A Girl’s Guide To Color*
Do you remember pleasure?
Your favorite sweater?
A flattering scarf, a smart
cap, a pair of stones
dangling from your earlobes?
What color was it?
There are certain colors we all want to touch
on the right girl at the right time. But great
care must be taken. Short-
waisted, short-legged? From
your hemline to your hat you must wear a single shade.
Break it up. A bright
your complexion’s ruddy: no green for you, and don’t
forget—the darker the dress, the smaller and smaller
it will make you. Pastels, however, enlarge and age
take advantage of this, or avoid it at all costs.
And, as gold is strictly for brunettes, dirty
blondes must not wear blue. Another
rule: lilac, coral, and chartreuse. And
O, unlucky redhead, so many colors not for you.
Have you ever seen a sunset
clash with the sea or the sky?
Such is a redhead
in a yellow blouse
to the naked eye, and yet
so many girls make such mistakes
without ever knowing why, while
others seem as if they hardly
need to try. Witness
Cynthia, enchanting in her purple suit, high-
lights in her copper hair:
Cynthia would never wear rose and green together!
In fact, she’s sewn this skirt herself—knowing
as she knows instinctively so
many things—that there are lovely bits
and pieces of everything, and that
a girl can’t simply buy these. She
needs to learn to make them for herself.
Take Cynthia as your model, then—and
as she has done, if
you need chiffon
get yards and yards of it at once, and then
divide it up among
all the girls in your club.
And when you one day stumble upon
those girls, wearing
your chiffon, do not be jealous of them.
Do the stained
glass windows of Westminster Abbey
begrudge one another their radiance as
the sun passes from one to the other?
It’s natural to be nothing, to become it. Just
do the best you can with what you have for
as long as you manage to have it, and
try always to remember how a color can
influence the mood of any man
who looks in its direction—and
knowing this, as you know now, decide
early in your life, would you rather
be a little jenny wren in winter-berry red, or
in a crate
the ship’s deck? Our
friend Kiki was born without a sense
of color, but
she has a sparkling laugh, and that’s
all some girls will ever
need: wearing the dumpy
uniforms of their class, and
still be a joy to see. But
let’s be honest, shall we?
Which girl would you rather be—
Would you paint the robes of the Virgin Mary
the red and black of a cancan dancer, or—?
This list grows longer as you grow older, but
you’ll find it’s
easy to memorize, and then
impossible to forget:
Too tall? Brown
jacket. Big hips? Never
a corsage of daffodils.
Are you a blocky girl?
If so, think
always of the cool
depths of Alpine
the sky, the grass, the Pacific or Atlantic, as well
as any other great expanse, and you’ll
be fine, most likely. Only
a few such simple principles, and
once you understand them, you’ll
never need to crouch down and hold your
arms across your chest to hide your breasts again.
Or a hand between your legs to cover that. Have
you ever seen a maple tree in autumn try to disguise
the red of the leaves on its branches? Have—?
Of course you haven’t.
Now the men are almost done.
Admittedly, it’s an odd era in which to be a girl. So
many options—and not just fashion. When
they slam the door and toss you a towel, perhaps
you should feel grateful. (Do you?) When
one them shouts, Quit crying, slut—you
should probably do as he says:
Clean yourself up, Kiki. Cynthia—
you’re lucky we didn’t cut you.
Someday, you may feel blessed. For
now it might be best just
to get off the floor, get dressed.
*Some rules have been taken from the first chapter (“Color Magic”) of Teen-Age Glamor by Mrs. Adah Broadbent (1955).
for Doug Trevor
Its ancient eye, with which it swallows what it sees.
And its flight’s complex machinery.
And a little girl’s drawing of one of these. Imagine
a crayon in
a delicate hand. The hoarse
rasp of waves over rocks, turning
even the largest of those cold rocks to sand. How
we come upon certain creatures
again and again. How the air is thinner and brighter
at the edges of our existences. That
bird’s strange and unexpected grace. Miraculous—
nothing more. Nothing less. I
could picture her, I guess:
your sister, the one
I’ll never meet, never met. I felt (forgive me) that
I could wither her, suddenly. The depths. Love’s
spectacular wreckage, those birds and their
deadfall, and then
how one might splash back into the world, bearing
your laughter, undamaged, as
a little girl’s drawing of a pelican
forever on her brother’s flesh. Here
she says, I had
to dive down deep to find
your joy. I brought it back.