So last night, my daughter (who’s away at a music competition, she placed EIGHTH IN THE STATE, momma is SO PROUD!) texted me this picture:
Unless you live in a cave where your Wi-Fi doesn’t work, you’ve seen this dress, too. Apparently, our drive as a nation to debate over health care, fix immigration, solve world hunger, and gossip about how much Oprah weighs today has been replaced by this dress and arguing about what color it is. (You can read some of the debate here.)
For the record, my daughter and I are on Team Blue (the science behind WHY I’M RIGHT <ahem> is here) and my son is on Team White. But he’s a boy, and don’t all boys think that there are only like 6 colors on the planet? (If you’ve ever gone paint shopping and tried to sell your partner on the merits of true white vs. eggshell vs. cream….yeah, that.)
Anyway, if you poke around Google or Twitter, you’ll see that this debate has created quite a fuss. Which I find absolutely fascinating.
The biggest point that this whole debate has highlighted – in bright, throbbing neon yellow that hurts your eyeballs – is that perception DOES, in fact, equal reality. Depending on which informal Facebook survey you read, 25-35% of us insist that the dress is blue and black, while the rest of the world thinks we’re insane because it is VERY CLEARLY WHITE AND GOLD. And you will have a very difficult time convincing someone who is looking at a blue dress that it’s white, and vice-versa. Blue is blue and white is white. Two very different perceptions of the SAME PICTURE.
I work in HR (don’t hate me, I’m not entirely evil, and do have an actual personality that I bring out on occasion) and often work with managers attempting to coach them on this very subject. This usually comes up around things like face time and favoritism. Things that are difficult to quantify, but easy to complain about if you perceive them.
“Bill, your work is great. But when your team is expected to open at 7, and you don’t roll in until 9, and then you take a two-hour lunch and leave at 4 PM, the perception from your team is that you aren’t working as many hours as they are. Yes, I know you have told me that you often put in 4-5 hours on Saturday, and usually complete projects in the evenings. But you could further engage and energize your team by working on those projects when they’re also working.”
“Marcus, I know you enjoy Terry’s company. And I know she is a very hard worker. But when you disappear with her for an offsite lunch several days a week, and Terry ends up with her favorite spot on the assembly line several days in a row, it creates the perception of favoritism. I know Terry produces 20% more on that spot on the line, and her hard work makes the whole team look good…but the other folks might have a chance at hitting those numbers if they got a little more practice working that spot.”
Bill works hard. Marcus works hard. They see a blue dress, period. But their teams are seeing a white dress, so Bill and Marcus need to change behaviors and play along with the perception that the dress is, in fact, white. They’ll never believe it themselves, but that doesn’t matter, really. One of their jobs as manager is to build the team – and if the team insists that dress is white, well, you best work with a white dress. You have to respect your team’s perceptions as their reality.
So how does this apply to me?
Well, I’m fat. I’ve always been fat. Right now I’m just a hair under 5’5″ and weigh (gulp) about 118. But I was fat when I weighed 10 pounds less a couple of years ago. I was fat when I weighed 15 pounds less back in high school.
In other words….that dress will ALWAYS be blue to me. I don’t know how, or if, I can actually change that. I started therapy. I am trying NOT to weigh my food, and my body, obsessively. I’m trying to get regular exercise because I know I’ll handle stress better and sleep better.
But I’m still fat. Still mentally wearing a dress that is VERY CLEARLY BLUE. But when I talk to my spouse, my friends, my DOCTOR….nope, I’m not fat, and at lower weights was too thin, actually, and had to think about nutritional supplementation, osteoporosis, and a weakened heart. To them – and I suspect to the majority – the dress I’m wearing is white, and it’s crystal clear, and WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU that you don’t see how white your dress is?
My husband tells me quite often that he wishes I could see what he sees. He thinks I’m beautiful, and certainly NOT fat. (To his credit, he tells me this a lot.)
He sees my personal dress as white.
I wish I could see this dress as white, too.
And I wonder if this applies to my husband, and some of his extremist views, as well. (I texted him the dress picture; since he does work in IT, he does, in fact, live in a cave where social media does not penetrate, and I haven’t heard back from him yet on this one. I suspect his answer will be something deliciously snarky, but I also suspect he’ll see it as white.)
As I’ve mentioned before, the hubby is on an anti-religion kick. His gut reaction to all things religious is “bad” and his approach has been kind of attack-ish. (Who am I kidding? Sometimes it’s downright hateful; at the very least, it’s angry.)
I’ve tried to have discussions with him on those occasions where I feel mentally strong enough to challenge him, and have tried to sell him on the concept that different ideas aren’t automatically “wrong” – they’re just “different” – and if you can start with the assumption that others are DIFFERENT, and not WRONG, you get a lot further in mutual understanding.
But his “all things religion” dress is stubbornly, frustratingly white, and I just can’t understand why he can’t even bend a teeny bit and admit that in certain lights, the dress MIGHT be JUST A LITTLE BIT blue.
Unfortunately, I can’t easily understand why his perception is his reality. It can’t be explained by rods and cones and lighting. Neither can I explain away my perceptions of why I can’t see myself objectively like others do.
It just is.
I just pray that one day, he’ll be able to at least articulate that sometimes, the dress looks more blue. And I hope I get to the point where “you know what? In the right light, in the right clothes, standing this way? I don’t look so bad.”
That’d be a good start. I can’t say my dress will ever be white, but if I could get to periwinkle with a slight gold sparkle to the lace, I think I could say I’ve made progress.
(P.S. – Hubs just now texted me back…he said the dress is “light blue and gold.” That’s gotta be a sign, right? There’s hope for us to meet in the middle?)