I like the color pink.
This has, interestingly, caused not a few people to feel perplexed by me.
The reason for this is that pink is a feminine color. So if you're a man who likes pink this is considered to be strange and deviant.
A part of my fondness for pink has to do with growing up in the 80s where there was a phase of preppy-based chic with khaki pants and pastel colored shirts--yellow, blue, green and pink. More, the pastel colors of Don Johnson in Miami Vice made pink both masculine and cool. In fact, for a senior prom I once went in a white tux from the Miami Vice collection complete with pink tie and cummerbund. Quite a look.
The point is, I grew up liking pink.
But here's the problem. Apparently, pink is really only allowed for men if it's a pink shirt (or a tie). And even that's a statement, particularly here in West Texas. But pink outside of that boundary is considered weird.
For example, given that my hair is long I like to wear bandanas to keep my bangs out of my eyes. I use bandanas sometimes as men aren't allowed to wear headbands. That's what Jana told me when I floated the idea of wearing one. Instead, I use a fake headband called "reading glasses." I use the glasses to pull my hair back as seen in my Streaming video and in the videos with Rachel Held Evans. Side benefit: this is a "headband" that makes me look intellectual.
Anyway, I wear bandanas to keep my hair out of my face (as seen here). And my favorite go-to color for the bandana is pink.
This always makes people do a double-take. Good God, a man with a pink bandana! For example, last fall I was at a High School football game and I was wearing the pink bandana. On Monday one of Jana's colleagues asked, "Did I see Richard wearing a pink bandana at the game on Friday?" Jana responded, "Yeah. Richard likes pink. Why do you ask?" "No reason," she said, "I've just never seen anything like that before."
Few have. At least where I live.
This came to a funny head a few weeks ago. I was given as a gift an Otter Box (a protective case) for my iPhone. I had to order it from our college bookstore. The Box I had before was all black and I found that boring. So the young lady who was helping me was walking me through all the accent colors: navy blue, yellow and, you guessed it, pink.
"I like the pink one," I said.Yes, I know. But I like pink. Social convention be damned.
"The pink one?"
"Yes. I like pink on black. Don't you?"
"Uh, yes. But this is for you, right?"
"Yes. Is that odd?"
"Well, you don't see a lot of guys get pink iPhones."
"It's not totally pink. It's mainly black."
"That's true. But it's still pink."
Anyway, my iPhone is now a constant source of conversation.
Now why am I telling you all this? Well, the other day I was thinking about the power of social stigma and shaming. Most people wouldn't ever cross a social boundary like this (e.g., getting a black and pink iPhone), even at the expense of their own preferences. The shame, the "sticking out" it just too heavy a burden to bear.
But I wonder. If Christians are supposed to be a "peculiar people" we might need to learn to inoculate ourselves against social shaming. We might need to practice, on a regular basis, small acts of social non-conformity. We need to get used to not caring what people think. We need to become immune to shame.
This reminds me of the shame-attacking exercises of the psychologist Albert Ellis. When working with clients who were totally paralyzed by social shame Ellis would have them do something in public that was both very noticeable and very ridiculous. The most famous example is pulling a banana around on a string in a public place like a mall. Here's a video example of this.
Now most people, those who are terrorized by the opinions of others, would say to Ellis, "I could never do that! It would be too embarrassing." But why live life being bullied by embarrassment? Who cares if people look at you? Who cares if they laugh?
Exactly. The world isn't going to end if people think you're a bit off your rocker. Just look at me.
So learn to embrace your own version of the pink iPhone. Engage in small acts of subversion. Vaccinate yourself against shame. Buck the system.
It might be one of the most important spiritual exercises you practice.