My Life In Sepia Tones: A Metaphor for Coming Out Later in Life

Imagine if you will that at 19 years old you make a lifelong commitment to a way of coloring your life. From that point on every activity, every friendship you develop, every family choice you nurture and every goal in your life is colored by the stroke of one paintbrush. That lifestyle paintbrush is colored with the tint of antique sepia. It seems old, trustworthy and  100% authentic.

Fast forward to the age of 40 when you’ve come to realize the folly of grasping so tightly to that paintbrush that you were handed at age 19. You want, no, you need a new paintbrush. You want color in your life because the sepia doesn’t live up to its reputation and promise of authenticity. You’ve come to see and know the true color that has always lain within you that the sepia has only succeeded in masking and preserving – not eliminating.

After all, sepia really only indicates decay and lack of authenticity. Colors have always been around. We just didn’t have the ability, the technology or now we don’t have the desire to see them. If we were able to travel back in time, I think the biggest shock would be how colorful and non traditional everything was. Objects weren’t black and white or sepia toned.

Sepia is a chemical treatment to preserve a black and white photograph for archival purposes. It is neither true to color nor authentic. It does increase the longevity of a photograph but it cripples our present view using a handicap that was only necessary in the past.

Once I transitioned to my life of color at age 40, everything I had created or nurtured in sepia for 20 years effectively disappeared.

Friends.

Family members.

Acquaintances.

Life habits, processes and lifestyles.

Where once my skill with coloring life in sepia was shared admired and respected, my interest in color is now seen as vulgar, non-traditional and deviant.

Inside my heart I know true to life rainbow of colors is right for me, but I don’t know how to color in these rich new tones.  The choices are endless and sometimes that variety leaves me feeling paralyzed.  I lack confidence. Sometimes I pick the wrong color.  Everyone around me now has been coloring for 46 years, but I’ve only been at it for 6.

I feel like a child with crayons among adults with canvasses of watercolors, acrylics and oils.  It’s thrilling and terrifying  at the same time.

Trying to grasp onto anything familiar, I reach back to the time before I narrowed my life down to sepia and reach out to those past friends with whom I dabbled in crayons as a child.  They too have been operating with color for 46 years now. They don’t get my awkwardness with it. They offer occasional kind words of encouragement and the renewal of their friendship is warm and inviting.

But I don’t tell them the magnitude of my fear and loneliness. I feel like I’m beginning all over again with nobody by my side, having lost a great deal.

I don’t hate the life of sepia that I lived and I don’t understand why those who stick with it seem to despise me. There is no place for color in a sepia world. I’m willing to acknowledge that sepia may be right for some folks, but I don’t believe it is unquestionably the color for everyone.  I see bright neon and pastel colors in my children and I want to scream at them to look around and recognize the rich variety of life while they have a chance to experience it. But a force more powerful than me is tightening their grip around that sepia paintbrush and it pains me to see their stern glazed-over sepia faces take shape.

Even today I am hurting over my awkwardness with color and wanting my children to experience their authenticity early on like I never had the chance.

I want to find someone with whom I can explore color and not feel ashamed or embarrassed at my occasional mismatching or fear of some colors. I haven’t found that person.

I understand but I’m dismayed when I hear of someone who elects to turn the lights out rather than be exposed to to the dreary, miserable and lonely colors that come with a full palette. I also sometimes feel like I am drowning in new colors and just want some of my old sepia friends, family and respect back.

But I really don’t.

Once you experience color, you see it and want it everywhere. My choice, ugly consequences and all, is real and authentic.

Choosing color was my proudest moment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s