Monday, May 24, 2021

Color Coded

An ad from the Oriental Trading Company caught my eye on Facebook this weekend. Can you guess what it’s for?

I had to stop and think for a moment. My first thought was that it was intended for classroom use. Many of us have seen the heartwarming videos where children participate in a daily morning greeting where they are able to choose a hug or a high-five to begin their day. Could these colored wrist bands be a non-verbal way to communicate a student’s preference for interaction?

Another thought: you may remember my writing about my discomfort at being hugged at political events by people I don’t know. Would these wrist bands indicate levels of consent so that there would be no ambiguity about how to best interact at events like these?

Lastly, I smiled to remember a presentation I attended years ago where an alumna of Mount Holyoke described her college experience during the war years. (WWII) With many young men off to fight, there were few opportunities for the kinds of dances and parties that one usually associates with college. She described events where Mount Holyoke students would be bused to the infirmary at Westover Air Force Base.

There would be all these men in bathrobes, with colored tags. Green meant they could dance all they wanted, yellow meant they could dance a little, and red meant they couldn’t dance at all.

Of course these wrist bands were not specifically created in response to any of those possibilities. Here’s the product description from Oriental Trading:

COVID. Of course. Having a wedding in person even though public health concerns might suggest otherwise? This mass-produced solution is for you! I wonder when this product was introduced and whether it was a big seller. I can tell that the folks at Oriental Trading think it has already outlived its usefulness because the price for this item has been substantially reduced. 

To be clear, this product makes no claim of reducing transmission. It addresses how to respond to social discomfort during a pandemic. I just find the creation, marketing, and sale of such a product to be rather surreal under the circumstances.

What to do with all the leftover items? I still think they might be useful at political fundraisers. Perhaps we should turn the color system on its head.

Green: I have healthy boundaries. Respect them.

Yellow: I don’t know what my boundaries are, or: my boundaries are inconsistent.

Red: I have no boundaries whatsoever. Watch out!

Do you have any ideas?

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