One day last week, my friend and I met for coffee at a local cafe in downtown Rockland. I was coming straight from the gym and had peeled out of my sweaty clothes and threw on my Carhartt fleece lined pants and a green turtleneck. Conscious of my sluggish wardrobe and post-workout hair, I faced away from the window, and my friend, who likes to people-watch, added commentary about the passersby throughout our time together.
A mix of pop music played through the speakers, and our conversation and the coffee perked me up. Suddenly my friend, mid-sentence, pointed to the window behind me and said, “look at that yellow handbag!” I turned to follow her finger and saw a middle-aged woman in a black puffer jacket and jeans, turn a corner and walk past The Farnsworth Museum bookstore. She was carrying a large tote bag over her shoulder in the most striking bright yellow.
The music in the cafe and the chitter-chatter at the tables next to me faded out as I zoomed in on that yellow handbag. A man walked beside her, similarly dressed in dark, but that yellow handbag stood out, a surprised unexpected elegance.
Everyone and everything around her faded in muddled dark greys and browns, common for February in Maine. Even a red car that passed by could not take away from the energizing effect of that yellow handbag. She practically vibrated as she walked down the street, and I could imagine the heads turning in cars as they drove past.
The next day a friend who lives in Mexico called and I told her about my recent sighting of a yellow handbag. She did a quick search for the meaning of the color yellow and she discovered that the color yellow brings about energy, optimism, clarity, freshness and happiness.
So, I set forth on my search for a yellow handbag.
Online, I found myself gravitating toward large size handbags, not a crossbody or a small clutch, but a big punch of yellow, which a crossbody or a small clutch could not satisfy. I wanted a show stopper.
I realize that what I wanted this yellow handbag to do, was just what it did for the woman I saw walking down the street: to attract. Normally, I don’t like that. I don’t want that. I would prefer to blend in, be invisible.
Drawing attention to myself is scary. It feels so much more comfortable to wear baggy Carhartt pants and oversized turtlenecks, to let my body remain covered, to conceal my chest, my collarbones, my throat, my heart.
I realize that my personal fashion style reflects my style of communication. Instead of sharing myself openly, honestly, and expressing what my heart feels, I often swallow my words, and pretend to act casual, nonchalant, and closed. By dressing in baggy dark clothing, I hide not only my body, but my wants, desires and needs. It is too scary to share, to express, to open myself in a conversation with another person.
Being seen in my vulnerable open hearted self is fragile.
Thinking of that yellow handbag, this morning as I dressed for the gym, I put on a tank top that I had bought from a yoga studio almost five years ago and have rarely worn. Taking off my sweater in the locker room and walking out to the treadmill I felt on display. My bare arms and shoulders open for the entire gym to see! It was excruciating at first, but as I began my run I noticed that other women at the gym were also wearing tank tops. They didn’t seem to blink an eye to show their arms.
I may not have a big yellow handbag yet, but I will carry in my heart that idea of being big and yellow, loud and bold, risky and daring. I will begin to reveal myself more honestly and openly.
Yay for yellow!
Gabrielle Attra lives in Rockland