Now you see me

It is a matter of fact that, along with about 8% of the male population, I am colour blind. This is almost, but not quite, an exclusively male thing, with only 0.5% of the female population being similarly afflicted. The reason for this imbalance has been explained to me, in detailed scientific terms and simple layman’s words many times. However, my brain does not seem to retain the relevant information on any level, so I simply accept it as fact.

I did not become aware of the fact of this deficiency until quite late in life. As a young child I had been shown colour dotty tests (Ishihara Colour Test – I looked it up.) many times by various school nurses. Every time this happened I panicked when asked to identify the number I was looking at. I simply blurted out the first number that came to mind in the hope of not appearing stupid. This backfired, I made myself appear stupid and was sent on my way by impatient school nurses with nits to catch, scabies to spot and BCG jabs to administer.

However, at some point my colour blindness was noted and mention of it was added to my school record. The first I knew of it was on my visit to the school careers teacher when I was 16. Mr Fitz asked what I was thinking of doing with my life, looked down at my file and then, before I had time to answer, added “of course, there are certain things you won’t be able to do won’t there?”

I wasn’t sure what he meant, so he went on to explain that as I was colour blind I would be excluded from certain professions, careers and jobs; (produces several pages long, densely typed list of aforementioned jobs). This was a surprise. Not a nice, cake, sweets and a present sort of surprise – a stubbed toe, lost wallet and celery for tea sort of surprise. Definitely not good. Future dreams of flying aeroplanes, being an electrician or designing interiors flew out of the window, dreams shattered and my life left in ruins.

Alright, the last bit is exaggeration. I settled for staying on at school for another two years to give me time to read the entire list. Naturally one of the subjects I chose to study whilst doing this was Art. Not ceramics or sculpture – painting pictures, in colour. I have been told, and have no reason to disbelieve, that some of my colour choices were ‘daring’, ’bold’ and ’experimental’. Suitably inspired, I also chose to continue to successfully study art through my degree.

Being honest, the fact of my colour blindness does not affect my day-to-day life or the way I live it. The single most annoying/frustrating/irritating aspect of it is people’s reaction when you tell them. Trust me, having a range of familiar household objects paraded in front of you and being asked “What colour’s that then?” for every single item wears thin quickly.

To give this post balance, being colour blind has its upside too. I have been excused ‘choosing outfits for the boys’ duty through their early years, I do not have to make potentially explosive decisions about paint colours when decorating happens and I am tolerated when I turn up in my favourite mismatched outfit, (even though I secretly know that the colours don’t really go.)

Nobody really knows why there is such a high incidence of colour blindness in the population. I will finish with a theory that I once read that it is a sign of evolutionary superiority. The inability to see some colours makes it easier for me to spot certain prey when I am hunting food for my tribe, thus making me truly an Alpha male – probably.

Also, in case you are wondering, I have absolutely no idea whatsoever if there is even a number in the circle of dots at the top of this post. My main hope is that I did not inadvertently select something with an obscene message with this random image.


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