Marcia and I recently went to another level in our marriage. We explored an area many couples are too nervous to consider. We pushed the boundaries, taking each other to the edge. Felt the flames.
No, we didn’t choose E.L. James’ bondage bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey, as our latest read-aloud-together book. (Actually, we’re working our way through Francine Rivers’ 1850s Gold Rush-reimagined version of the biblical story of Hosea, Redeeming Love. Now there’s a book to get your pulses racing).
We went paint shopping.
Having just moved into a brand, spanking (sorry, couldn’t resist) new townhouse, we decided that we needed to repaint the walls. Like you do.
I had thought this would be a fairly simple exercise: decide on the color, go buy a few cans, slap it on smack dab, so to speak.
How very y-chromosome of me.
This exercise turned out to be an object lesson in those Mars and Venus differences between the sexes that make life on planet Earth, well, interesting.
Maybe it’s something to do with all the deposits of oxide that give Mars the nickname, The Red Planet. Perhaps somehow that mutes our color perception, but all of us who come from there know that blue has three shades: bluish, blue, bluer.
Being the brightest natural object in the night sky after the moon, Venus seems to imbue its inhabitants with the ability to discern an endless range of possibilities―and a limitless vocabulary for describing them. So among the dozen samples we painted on our walls were Pastoral Moments (bluish), Seaspray Sunset (blue), and Nocturne Reflections (bluer).
I thought about enlisting the help of the third member of our household in making the final decision, but decided that would be unfair to Marcia. Woodley is male, after all. And a dog (“Grey, my favorite! And there are 49 other shades of it? Woof! Let me go get my leash…”).
My suggestion of just mixing together all the samples we had and using that didn’t go down too smoothly. Just as well, probably, as its combined name would have been as long as a sentence from a Henry James novel.
So we plugged on, as I tried to work out the difference between blue (Summer Skyline), blue (Above the Meadowlands), and blue (Zest for Life).
Somewhere between Gentle Morning (bluish) and Laughing Lilacs (blue), I had a bit of epiphany: we were actually looking at the same thing, but seeing it differently. We could each get the components of Brooding Skies (bluer) independently analyzed, and we’d get the same measure and mix of ingredients. The facts were the same. But they looked different. Our eyes and brains interpreted them uniquely.
I am going to have to tuck that lesson away for future reference. Indeed, I’d go so far as to suggest that marriage preparation classes skip the session on communication (“Use ‘I’ messages, not ‘you’ messages.”) and instead send engaged couples out to jointly select a color for the counselor’s office. Call it a marriage primer.
So much for relationships. I have also learned something about shopping for paint through this whole exercise that may help you avoid getting all tied up in the process: You need to have a masterly sense of the atmosphere you want to create, a strong grasp of tone, and a firm grip on contrast.
You know, be disciplined.