Friday, March 27, 2015

Mixing together 'white' thoughts

    The first word spilling out of my head is white. Indulge me here in the fine art of writing descriptively about “nothing”. Maybe.

     Here’s why. An artist would agree that white isn’t a color, but technically the absence of color. Ask a scientist and you'll get a different reply based on physics: Black is not a color, but white is a color. There are shades of gray to each answer.

      You can't mix colors to create white. White is the color of fresh snow — sorry for the mental image — and milk, the color the human eye sees when it senses light, which contains all the wavelengths of the visible spectrum.

     Close your eyes and picture being in the Bay of Alaska viewing the glaciers, and you will see blue tints out of bubbles of whiteness. The dense ice absorbs every other color of the spectrum except for white.
    A white fixation, you say?

     Snowflakes are no joking matter around the office anymore this late into March. You’ve had your fill of fender benders, shoveling time and icy porch steps like the photo of the tiny kid in the red hoodie on the patio going around social media: “For the love of …STOP SNOWING.”

     If you are all set with winter “been there, done that” attitude, I don’t blame you for wagging your finger at me.
     There are other ways to look at the color and be a cheerful optimist. After all, white signifies purity, innocence, wholeness and completeness. They are such admirable qualities and virtues for all seasons.

     Speaking of winter white, it is a lovely color for an outfit – a sweater, parka or slacks — if you can keep your pant legs from attracting slush or your arms from not leaning in while scraping your windshield. It’s a seasonal hazard for Western New Yorkers.

     As a symbol white often represents light in contrast with darkness. All the bad characters vs. all the decent guys are as easy to spot as “The Big Bad Wolf”.
     Times have changed and no longer are whites to be worn after Memorial Day and put away after Labor Day. Back in Emily Post’s day — the nineteen 00s, 10s and 20s — the summer season was bracketed by Memorial Day and Labor Day. Society flocked en masse from town house to seaside cottage or mountain cabin to escape the heat. City clothes were left behind in exchange for lighter, whiter, summer costumes.
     Come fall and the return to the city, summer clothes were put away and more formal city clothes donned once more. It was an age when there was a dress code for practically every occasion, and the signal to mark the change between summer resort clothes and clothing worn for the rest of the year was encapsulated in the dictum "No white after Labor Day." And it stuck.

     Of course you can wear white after Labor Day, and it makes perfect sense to do so in September's temperatures often hardly fall-like. The true interpretation according to Emily Post is "wear what's appropriate — for the weather, the season, or the occasion." So on a blistering Indian summer September day here in Livingston County, you’ll catch me wearing my “whites”.

     If you are of a certain age, you will remember the White Rain Shampoo jingle: “Use White Rain Shampoo tonight and tomorrow your hair will be sunshine bright.” Check out the lovely model in the commercial (YouTube) for a bit of nostalgia. Gillette first introduced White Rain in 1952, and it is still on the shelves.
     Notice the woman standing over the kitchen sink where she “suds up” right in front of the camera. That 50s ad was risky exposing a “private” hygienic routine for public display on television. How far we’ve come.

     Today’s American obsession with the process of teeth whitening to be perfect like everyone and his brother in Hollywood takes us for dental treatments, whitening products and toothpaste with brightening ingredients. A pearly white smile puts your best foot forward everywhere you go.

    In my opinion, there is nothing as glamorous as well-styled pure white hair in an older woman. She bears a regal appearance and commands any room that she enters. A few women in their 40s and 50s are prematurely white, and even then, it is a statement about their confidence as females to accept the aging process we all face.

     Has anyone ever counted how many reams of white-lined notebook paper it takes from kindergarten through high school to get a diploma?  I would imagine that it is astounding, although in the computer age it would include a lot of white computer paper, too. The main use of wood pulp is to make paper, and the whiteness must be bleached out.

     Ask your grandchild if he has heard of a telephone book, and it might surprise you that his household uses the White Pages on the Internet instead of fumbling through the fine print.
     There are tons of songs using the color, and in the case of “White Wedding” by Billy Idol, it doesn’t reference any particular season.
     A white cake layered with butter cream goodness is as pure as winter snow. I had to get in one more reminder before I closed.

     White isn’t my favorite color  — I’m a fan of reds  — and yet it is simple goofiness when I let my thoughts roam filling up the white on my computer screen.