It was a beautiful Wednesday afternoon in the middle of July and most of the college students were winding down from a year of hard work. Dave and Laura were walking through the Beverly Centre Shopping Mall on the cusp of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.
Laura and the rest of the seniors at UCLA were having an end-of-the-year party in a few days and she had managed to convince her boyfriend Dave to come out shopping with her for a new dress.
Like most guys, Dave didn’t particularly enjoy following his girlfriend around while she was shopping. Laura would visit all the stores, try on nearly everything and take an unhealthy amount of selfies on his phone, which she would pester him to send to her, as her phone often ran out of memory and had a shitty camera. However, being the cunning man that he was, Dave agreed on the premise that he would get to pick out some new lingerie for her to spice things up in the bedroom.
Laura was checking out a cool skirt when her phone beeped to signal a WhatsApp message from her best friend and housemate Angela. She was the same height as Laura, with jet black hair and striking facial features. They had been good friends since the first year of college and kept it going ever since. They shared a house together in Westwood, a North Western LA neighbourhood, home to a stylish student community and a bevy of stars.
Laura opened the message which was a photo with the caption: ‘Hey Laurz! Just bought this black and blue dress for the party. Have you got yours yet? X’
Laura texted back. “Emmm, it’s a great dress, but it’s white and gold Angie, lol!”
“Nooo, it’s black and blue!” Angela insisted.
Laura wasn’t an argumentative person, far from it but she had an issue with Angela calling the dress black and blue, as it was clearly white and gold. Her face screwed up as she wondered if Angela was winding her up on purpose, or if her friend got hit with a temporary case of colour blindness.
“Babe,” Laura turned to Dave while he was checking out a hot girl in the store. But rather than cause a fuss, Laura left it alone as she needed him to prove a point and settle this momentary madness. “Angela just texted me a picture of this dress she just bought. What colour is it?”
“Is this some kind of joke?”
“No! What colour is it?”
“It’s black and blue!”
Laura stopped, lifted her hands up and slapped them on her thighs. She looked at her phone again and enlarged the picture just to make sure she wasn’t going crazy.
“Are you kidding me?” she said disappointed.
“No,” replied Dave.
“Have another look.”
Dave looked again. “Oo-kay, erm. It’s clearly, BLACK AND BLUE,” he said, enunciating the words like she was thick.
“No, it’s not. It’s white and gold. What’s wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with you? How is it white and gold?”
“Because it IS!”
Laura put the skirt back and carried on walking. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but you need to get your eyes tested!” Laura said flustered.
“Whatever. You’re the one who needs your eyes tested. Angela and I both think the dress is black and blue, so who’s the odd one out here?”
Dave was an engineering major, which gave him excellent analytical skills, in addition to which he was naturally witty, and these were things Laura both admired and hated about him. Laura on the other hand was less direct, as she liked to observe and let things happen naturally. Like choosing to ignore Dave checking out the girl in the store because she knew he would probably do the same thing when he wasn’t with her anyway.
His comment about her being the odd one out played on her inner insecurities which would bring out the worst aspects of her character. A woman in her early 20s was walking to the left of Laura and they were about to walk past each other when Laura stopped her suddenly. Laura pulled out her phone to show her the picture.
“Hi, this is totally weird, but can I ask you a question?”
The young woman paused for a second, wondering what she was going to be asked. “Sure.”
“What colour is this dress?”
“It’s black and blue.”
“Hah. Told you,” Dave said laughing.
Laura was getting really frustrated now. She didn’t mind being wrong and could happily admit when she messed up, but when she knew she was right she wouldn’t give up easily!
She began looking at the people in front of her, searching for someone who would maybe think like her.
She picked out a good-looking black guy with locks down to his shoulder, dressed in a red short-sleeved shirt and black knee length jeans.
“Hi, excuse me.”
He took one earphone out, and paused the music playing on his phone to hear what she had to say.
“Sorry to bother you,” she said smiling. “I know this is totally random, but I’m Laura and this is my boyfriend Dave, we’re having a debate about the colour of a dress.”
“OK,” the guy said bewildered.
“What’s your name?” Laura asked.
“Get to the point,” Dave nagged.
“I’m LaShawn,” he said, turning to notice his frustration.
“Dave thinks the dress is black and blue. And I keep telling him its white and gold. What do you see?”
“It’s black and blue,” LaShawn replied.
Laura took that badly and her face reflected the disappointment. She was used to not fitting in and was happy being different in her own unique way, so she comforted herself by thinking she had a higher purpose, like she had a major part to play in something epic; but that never stopped the feelings of alienation.
She kept a lot inside and very rarely opened up to people. Being young and in a university environment, she began to feel the alienation even more. University was supposed to be a time to find herself, discover who she was. And right now, the only thing she would find is an empty party of team white and gold. No one else saw the dress in white and gold, and it started to get to her. First Angela, then Dave, and now two passers-by, she had enough and was ready to bow out and call it a day.
LaShawn smiled. “Only joking. I was …. just teasing you as I could see it meant a lot to you. I’m like that sometimes. It’s white and gold. Definitely white and gold. I don’t know how anyone else can see something different.”
Those words, ones she doubted she would hear, made her day. She admired him for a second and a half, his beautiful dark chocolate-coloured skin, his sexy smile and his slim physique, and her face lighted up. She was afraid to look at him longer because their encounter would enter the flirting zone. Laura put her hand on her chest breathing a huge sigh of relief. “Thank you. You don’t know how much you mean to me.”
“What. Are you stupid?” Dave got mad and grabbed her by the waist walking her to one side. “You gonna chat up another guy right in front of me?!”
“I…didn’t mean it, to say ‘you’. I meant ‘that’. You don’t know how much THAT meant to me.” Laura was really embarrassed now and was going bright red. Dave looked at LaShawn like an animal about to defend his mate from a straggler.
LaShawn was a little smaller than Dave but looked like he could handle himself if he needed to. He was about to walk away and leave them to it but changed his mind and walked back to them.
“Hey, it’s not that serious. Lighten up.”
Dave turned to him, with a face as red as a tomato, and tensed his body up.
“Fuck off, I’m talking to my girlfriend.”
LaShawn stood there, trying to stand his ground without appearing aggressive.
Dave pushed him forcefully.
“I said fuck off!”
LaShawn’s face changed. “Do that again and I promise you, you’ll regret it.”
Dave took off his jacket and slung it on the floor, ready to fight LaShawn who calmly stood his ground. As Dave approached him, LaShawn took a step forward standing his ground and they squared off. Laura stepped in between them and pushed them away with her hands outstretched to stop the confrontation.
“It’s okay,” she said to LaShawn. “Just go, please.”
LaShawn walked away and looked behind him to make sure Dave didn’t try anything else.
“I can’t fucking believe you,” Dave said to Laura. “You’re flirting with another guy when I’m right here.”
“I said I was sorry I muddled my words. I meant to say ‘that’ not ‘you’. I’M SORRY! Just get over it. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s not like I was giving him my number.”
“You know, these last few months you’ve been so uptight, we’ve barely had sex and all you do is study. I’m in college too, remember? But I still make time for you.”
“Well, I’m sorry I can’t be Mr Cool Dave all the time. I’m sorry if I feel the pressure a little more than you. You have been drafted into the NFL already, while I still have to make my future. Give me a break already.”
“What the hell are you talking about? I have to maintain my grades and be good at football. Where’s all this coming from, are you on your period or something?”
“I can’t believe you.”
“Well, I don’t know why you’re acting up?”
“Look, I said I’m sorry. I can’t take it back, it was a mistake. Let’s just sit down somewhere and relax,” she said, trying to make amends.
“You know what, I don’t even want to be around you right now. Good luck with your exams. And with your damn dress!”
“No. Wait David, please,” she reached her hand out to try to stop him from leaving. Dave pushed it away and walked on a few steps, shouting: It’s black and blue!”
Passers-by were observing the lovers tiff and she caught a few uncomfortable stares. Laura felt embarrassed. Had she just had a fight with her boyfriend in the middle of a shopping mall? Over the colour of a dress? Dave was slowly fading away in the distance.
Laura thought about trying to catch up with him, but he was walking fast and seemed pretty angry. Anything she did now would probably just make it worse. She figured it was best to let him cool off and try again a bit later. Dave kept his cool most of the time but had a habit of losing his temper and she was struggling trying to piece together how it escalated so quickly.
Laura was pretty flustered right now and needed to calm down. She decided to get a coffee before continuing with her shopping. As she was queuing up, she heard three girlfriends arguing in front of her: “How can you say this dress is blue and black? That’s the complete opposite of what it is,” said the brunette.
“Look, its blue and black.”
“You need your eyes tested. It’s so white and gold.”
“Emmm, guys, I see blue and brown.”
“Are you fucking serious? This is weird.”
“All of you need to be locked up.”
Laura breathed a sigh of relief. At least she wasn’t the only one arguing over it and had met another white and gold person.
She stepped in to talk to the girls.
“Sorry to jump in. I actually just had a huge argument with my boyfriend over this.”
“No way,” said the shorter one, perplexed.
“Yeah unfortunately,” Laura said embarrassed. “I see white and gold.”
The White and Golder in the group high-fived Laura, and it warmed her soul knowing there where others out there like her.
“Thank you,” the stranger told her.
“No, thank you,” Laura replied. “I thought I was the only one who saw white and gold and started freaking out.” The group of girls left and Laura bought a Frappuccino and sat down. She brought her phone out to call Angela.
“I’ve had the worst day ever.”
“Really, what’s going on?”
“Dave and I were arguing over the dress.”
“I ended up asking this guy LaShawn in the mall what colour he saw and Dave thought I was trying to chat him up.”
“Why? I thought he wasn’t possessive.”
“He’s not. It was kind of my fault. I muddled my words and practically said I liked him.”
“Yeah,” she paused to consider her next words. “He was kind of cute though.”
“Laura, you are bad!”
“They were literally about to kill each other. I had to step in and tell them to cool it.”
“Dave’s so upset with me. Apparently, I’ve been acting like a real bitch because of these exams and he’s really fed up.”
“Just give him some space and call later.”
“I don’t think he wants to talk to me. I think he wants to break up, he said he didn’t want to see me right now.”
“Stop guessing, trust me, just give it some time and call him later.”
“Okay. Anyway, I can’t dwell on it too long as I have a job interview tomorrow.”
“OK, good luck. Let me know how it goes.”
Laura finished her coffee and was ready to go. She felt hurt after the bust up with Dave and couldn’t be bothered to do any more shopping. All she wanted to do was go home and watch some of her favourite TV shows, then prepare for her interview.
Laura wasn’t one for confrontations, especially with people close to her and this dampened her spirits. If she wasn’t happy about something, she would pull a disgruntled face and try to brush it off without causing a scene. She would only say something if someone had gone too far, like when Dave kept her waiting for 45 minutes on a night out. He was lucky to live to see the next day.
Dave and Laura had had a few arguments during their nine-month relationship, but this was by far the worst. Laura preferred to vent out her frustrations over the phone or by emails, that way she wouldn’t be so uncomfortable. She wasn’t the type to air her dirty laundry in public; to her it seemed uncultured and unproductive.
On her way out of the Beverley Centre she walked past a dress that made her stop and look. It was the black and blue dress, the one that had gone viral over social media. It was mid-thigh length, with rows of blue and black stitching across the width. A small blue jacket was fitted on the top, and a lovely gold chain with a heart was on the neck of the mannequin.
She questioned why she had seen the dress in white and gold, but nothing came to mind. Angela had already bought it and for a minute Laura thought about getting it too, but she was beginning to have a dislike for those colours. If the same dress was in white and gold, she would have bought it instantly and wearing their dresses together would have made them a ravenous duo. She went in the shop to try on the dress anyway, she couldn’t help but to have respect for its mysterious power. It fit her perfectly, bringing out her voluptuous body and showing off her long legs, but clashed with her blond hair.
As she stood there looking in the mirror, she couldn’t help but smile at herself. “Dave would be a fool to dump this,” she thought as she fitted her boobs and stroked her thighs in the dress. She put the dress back and went to the parking lot to get her car, turning on the radio to listen to the news as she drove home.
“A dress has caused a global debate in the last few hours. A picture of a dress posted on the Internet is seen in different colours by different people. Some people see the dress as white and gold and others see it as black and blue. Millions of comments have been posted on social media about the dress, and even celebrities have become involved.
So how did it start? Well, the mother of a bride to be, Mrs Hanover, took a picture of the dress that she would be wearing to the wedding and sent it to the bride. When her daughter showed it to her fiancé, they disagreed on the colour, so decided to post it on Tumblr to settle the debate. That’s when it went viral.
The dress is a product from the retailer Rhapsodie Blues, who have experienced a major surge in sales as a result of the images.
So why do we all see different colours? Science has the answer! It’s about how our brains are wired to see colour.
Neuroscientist Sarah Dabazky explains: I think the cause for differences is much more likely due to perception, which is actually to do with the brain. Our brain is really good at filling in information that’s not actually there. And so the brain is basing what it sees,on its own interpretation of the image.
If your brain thinks this dress should be white and gold based on the interpretation of the picture itself, the lighting, the conditions that the picture is being viewed under, it’s going to build that image as white and gold. The lighting when the picture was taken and the conditions when the picture is being viewed influence the brain to interpret it as either white and gold or blue and black.
It goes back to a popular optical illusion of a picture with white and black squares. You expect the square that looks lighter to be lighter because it’s in the pattern where it should be lighter, so you can cut the squares out and put them next to each other; then you notice that they are in fact the same colour. But in context your brain is taking that image and it’s making sense of it.
Everybody’s reality is different. The disparity between what you see and what your neighbour sees of the dress is a really good example of that.”
Laura sat down on her sofa and tried to contact Dave. She called three times and he didn’t pick up, which made her think he was still pissed off. She decided to text him and apologise once again, asking if they could meet up at the college bar later on. An hour later he still hadn’t responded.
She had done all she could and was sad they hadn’t resolved it. Although still nervous about the situation, Laura decided there was nothing else she could do at the moment. Angela had come back from work and demanded to catch up on all the juicy goss! They ordered pizza, had a few drinks and watched some episodes of ‘Orange Is the New Black.’ At least those were colours they could both agree on.