I think that quite possibly the most fun thing about me is my red-green colorblindness (specifically, a disorder called deuteranomaly). It’s always a cute little conversation starter: I tell the story of how my mom once asked me what color peanut butter is and when I said green she immediately took me to the eye doctor to be tested. Over a decade later, this minor inconvenience of a disorder has infused itself into my personality.

Whenever I tell people about my colorblindness they usually ask a very similar set of questions, so I decided to compile some of those into this handy-dandy guide for you to reference next time your friend tells you they’re colorblind.

Now, keep in mind that I’m answering these from my experiences with deuteranomaly. Everyone who’s colorblind has a unique manifestation of it, and even someone with the same type as me might have a wildly different perception of the world. That said, hopefully I’ll strike some common chords here.

“What color is [insert random object]?”

Probably the color that you see. Like 9 out of 10 times. This is by far the most common opening question I get, which is kinda funny because the answer is usually boring. Every colorblind person gets asked this, and none of us like it, so simply stay away from this one. There are better questions out there.

c/o Sam Hilton, News Editor

c/o Sam Hilton, News Editor

“Do you see in black and white?”

Someone once asked me this about five minutes after I had pointed out how pretty a shade of blue was. Like…c’mon. No. There actually is a type of colorblindness that denotes only being able to see black and white (monochromacy), but it is very rare. A subsection of this question, however, is “Do you see black and white instead of red and green?” While the answer is still no, at least you took the time to listen to the fact that I’m red-green colorblind. 

“What does green look like to you?”

The thing is, even though I can’t really see the color green all that well, someone pointed at grass when I was a kid and said, “That’s green,” and I said “Okay!” I always like to explain it this way: my eyes see way less green in the world than there is, but my brain thinks that it sees the normal amount. If you hopped into my vision, you would be dazed and confused because everything with green in it would be a sort of brown-infused mess, but I just see what I think is green.

“How can you drive?”

Very carefully. Honestly, the colorblindness doesn’t usually prove much of a problem. While stoplights don’t necessarily look green, yellow, and red to me—I’d describe them as more white, orange, and red—they’re still easily distinguishable. The tricky bit, for me at least, is stop signs surrounded by trees. Or at least some specific stop signs surrounded by trees.

There’s a specific street in Austin near my old house called Shoal Creek Boulevard. It’s in a very wooded residential area and doesn’t have many stoplights. The trees hang low, and when I drive through I go about 5–10 miles per hour slower than normal because I gotta stay extra vigilant looking for stop signs or else they blend in with the leaves and branches of the trees.

Overall, though, driving is fine. Sometimes I have to be more careful, but mostly it’s about the same as anyone else’s driving experience.

“How many fingers am I holding up?”

I’ll kill you where you stand.

“How do you get dressed?”

For a while, I actually just wore mostly blacks and grays because I didn’t want to risk clashing. I considered including an image of my closet from 2018 with this article. As time has gone on, I’ve gotten better at having other people identify the color of something when I buy it. Then I just have to remember if it’s a problem color (e.g. greens, dark blues, brownish reds, etc.). Also, I wear almost no green. I think I may have two green shirts (both with the Irish flag on them), a green jacket, a single dark green hoodie, and that’s all. If I stick with a lotta blues and a lotta reds, I’m mostly fine.

Side note, the other day I was wearing a yellow hoodie and overalls and someone in my Religion class said that I looked like a minion so I took off the hoodie and revealed my red shirt underneath, and then he said I looked like Mario. Unfortunately, that’s not colorblindness related; it’ll just haunt me til I die.

“I don’t believe you.”

Huh. Bold take. I actually have gotten this one a few times. Usually, it’s because I successfully identify a color and the person then assumes I am not colorblind and am simply seeking attention. I promise you I would rather see the color green than have a fun little conversation starter that makes people think I’m quirky.

“Tell me a funny colorblindness story!”

Ok, fine, nobody’s ever actually asked me this, but I wanted to share.

We had a communal foundation box in my high school theatre department, and one night of dress rehearsals the makeup tech made the mistake of letting me choose my own shade. I sifted through the box and picked one that seemed right. I thought it might be a little bit off my skin tone but was good enough, and went to check with her to see if it was alright.

Important context: we had done “Shrek: The Musical” two years earlier and none of the foundations in the box were labeled. The makeup tech looked at me and just sighed. I had, in fact, unknowingly covered my face in green Shrek foundation and had to frantically wipe it off and apply real makeup before the show started. I didn’t even get all the foundation off, so I was still tinged green on stage that night.

“Doesn’t it make you sad that you can’t see some colors?”

First off, woah. I was just getting vulnerable about looking like Shrek and you jump to this. That said, I sometimes do get sad that I’ll never appreciate a verdant forest or a gorgeous piece of art as much as someone who can see green fully. In the fall when the leaves are changing, I can’t really see the difference between most normal trees and their autumn leaves unless they turn bright red or orange. So yeah, I miss out on some stuff. I try not to think about it like that, though. I can’t change my colorblindness, so I might as well embrace it.

As I said, being colorblind isn’t hugely inhibiting in my life, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty mild. That doesn’t mean it isn’t crippling for other people who are much worse off, and it doesn’t mean that everyone is as light-hearted about it as I can be. For me, deuteranomaly is just another cool thing about myself. In my mind, I’m the only one who sees colors correctly, and all of you are wrong. So go eat some “not green” peanut butter I guess, and enjoy the vibrance of the world around you a little bit more today.


Sam Hilton is a member of the class of 2025 and can be reached at shilton@wesleyan.edu

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