Fifty Coffees: Why Black & White?

The other day, coffee date #25 asked me “Why do you only use black and white pictures for your coffee dates?” I actually put a lot of thought into this before beginning my Fifty Coffees project. Lindsay Ratowksy, the woman who inspired this project, uses black and white pictures for only a few of her dates. But I decided to use black and white for all of my dates. Here’s why:

  • The black and white filter is mysterious.

My main goal of going on these coffee dates with people is to understand the depth and dimensionality of human beings. My coffee dates are with varying people, from those I’ve grown up with to people I’ve connected with randomly on social media. The common theme, though, of every date is learning that every single one of them has so many different layers. Black and white pictures convey this message of dimensionality and depth.

  • People are less self-conscious with black and white pictures.

I found this ^^^ on Instagram and it perfectly encapsulates my desire to go fully black and white with pictures.

When I whip out my phone and ask my coffee dates to post with their drinks, almost every one of them suddenly feels the need to fix their hair, straighten their backs, plump their lips, and ask for validation. This is natural; there’s nothing wrong with cleaning yourself up to look good for the pictures.

However, those same coffee dates also request me to take another picture because they look at their picture and all they see are their acne scars, bad posture, frizzy hair, tired eyes. They don’t see what I see: their rawness, warmth, kindness, wisdom, and gentle smiles. After they tear themselves apart looking at their picture, I tell them “Relax. The picture will be in black & white.” That’s when they calm down and return to their normal and raw selves.

Black & white images tend to hide whatever one believes are their imperfections because it adds that extra layer of mysteriousness (as mentioned above). Additionally, I believe black and white images also evoke some type of warmth that I don’t really know how to describe. With color photos, I feel like pictures of people are not uniform. For instance, say I have a coffee date in a super cute cafe. The color photo of my coffee date will have cute lighting, the unique background of the cafe, and anything else that can make the picture more appealing. On the other hand, if I have another coffee date in the dirty living room of my house, the color photo will have messy paperwork in the background, terrible lighting on the person, and won’t have the same aesthetic appeal.

With black and white pictures, though, every image is equal and uniform. It doesn’t matter what the lighting is or what the background looks like or what the aesthetic appeal is because every image is the same, placing every person on the same pedestal. This removes the chances of people thinking that one’s picture is better or worse than another’s. It forces them to focus on the content more than the picture itself.

Malls & their Fitting Rooms

Imagine finding a stunning dress at the mall. You’re excitedly putting on this new dress, zipping it up, fixing your hair, and then you look up at yourself in the dirty fitting room mirror. That’s when the eager smile on your face quickly droops into a frown as you notice that this dress was not made for you. You expected it to look one way, but it turned out to look completely different. 

For as long as I can remember, malls often triggered my negative self-body image. I’d sit in the fitting room to try on new clothes and would rip myself apart for looking the way I do. I’d think that it was my fault that the outfit would squeeze my body where it’s not supposed to squeeze and droop loosely where it’s not supposed to droop. 

However, it took me some time (and still does take me a minute) to realize that it is most definitely not my fault. Firstly, there is no way that anyone can look “good” in every single piece of clothing ever made. So, this is really step 1 –  realizing that not everything will look good on me. Step 2 is realizing that it’s actually the companies who make these outfits that are somewhat at fault because it is them who are still stuck in the past and continue to make clothes that try to mimic a woman’s “ideal body type.” The fashion industry has come a long way in trying to be more inclusive of different body types, but there are still major milestones to be met. 

I know it’s unfair to solely blame malls and the companies that make these clothes, but this is just my perspective on how malls make me feel. Instead of placing all of the blame on the clothes itself, some of my negative self-body image is also my fault. My negative self-body image comes from a place of insecurity. Thus, I want to develop a healthy relationship with my body so that I don’t concentrate on the parts of myself I don’t like. In fact, having a healthy relationship with one’s own body means that we are attuned and comfortable with the fact that our bodies are beautifully flawed. I am aware that this is so much more easily said than done. 

Bodies are extraordinary and it doesn’t matter what we look like. In order to feel more comfortable in a fitting room, I first need to be comfortable being who I am within my own skin. 

The 1 Book That Has Changed My Life

This. Is. My. Favorite. Book. Of. All. Time. 

I’ve never understood those people who claimed that reading books had changed their lives because I have always been a movie person. Movies for me were game changers because I was able to feel what the actors and actresses felt as I watched the story unfold for two hours. So, I never understood how reading words can truly change a person’s life in the same way that a film could. I’m glad that I finally understood that this is indeed possible – books can impact us in the most profound way and Untamed is one of those books. 

“I do not adjust myself to please the world. I am myself wherever I am, and I let the world adjust.”

Untamed, Glennon Doyle

I read this book for about 15 minutes every night. After a long day of classes, meetings, and work I would wind down and cozy up in my bed to read the raw and powerful writing of Glennon Doyle. I found that I was actually going to bed with a new sense of comfort and wholesomeness after reading a few pages at night. 

One of the most gripping things I learned from Untamed was the concept of discovering our Knowing and sitting with it until we declutter our minds. Doyle describes this in an impeccable way. Allowing ourselves to close our eyes and examine every thought that waves into our mind will give us a sense of clarity. Everyone has a Knowing, so it’s just a matter of unleashing it and honing in on it. 

Every time Doyle talked about how society “cages” us into the largely patriarchal system that we have enforced, I was in awe. How could I have been so oblivious? How did I not see that what my parents taught me were conditioning me to stay locked in a cage? It was mind-blowing. 

“Children are either taught by the adults in their lives to see cages and resist them, or they are trained by our culture to surrender to them. Girls born into a patriarchal society become either shrewd or sick. It’s one or the other.”

Untamed, Glennon Doyle

During my childhood I was always told to be or act a certain way so that society accepts me. I’m not blaming my parents because that’s also what they were taught, so they did not know any better. However, our generation has so many resources available to realize that society is a goddamn cage and our lives are way too colossal to fit into one

I remember a night where my relatives and I were sitting in our family room. The adults were talking about one of my cousins getting married and then the conversation diverted to one of the uncles asking the three of us young girls what type of person we wanted to marry. The other two girls replied with the cliché answer, “I don’t care who they are as long as they are kind and a good person.” I, on the other hand, not knowing that this was some sort of test replied, “I’d like someone who makes sure he smells good and has a job.” Everyone laughed. I was 10 years old. 

After everyone left, my mom came into my room and told me, “Esha, you can’t say stuff like that. When people ask you that question you should say that you care more about their personality.” 

“Amma, I obviously care about the person’s personality. I was just trying to joke around. But I would prefer it if they had good BO,” I replied. 

My mom sighed and said, “I know Esha, but not everyone is going to take it as a joke and they will think that you actually mean it which won’t look good for us.” 

Caged. My mom was raised to adhere to society and mold herself into what the world wanted from her. She was never taught to allow the world to mold itself around her. 

“What if parenting became less about telling our children who they should be and more about asking them again and again forever who they already are?”

Untamed, Glennon Doyle

I’ve been living with this restless feeling and an immense amount of energy that I can feel bubbling around me and encouraging me to go do something. I thought I was odd and abnormal because no one else seemed to feel so restless in their body and life all the time like I was, so I tried to push that feeling down as far as I could. It would come back every morning, and so everyday I would force it to go back down. After reading Untamed, I realized I’m not the only one with this nagging feeling that seeps beyond the boundaries of my body. It’s not something I should inhibit, but instead something I should release. It’s not something that I should allow to fit into a cage, but something I should unleash from that cage.