us all a free souvenir thought to take home and press in our journals at the end of the day. I know these questions are asked by the risk takers, the kids who aren’t afraid to reveal that there might be something they really want to know about a grown-up, who by definition is supposed to be irrelevant to any given teen.
But, this color question has me stumped, I have to say. I want it to treat it with the respect the students deserve.
I sure wish I had a consistent, honest, clearly articulated response.
I just don’t. I can’t. And I won’t be backed into a corner on this one. The world is a carnival of color and I’m working my way through its blurs and tilts and banners one favorite at a time.
I don’t want to choose.
You can’t make me.