Blue Collar

When I was born, they wrapped me in a pink little blanket and placed a blue collar around my neck. My father’s collar stiffened as he added on more hours, already thinking about the many mouths to feed. My brothers sat at home eagerly waiting for their little sister to come home, each adorned with blue collars. 

As I grew up, I never paid much attention to my collar. It was blue just like everyone else I knew. 

But then I would spot a white collar or even a gold one. I hadn’t even known gold collars existed before that day. And I found myself wondering, why was mine blue? 

Nonetheless, I continued, straightening my collar after playing outside and making sure there weren’t any grass stains on it. It was blue after all, not green.

When I got to high school, teachers looked at my collar before looking me in the eyes. Or, sometimes worse, they would look me in the eyes first, then stray to my collar, and then back again as if my blue eyes held some sort of magical connection to the collar. 

I wore a blue collar because it’s all I ever knew, all they ever told me I would wear.

But then people started to question even more than I ever had. Why wear a blue collar when there were white ones out there? Why settle for a white collar when you could go further? Why even bother with a collar if it isn’t the best one out there?

People like me didn’t have the luxury to discard our collars or to look at the other collars and see a future. We looked at our blue collars in the mirror, we straightened them, and we went about our day. We had things to do, and we had no time to question why.

As I approached graduation, collars became a part of conversations more and more. Part of me was comforted by the blue collar; it had been with me through it all, and I knew it so well. But everyone kept telling me to look beyond the blue — look beyond the collar even and just find something I enjoy.

What was there to enjoy when collars kept choking me, suffocating my every breath? Even my beautiful blue one seemed to restrict my breathing some days. Pushing aside the stifling collars, I walked across the stage on graduation night to claim my diploma with my blue collar peeking out of my gown.

I went to college with my blue collar in hand, held tighter than even the pepper spray my mother had given me. To pay for my tuition, I starched the hell out of my collar. Even as I sat in lectures, my collar stood crisp and clean, letting everyone know that I was blue through and through. My blue collar never drooped, never sported one wrinkle even after hours spent in the library poring over books written by people wearing anything but blue.

Professors ignored the blue collar, calling it just a summertime collar or just something to fill the time. Little did they know that my blue collar was so much more than a pastime. It was my livelihood.

Each day, it seemed like the only blue collar I saw was looking back at me in the mirror. Every other collar didn’t seem to even matter to people. They weren’t wearing one or they didn’t even care to straighten it if it went a bit askew. 

What was it like to not be so connected to the color and condition of your collar?

As the years passed by, my collar never changed color. It remained blue, and I was constantly aware of its hue. Even as I was told of all the collars that awaited me, I couldn’t help but find myself fidgeting with the blue, pulling it tighter or straightening it just a smidge. 

Blue was all I ever knew. It was all I thought I would ever wear.