Writing fiction can be tricky work, especially when a topic comes up in the story that you, as the author, know little about. It is a tradition among writing groups to pool collective information, and make our own individual areas of expertise available to fellow writers, helping them craft a more accurate and more believable tale.
I consider my own personal area of expertise to be sociology and history. So when a member of my writing group asked, "Why is pink considered a girl color and blue a boy color?" I was there to help.
Back in the 1930's, I informed my fellow writer, gender was invented by the government in an attempt to cure the Great Depression with what they called "the Great Diversion". Although initial test groups polled with some very positive responses, the Great Diversion didn't seem to be catching on with the general populace. More polling indicated that the problem was people who were participating in the gender program were having trouble determining who else had received government issue recreational equipment, and whether or not the equipment was compatible, because the gear was all kept in locations usually covered by clothing.
To solve this problem, Roosevelt invented the "New Deal" program, handing out special uniforms with the diversionary equipment. People assigned "Tab A" recreational equipment were given black uniforms. People assigned "Slot B" equipment were supposed to wear puce.
At first the new color-coding system worked extremely well, allowing people with compatible components to divert themselves in a manner that made it very hard to be depressed. By the 1940's, people had recovered a much sunnier outlook on life. At the very least, they were not as tense. However, there were several unexpected side effects of the Great Diversion.
Tabs, for instance, appeared to interfere with people's ability to make good judgments when dressing themselves, whereas Slots appeared to enhance people's decision-making skills in the same area. As a group, people assigned "Slot B" equipment began to refuse to wear a color as ugly as puce. They settled eventually on pink, for several reasons. It stood out markedly from black, but still looked nice when worn next to someone wearing black. Pink was also warm, and bright, but more modest than red. Psychological studies showed it to be one of the most healthy, soothing colors. Also, it was the color of Barbie®'s wardrobe, and she seemed to be doing pretty darn well for herself, what with being star of screen and stage, a doctor, a veterinarian, a surfer and still somehow managing to find time to go shopping with her friends, have a meaningful relationship with a Tab applicant name Ken®, and be a mentor and role model to that hapless dud Skipper®.
While Slot recipients were redefining their wardrobe with the principles of psychology and feng shui, the Tab recipients wore their same, original issue uniforms until the clothes were so worn and faded that they could no longer in all honesty be called black, but instead resembled an exhausted and beer soaked navy.
The Great Diversion was such a success that subsequent generations had gender installed at birth in the hospital (which is also why home births fell from vogue). New "girls" were given empowering pink by their fore runners, while new "boys" were given blue garments to match the faded black of the original Tab uniforms, the shreds of which were still being worn by their owners.
This is also why it's easy to tell the gender of people who were born in the 1950's and later, but why it grows increasingly difficult to tell the gender of people born in the 1930's, and why you can hardly tell a 90 year old man from a 90 year old woman. Their equipment was installed late, or not at all, so they tend to rely on superficial cosmetic differences such as hair styles, makeup and clothing to mask their lack of government issue diversionary equipment. This is also why you don't hear of many 90 year olds having physically romantic liaisons. Many of them opted not to have the "newfangled" diversionary equipment installed.
My fellow writer was grateful to receive the above information. She promised me that the next time I shared a question with the group, she would be sure to return the favor to me, "in spades". She also said I was a real workhorse. Or at least I think that's what she meant. She mistakenly referred to me as a kind of donkey, but I didn't mind. She's obviously kind of fuzzy on the details when it comes to accuracy.
Lucky for her, she has me to help her out.
Comments and historical incidents to Alex.Queen@gmail.com.
This article first appeared in the September 11, 2004 issue of the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.