The Color Purple

TL;DR: Be compassionate with yourself. It might just add a new color to your palette!

For someone who loves color as much as I do, I certainly have some strong opinions about the color purple, don’t I? Even as I wrote yesterday’s post I realized that my very visceral sense of distaste about that color was nearly pathological.

I remember arriving for a concert a long time ago and seeing that the background was lit up in purple and feeling irrationally angry about it. The good news was that since I was performing, I didn’t have to look at it. I would probably have left if I did.

No one would know I was remembering childhood trauma…

When things like that happen, it is never anodyne, now is it?

All day yesterday, I was trying to rack my brain to come up with why. Why do I hate that color so much?

Purple is born of two colors that I love very very much, blue and red. Purple is (supposedly) a royal color, historically precious because it was made of a rare and expensive dye.

And yet it skeezed me out.

As I walked scalawags to and from school yesterday morning, I tried to figure it out.

Eureka and yuck.

Circa 1980, when purple was just a color

I continued to let my mind wander throughout the day. I started to remember being like nine or ten, so this would have been 1987 or so. I had a favorite purple dress. It was stretchy and fun and had a mock turtleneck. I always felt fancy wearing it.

Around that age, I had to go to the gynecologists’. The girls in my family are genetically prone to experiencing puberty at a frightfully young age, and I had gotten my period very very young. I had a few irregularities around that time. I was inadequately prepared for what I would experience at the hands of the doctor.

What I remember was that as I sat alone in the examination room after the humiliation and discomfort of being examined, and after being told I could get dressed, I cried. A lot. And I remember very very very clearly that I picked up that purple dress to put it back on.

I don’t think I ever wore that dress again. Here again, an example of a piece of clothing that took on the stench of a terrible, traumatizing memory. This one, however, was so adrenaline-packed, so violating and humiliating that it managed to ruin an entire category of colors for me.

The timing worked out just right that my father’s gift of the purple ski clothes would have come on the heels of this awful, traumatic childhood experience. He couldn’t have known. I didn’t realize until yesterday.


Back in November 2020, just after the election, I was so relieved to see that my country hadn’t lost its collective mind again that I did something crazy. I bought a purple scarf. More like an eggplant scarf. It seems like a small thing, but as I said, purple is a color that has, for more than 30 years, managed to make me feel sick to my stomach. So me choosing purple was a big deal. I bought it and wore it as a gesture of unity and hope for the healing of a very divided nation.

Not three months prior, I turned down a vigorously purple petticoat because I hated purple that much. (I did accept a very very dark eggplant lace-edged t-shirt and a tulle froufrou top, featured above, thinking maybe I could dye them black.)

Healing is a choice. Sometimes our clothes help us do that, too.

Maybe even that small effort of choosing to buy something purple was preparing me for today’s epiphany: when a feeling is that strong, then there is some healing that needs to be done. It’s worth it to scratch the surface.

Stop ignoring your feelings

If a few days ago I was admonishing us all to speak more nicely to ourselves, today I am going to kindly suggest that we need to be more compassionate with ourselves.

The fact that there was a color (it is random, isn’t it?) that I felt so strongly about is something I could have lived my entire life without examining. But I am so glad I did.

I am an adult woman, not a ten year-old girl freshly examined by a gynecologist. I have had babies, for heavens’ sake. But the damage those few minutes of uncompassionate medical examination did to my soul has lasted a lifetime.

Now I need to sit down and write a letter to that little girl and tell her that she was right to be scared, right to feel violated. The adults in her life should have prepared her better. She did nothing wrong and that the humiliation she felt was not a reflection of who she is. I am going to tell her that she is going to grow up to be a nice lady and that this experience will not define her. I’m going to warn her that in a year or so her dad is going to give her a gift she won’t love but that it isn’t worth getting into a huff about. I am going to tell her that it is not purple’s fault.

The color of compassion

Listen to what your heart is saying. Ask yourself some questions. Be compassionate with yourself. It might just add a new color to your palette!

From now on, purple will be the color of compassion.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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