October 22nd , 2012 9:21 am Leave a comment

From The Publisher’s Desk: No, I’m not seeing red, but I am mad


Last weekend, Amy said we should drive to Gatlinburg to look at the leaves.

I went outside, picked up one of the two million leaves decaying outside and brought it back inside.

“Here,” I said, “I’m pretty sure this one blew up here from just outside Dollywood.”

I think it was a Sycamore leaf or, maybe, a Sassafras. OK, I don’t know, it might have been from a great oak tree, for all I know.

As you can plainly see (or read), I’m about as interested in looking at leaves today as I was as a kid when every year teachers sent forth pupils into the deep forest (OK, the backyard) to collect leaves and paste them onto construction paper.

I just don’t get the fascination with the changing colors of leaves. Actually, I don’t see it.

I’m red-green colorblind, so the burst of colors that “normal” people see aren’t as vivid for me. Looking up at the hills and mountains during the fall, I see a change in the overall color scheme. A tree full of yellow leaves, for example, stands out, but my eyes see no great distinction between most of the varying hues.

“Normal” people, like Amy, find this disconcerting.

“See,” Amy asked me once, “that big tree there?”

“Uh huh,” I said with about as much interest as a goldfish you’ve just asked to play fetch.

“It’s bright red! Can’t you see it?”

Normals just can’t understand it. They see red, so they want everyone to see red. The only red I see is from the anger building up inside me.

People who can see all the colors of the rainbow enjoy playing games on those of us who can’t. They even do it with, of all things, rainbows. If there are five or six distinct colors in a rainbow, I might see three or four, but it doesn’t stop others from saying, “Can you see all the pinks and purples?” (No, I can’t, and thanks for reminding me that even a rainbow isn’t as nice as to my eyes as it is to your oh-so-perfect eyes.)

But even when there’s not a big ol’ rainbow around, those afflicted with colorblindness have to face questions and observations from so-called friends and co-workers.

Basically, it’s a simple little game that goes something like:

Normal: “Hey, what color is my shirt?”

My answer: “Um, I don’t know, maybe brown?”

Normal: “Brown! Ha! He thinks this is brown. Can you believe it? Brown! It’s teal green – not brown!”

Of course what I really want to say is, “I don’t know what color your shirt is, but I do know that it’s ugly like your face.”

Basically, you want to punch these people with a box of Crayolas — and not that silly eight-crayon box but that great big 64-piece box with the built-in sharpener.

It’s discrimination – that’s what it is. Being red-green colorblind is, after all, a medical condition.

I looked it up, and here’s what I learned: Those with protanopia, deuteranopia, protanomaly and deuteranomaly have difficulty with discriminating red and green hues and that it’s sex-linked (aren’t all the problems of the world?).

Genetic red-green color blindness affects men much more often than women, because the genes for the red and green color receptors are located on the X chromosome, of which men have only one and women have two. Females are red-green color blind only if both their X chromosomes are defective with a similar deficiency, whereas males are color blind if their single X chromosome is defective.

Did you catch that? I’m a defective male. (I wonder, do women think the words “defective male” are redundant?)

I’ve known I was different all my life. For example, in kindergarten at Hampton Elementary when the teacher had us draw a tree, I colored the trunk green and the leaves brown. (Kids can be so cruel, too, which prepares you for unfeeling so-called friends and co-workers later in life.)

Years later, at age 36, I took an Ishihara exam, which is a test comprised of a series of colored spots, that is used to diagnose red-green color deficiencies. The test begins with the simplest and gets progressively more difficult.

On the first picture, I was supposed to see the figure 8 in the middle of a circle of colored spots. Well, oh Ishihara, there was no 8 in my sight.

The nurse put the test down and said, “Well, there’s no point in doing the rest. If you can’t see it there, you won’t see any of the others.”

In my research for this column, I also learned that “color blindness almost never means complete monochromatism. In almost all cases, colorblind people retain blue-yellow discrimination, and most color blind individuals are anomalous trichromats rather than complete dichromats.”

Well, that’s some small comfort. I’ve been accused of a lot of things, but I hate to think that I was going through life as a complete dichromat, or some version of that.


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