Looming Rainbows

Another year has come and gone. Looking back at my blog post from a year ago, I see that I resolved to learn to teleport. This was because I had recently returned from a trip during which I spent a significant amount of time on an airplane with lots of strangers and their germs. I wrote that I was sick with “the worst cold of my adult life.”

Frankly I have my doubts. I honestly would not have remembered said illness if I hadn’t blogged about it. Besides, I clearly have the worst cold of my adult life right now, just at the start of 2014.

Tissue Box Cozy
Tissue Box Cozy: What I should have requested for Christmas. (Photo credit: María Magnética)

I can’t even blame this one on air travel because that wasn’t a part of our holiday plans this year as we now live so much closer to our families. There was a great deal of togetherness spread over the holidays, on both sides of the family. Food was eaten, games were played, germs were shared, and rainbows were loomed.

If you happen to have an American grade schooler in your life, you no doubt understand what I’m talking about, but in case this phenomenon has not reached your corner of the world, I’ll explain.

The latest craze to hit grade school is these bracelets made by linking together small colorful rubber bands. There’s a special loom you have to buy and then there’s about a gazillion patterns you can make. And like all of these fad kid crafts, the more complicated the pattern, the greater the cool points.

Rainbow Loom Bracelets for Sale
The way to a third grader’s heart, for now. (Photo credit: Shopping Diva)

When my third grader first mentioned it, I didn’t know what he was talking about (By third grade standards, I am apparently not cool.) Then I walked into a craft store and the first thing I saw was a mountainous display of the looms, accompanied by the sign: “No Coupons or other discounts may be applied to Rainbow Loom products. Limit of 20 looms per customer transaction.”

First of all, WHAT?! Just who is trying to buy more than 20 of these things? I bought one, which earned me a few cool points with my son.

It turned out his cousin also received rainbow looming gear for Christmas and so the holiday saw all of us adults sporting a lot of rubber bands as the cousins got to work sharing looming secrets and exchanging highly sought after colors.

Besides being a source of endless entertainment and a continuing supply of stylish jewelry (and possibly a vector for contagion), the rubber bands did also spark controversy. My son has in his toolbox of bands a color that is clearly purple, another that is clearly blue, and one that is somewhere in between. My husband tried to call it indigo, to which my son replied: “Oh, so that’s indigo.”

Because no one knows what color that really is. And I do mean no one.

English: Extract of Indigo plant applied to paper
Extract of Indigo plant applied to paper. I’m not saying it isn’t a color. Even Crayola (the gold standard of all things color) has an indigo. I’m just saying, I don’t see it in the rainbow. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rainbows have been formally studied since Aristotle. Likely it was Shen Kuo of 11th century China who first more or less accurately explained how rainbows occur. But it is Isaac Newton we have to thank for this most troublesome of colors indigo. In 1672 he published a study detailing the color spectrum. His initial description included five colors and then, a few years later, he added orange and indigo because he thought it would be “pretty neat-o” to have the same number of colors as there are musical notes, days in the week, and known heavenly bodies.

Newton's color circle, showing the colors corr...
Neat-O! Newton’s color circle, showing the colors correlated with musical notes and symbols for the planets (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And it would have been, except that we now know that there are nine planets in our solar system (just back off, all you Pluto-haters!) and that, really, Newton has just gotten us into a whole mess of disagreement. It even turns out, when we talk about indigo, we probably aren’t talking about the same color Newton was describing. What we call indigo, he called blue and what he called blue is more what we think of as cyan (or blue green if, like me, you prefer the Crayola color spectrum).

So why is indigo still there? I think we have to blame Mr. Roy G. Biv for that. Of course we owe him a lot. Without Mr. Biv we would have a terribly difficult time remembering the order of the color spectrum and I love a good pneumonic as much as the next gal, but I think I have a solution for that. How about Ronnie Only Yodels Great Big Vocals? It’s a work in progress. I’m certainly open to family-friendly suggestions.

But I think with a little tweaking it could take off, just like the way we all learned the order of the planets in our solar system: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas (or as the Pluto-hating scientists would prefer: My Very Evil Mother Just Served Us Nothing).

Pizza: way better than nothing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So here are my predictions for this new year:

  1. I will not learn to teleport.
  2. The rainbow loom will go out of fashion and the braided embroidery thread friendship bracelet will make a comeback.
  3. Indigo will at last be expelled from the rainbow.
  4. Pluto will be reinstated as a planet thanks to the hard work of the advocacy group Very Educated Mothers for Pluto.
  5. I will have the worst cold of my adult life on the dawn of 2015.

Stepping in Toxic Waste: A Guide to Fashion after Labor Day

This past Sunday morning I selected from my closet a pretty white dress I recently bought on sale (because it looks awesome on me). My husband looked at me and instead of saying, “You look really nice,” opted for the comment: “Good thing you’re wearing that while you can because next weekend is Labor Day.” Oh, and then he offered the obligatory compliment (because I really did look nice and he’s the kind of man who isn’t going to let that go unsaid).

But wait a minute. Although no one who knows me would accuse me of being a fashionista (which I don’t believe is a real word), I am the member of my family whose fashion sense is most often consulted. My husband rarely wears a new shirt/slacks combination without asking me if it works okay, and I often send my eight-year-old back to his room to change into clothing that at least matches a little. For my stubborn six-year-old (who on this 100° day chose to wear a long-sleeve red and gray Mario Brothers shirt with green and brown plaid shorts) there is no hope.

So, even though I probably wouldn’t have chosen to wear my pretty white dress after Labor Day, (because I was raised with a vague awareness that that is a fashion faux pas), I was stunned to hear my husband make reference to this hard and fast law of fashion.

Of course many suggest that it’s no longer a hard and fast rule, but it’s still out there and is generally followed by a lot of us. The origin of the guideline that suggests you should put away your white wardrobe between Labor Day and Memorial Day is a little unclear, but there are several theories about the social factors that may have contributed to its development.

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel
Actually Coco Chanel wore white after Labor Day long before it was cool. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, summer is hot and industry is dirty. In the late 1800s, the wealthy who could escape the sweltering city summer, retreated to the country where there was significantly less industrial goop in the air and on the streets. There they were free to wear the white they could not wear in the filth of the city, where the working class wore much more practical, dirt and soot-colored clothing. Of course all good things (like summer vacation) must eventually end and so with the return of fall, came the return of drab colors.

Logically it follows that the distinction of wearing white in the summer months became closely associated with the wealthy who wished to differentiate themselves from the working class. But Industrialization brought with it lots of new money and an emerging strong middle class. Much of the population found itself needing to navigate a new social landscape and so rules developed to help. One that’s easy to remember (and enforce) is that of wearing white only between Memorial Day and Labor Day (holidays that were established in the second half of the 19th century and had come to mark the beginning and end of summer in the US).

English: Labor Day Parade, Union Square, New Y...
English: Labor Day Parade, Union Square, New York, 1882 (Lithographie) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But my favorite theory as to why this simple fashion rule stuck for so long is the most cynical. Since New York has long been the hub of American fashion trends, the experts that drive it opted for practicality (who’d have thought?). Since the region’s rainy fall begins sometime around Labor Day most years, the experts declared that at that date it was no longer acceptable to wear white, a declaration that failed to consider weather patterns elsewhere in the nation.

Whether or not there is any truth to that last theory, most fashion experts now generally agree that you can wear white year-round (and since they carry a fashion police badge, you’d better listen). Of course in the same breath they will advise you to wear “winter whites” after Labor Day, whatever that means (as far as I am concerned, if it isn’t in the Crayola box, it isn’t a color). I guess you have to be a fashionista (which is definitely not a real word, whatever Miriam-Webster has to say on the subject) to understand the subtle nuances of all the rules.

If it's a color, you will find it in there somewhere.
If it’s a color, you will find it in there somewhere.

But since I am (or at least was until this past Sunday) the closest thing my family has to a fashionista (a word apparently coined when I was in high school; I wasn’t one then, either), it falls on me to take the kiddos shopping. Because they hate it, this is a task I perform only when it absolutely must be done. And as they can no longer wiggle their toes inside their cramped gym shoes, it had to be done this week.

Now I don’t know if you have shopped for tennis shoes in the last month or so, but as we have approached Labor Day, for some reason the tennis shoes have gone from traditional white (or occasionally gray or black, if you’re feeling a little wild) to the color of toxic waste (also known as “winter white”?). So I have to assume that the fashion experts have been lying to us and it is, in fact, a terrible fashion misstep to don white shoes at this time of year.

English: tennis Español: tenis
Call me old fashioned, but I just think this is what tennis shoes should look like, before they turn dingy gray anyway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t have a problem with bright colors (Crayola lists a few “neons” among its collection) and actually I can’t say that I hate my eight-year-old’s choice of shoes sporting neon carrot or even my 6-year-old’s laser lemon selection (which should pair nicely with his green and brown plaid shorts). The shoes look good on them in that adorable-little-kid-who-likes-to-express-himself sort of way.

My only real complaint is that it so happens I needed new tennis shoes, too. And apparently the experts think I might also look good in toxic waste shoes (in that crazy-lady-who-talks-to-herself-on-the-subway sort of way).

I looked long and hard (on a return trip during school hours because the kiddos have no patience for this sort of thing) and I finally found a pair with an adequate toe box and arch with only a minimal amount of sea serpent blue and wild watermelon. Not really my best colors, I think, but who am I to argue with fashion? Perhaps I’ll wear my new shoes with my pretty white dress. After Memorial Day, of course.