Sarah Rose // Features Editor
When I was in kindergarten my favourite colour was pink. As a four-year-old, I was still fairly removed from ideas about gender roles, like the paradoxical history of pink as a shade of masculinity. I just wanted my room to be pink, so it was. Every wall was covered in that iconic bubblegum hue, like my easy-bake oven or petals on a spring rose.
There are symbols and experiences so ubiquitous within our lives that we rarely stop to think about the meaning behind them. The perceptual experience of seeing colour is one of these overlooked experiences, unless you’re colourblind or a philosopher like Immanuel Kant.
Kant thought a lot about space, particularly absolute space, if such a space could exist “in a reality of its own, independent of the existence of all matter.” He excavates this from his obsession with incongruent counterparts. An idea that we live in a world of impossible doubles. Even in things that are mirror images of each other, like your hands, only you, the observer, can deduce whether your hands are in fact right or left. There is something different about what it is to be right or left, like there is something different about what it is to be a woman or a woman with ADHD. Which is to say, my room wasn’t pink, because pink is impossible.
Pink arises from a pair of incongruent counterparts, the way women with ADHD are also often seen as a collection of opposites. It’s scientifically impossible for opposing wavelengths of red and violet to merge, and yet I can still glimpse the memories of my childhood room in all its Pepto Bismol glory. Because pink is wishful thinking, a brain-bending marriage of contradictions. My room wasn’t pink, not strictly because pink is an impossibility, but rather because colour is impossible. Colour doesn’t exist, we only feel like it does.
Similarly, the spaces we occupy aren’t absolute. The human self isn’t something literally self-contained or locked up within the walls of its own reality, and neither can it be treated as something that exists within any isolated moment in time. My childhood bedroom will always be pink because the universe isn’t a space, it’s an event. I am the colours I love.
Simon Frith once said in the 70’s that girl culture begins and ends in the bedroom. The bedroom is not only a representation of the mind, it’s an extension of the body and the ways we embody our cognition. In high school, I spent my mornings waking up to the large, electrical tape lettering that read “the system’s got you but it won’t get me” from Crass’ Big A Little a on the wall. It wasn’t because I was a fan of punk per say, I’d simply heard the song playing out of the headphones of a classmate while she painted on the walls of our school.
Girls with ADHD are so often cited as having an internalized symptom profile compared to the externalized symptoms documented in boys. I argue this is at least partly true because from an early age, girls are guided towards and virtually trapped in their bedrooms. When the world outside is filled with trauma unique to womanhood, girls need a space to express their anger, to become. When that space isn’t available, the anger is often directed towards the only other absolute space we occupy: ourselves.
It can feel impossible to find a way out of the wars within the confines of things like language, medication and gender within ADHD. On one hand, I’m constantly bombarded by ADHD presented as social control, or a pill abused by college students at the hands of drug companies looking to make a profit. Or, on the other hand, ADHD is presented as a medical condition based on biological and scientific truth.
It’s not possible or my responsibility to impose an absolute space on ADHD. It could be all of the above, but it’s also a way in which women like myself have a framework to make sense of the struggle, chaos and complexity that creates our lives.
The most difficult task is dissolving the error of perception, the idea that I am only here. I’m an adult now, but I still get dressed in front of the broken mirror covered in magazine clippings from my high school bedroom, as if I’m always trying to find a glimpse of myself there. Our species evolved in the liminal, with a body in the sea and head to the sun, torn in two. Life rejects completion.
Identity is a process of mirrors and opposites. Relational, not an absolute, yet it serves as the source of our attachment and even commitment to our perceptions. ADHD can only enter the space of personal identity when we can really see it, feel it in self-reflection. I’d invite you to spend some time in my high school bedroom. The walls there aren’t pink anymore, unless you want them to be. Afterall, we must become others before we can be ourselves.
“No one else has got your eyes, can see the things you see, it’s up to you to change your life and my life’s up to me. / Big A, little a, bouncing B. The system’s got you but it won’t get me.” – Crass, 1982