After spending a few days with my four-year-old niece, I started wondering about when and how we start forming legitimate opinions about our world. I use the word legitimate to mean an opinion that we form entirely from our own thoughts without influence from the people whose own opinions we value. My case in point is the answer to the question, “What is your favorite color?”
For about two years now, my niece has consistently answered that question with the color ‘orange’. It is a unique choice for a favorite color, especially for a girl. But she has stuck with it for more than half her life. She favors orange crayons and orange clothing, and at this time of the year, orange colored food. (She loves Dunkin Donuts ‘Fall Harvest’ donuts – covered in bright orange frosting and sprinkles. They look disgusting to me.)
“What is your favorite color?” is one of the very first questions we are asked as children when we are just learning how to name objects. It is the first question we are asked where our answer is never challenged. As long as you answer with a real color, you are rewarded with smiles and the acceptance that your choice is a good one. No one can ever tell you that your answer is wrong.
I wonder though at the persistence of my niece’s choice. She can’t possibly remember the reasons for choosing that color, if she had a reason at all. For myself, I do remember why I originally chose ‘purple’ as my favorite. It was because Donny Osmond wore purple socks on the Donny and Marie Show. Or at least that is how I remember it now. By the time I approached teenage years, purple started to feel immature and I switched to green, because my eyes are green. (It seemed important then to have a specific reason for changing my mind.)
The whole idea of a favorite color was very important to me, and to a lot of children, as it is one of the few things completely in our control. Now, although it seems unimportant and arbitrary, I still would respond to that question with the color green. Why?
I formed that opinion so long ago in a mind I can’t even recognize as my own, (my diaries from the age of 13 really do seem as if they were written by a stranger) but I have never changed it, nor do I want to.
Is it one of those things that have been burned into my synapses by constant repetition, like nursery rhymes and old movie lines? Or is there more to it?
Is the sensation of affinity for a certain color something that we simply recognize and verbalize without any real ability to influence the decision? In other words, was my decision to change my favorite color simply a reaction to peer pressure and not an honest change in my opinion? Will my niece change her mind when she starts to be aware of other people’s opinions on color and when she discovers her favorite isn’t flattering to her skin tone?
Maybe I should give purple a second chance.
So, what is your favorite color? Has it always been your favorite?