I am a deuteranope. I confess it. There is a 50% chance that my three sisters carry this sex-linked affliction, and at least one of my nephews is already showing signs of this malady.
Color deficiency is common in Canada, affecting11% of Canadian men and about 1% of women. So what, you may ask, is the big deal about lacking one of the three retinal color pigments and being unable to see reds and greens? Very well, let me enlighten you.
Have you ever considered the social consequences of wearing mismatched socks and a lime-green shirt with rust-colored pants? An instant reputation as an eccentric ensures. (“He must take after his uncle Lester. HE used to wear the same weird clothes, you know.”)
It is time to end discrimination against the chromatically challenged!
I believe my first inkling that I was different was in Grade 5 French. My teacher must have thought I had a strange sense of humor when I confidently asserted that green was brown or purple was blue. At least the dear soul never marked me down, as long as I made a fool of myself in grammatically correct francais.
In junior high school I had my first encounter with pseudo-isochromatic plates — you know, those funny-colored dot pictures that had numbers that everyone else could see except me.
This always engendered a great deal of curiosity among my classmates who would start quizzing me, “What color is this?” and “What color is that?” People would then laugh uproariously when I misidentified pink as beige or purple as blue.
Some colors I just did not know. My cousin Paul, my mother’s oldest sister’s son, used to tell people everything was purple until they left him alone.
Some things can be problematic, but traffic lights, thankfully, are not one of them. Bright, monochromatic tones of red and green can usually be seen, though at about 10% of the normal intensity. Besides, anyone, even if completely color blind (very rare) can tell if the upper or lower light is lit.
Clothing choices are another kettle of fish. Pastels, tones and less-intense shades of reds and greens are easily confused. My advice would be to bribe a non-deuteranope friend to help out, or cultivate the favor of a sales clerk at Tip Top or Moore’s (do not ever get them mad, though, or retribution will be swift and merciless.)
Another warning: do not under any circumstances decorate your own home unless you wish to render it unmarketable. You may find that lovely subdued wallpaper is garish purple, or your bargain-priced carpet is actually a nauseating pink.
There are some advantages to being color deficient. It is much easier to get a job as a camouflage spotter in the air force, since colors do not distract you from seeing underlying form. This gave many of my deuteranopic comrades the privilege of flying low over enemy territory for hours at a time during recent wars.
Forget it, though, if you want to repair telephones (color-coded wires), fly commercially (color-coded signal lights) or drive a truck (this one I’m not sure of, but perhaps some non-deuteranope figures it would be a little more serious if an 18-wheeler happened to miss that red light). Since those careers were out, I decided to enter a field which had no “color barrier” and applied to medical school.
That’s not to say it didn’t affect medical practice. I had to use my ingenuity when diagnosing ear infections, relying on changes in reflectivity and architecture in the ear drum. Rashes could be problematic also. (Yes, Mrs. Smith, that’s an awful rash on your bottom.” “But it’s on my arms, doctor.”)
Historically, I suspect certain artists may have been red-green deficient. Since we see blues and yellows much more intensely, they would be more likely to use these pigments. Maxfield Parrish’s art deco ladies and exotic landscapes use these colors in large quantities, making me think this artist may have been affected.
It is a bit sad to think that I’ll never be able to full appreciate the colors in a sunset, the green of the grass after a spring rain, or the tints of the autumn leaves. A minor tragedy, but a tragedy nonetheless.
One final word of advice to all deuteranopes. Before choosing a spouse, administer a color vision test. If your partner is affected, all your kids will be color blind.
On the other hand, if we could reproduce ourselves in sufficient number we could form a powerful political lobby group. We could change traffic lights to blue and yellow, and outlaw reds and greens in public buildings. Clashing colors and odd socks could become de rigueur in fashionable society.
The possibilities are endless.
“Four Paint Colours” from http://www.colour-blindness.com
This piece previously appeared in The Medical Post.
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