Many years ago I came into possession of a red shirt with a subtle pattern printed on its front. But it wasn't just the flattering cut that was so appealing. The color was perfect. It was red, yes, but it was just burgundy enough with just the right pinch of fire engine, and this ideal red among reds made me feel like I was brilliant without being overstated. I could've painted my world in that color and been so content. And on the front was a printed hibiscus blossom so subtle as to be all but unidentifiable.
It was flawless. And to reward this red shirt for its extraordinary nature, I wore it constantly. First out of the dryer, first into the wash. It was perfect with jeans, cargos, shorts, or just socks. I wore it for years with such frequency that I'm sure friends thought I owned few others. But it was no matter to me. This shirt was so simple but great in the pleasures it brought me.
As we grew together, the red shirt developed little signs of wear. The telltale pinprick holes around the belly button signaled a truly beloved garment that might have been discarded had it been less. But this was a red shirt, and I wore it and its age with pride.
One day I met a new friend for lunch, and we were chatting easily when he commented, "that's a cool old pink shirt." I laughed and corrected him without even looking at it. It's red. Haha, how silly. And then I realized it wasn't red. It had been loved so much, laundered so often, that it had become pink in its old age. It wasn't a red shirt any more. But in my mind's eye, my red shirt was always red. Had always been red. And I would always love it.
Head Chef came home from work one day laughing about a conversion he'd had with his coworkers. They had been chuckling with him about life as a bald man and they'd asked him how I felt about being bald. And he laughed and corrected them without even thinking about it. I wasn't bald, he told them. Haha, how silly.
So, as we drove to dinner, I pointed out to him that for all practical purposes, I am basically bald. And I told him about my red shirt.
He looked at me with astonishment and realized that in his mind's eye I had always been the one of us with hair. That he still saw me as that 26 year old kid with the blonde hair.
And he reassured me that no matter how far into pink I faded, I would always be his red shirt.