top of page

The Steep Price of Belonging & how it Can Stop Your Dream

Years ago, while interning at an interior design store, I was sent out on a call. A woman wanted a new couch for her living room, and we were to help her pick one out.

Two women in beige hanging out together

Inside her home my eyes wandered over a sea of beige. Beige walls, beige carpeting, beige tile, and beige furniture everywhere.

“No.” We had shown her a luxuriously rich buttery warm brown leather for the couch to help set off the room. She adamant and even more thin lipped at the thought of even considering another color. “Absolutely not.” She responded emphatically, and picked out a beige sample of fabric.

If the beige looked like it was thrilling her to her soul I wouldn’t have minded. There’s nothing wrong with beige, or a calming all one color palette. But I have to say, it didn’t look like it was lighting her up at all. As she examined one beige sample after another, she didn’t look at all happy with her choices.

In fact, the woman in front of us looked worn down, despite her beautiful surroundings. She seemed absolutely joyless, despite her charmed existence in a beautiful home on the edge of a golf course.

Worse, she seemed hostile towards joy and color. Joy was a risk she couldn’t afford and I didn’t know why. But she wasn’t the only one.

I had worked in that store all summer by now and I knew from experience that every woman in that town who had the means also wanted beige. And it was all they wanted. Mention another color, any other color, and fear would flit across their faces. Oh, they would touch the sample of some lush color with deep longing. But then the war would start inside of them.

Something different than the norm? Something different from their neighbors and the other ladies who lunch? Terrifying.

My newest client didn’t want beige because *she* loved beige. She wanted it because it’s what every other woman in her world wanted. She wanted it because it was safe. It meant belonging.

The steep price of belonging for women was a complete repudiation of their own soul and individuality. Even in your own home you weren’t safe from the judging eyes of your neighbors. To belong meant giving up who you were. No color and no individuality allowed. Doing so, meant getting kicked out of the club, and no woman was willing to risk that. The price was too high.

Once that summer, they let me be the buyer for the store. I got to be the person who ordered the next round of furniture. We had an entire store, two stories high, filled with beige furniture. Gold beige, light beige, cool beige, dark beige. Leather beige, brocade beige, sateen cotton beige, but still, all beige.

I went into interior design because I loved color. I loved Alexandre Stoddard’s beautiful living rooms in floral chintz with blue and peony pink. Kelly Wearstler’s brilliantly green tiled rooms. So as the buyer, I did what came natural to me. I found furniture in rich blues, in bright and sunny yellows, sleek and chic grays.

I was certain that faced with a sea of beige or something different, some of these women would hear the siren call of color. They would see something that would speak to their soul and buy it. They would choose joy over safety and belonging.

It was a no go. The owner said no to each of my choices except for one. A beautiful cottage style side table in blue that looked like it came straight off the pages of a Hampton photo shoot. I was crushed. It was meant as a consolation prize for me, but the obliteration of color and individuality was deeply disheartening to me, and I left interior design not long after.

But I learned an important lesson about the price of belonging and acceptance for women and how we, as women, often police each other into submitting to the group. Even when it leaves us joyless and unhappy. We iron out our individuality so we can belong. No wonder so few of us make it to our dreams. We’re not even allowed to have them if they’re anything other than beige.

But going after your dreams and living with joy often means being unequivocally you, an individual, and different from the crowd. It means sometimes going it alone.

And that table, the blue one, I had got as a consolation prize?

We had barely got it staged on the floor and it was gone, sold in less than a day. Whisked off in a flurry by a woman with a big, juicy, very pleased grin on her face. Why was she grinning? Because rebelling for an authentic life feels pretty delicious.


2 Kommentare

05. Mai 2021

Very good.

Gefällt mir

Maryann Haas
Maryann Haas
05. Mai 2021

Great article!

Gefällt mir
bottom of page