Heard of the new adult coloring book craze? Yes, it’s a thing. At least, I think it’s still a thing—usually, my picking up on a trend means it’s just on the verge of dying out forever.
A couple months ago, before I became aware that it had become socially acceptable for people my age to pick up the hobby of coloring, I was gifted Johanna Basford’s A Secret Garden. Dutifully taking the hefty book into my hands and making a show of flipping through the pages, I found, to my surprise, endless black and white illustrations of swirls and labyrinths and patterns so intricate I immediately birthed a migraine.
“… Wow,” I managed after a long moment, once my eyes regained focus and stopped seeing negatives. “Intense. Thanks.”
“It’s a coloring book for adults,” the sender explained. I’d seen the “coloring book for adults” inscription before I’d flipped through but had assumed it was an oblique, metaphorical blurb that would make sense only after I had read the book, gone on the journey, and rediscovered my soul. Kind of like that book my mom got me last year for Christmas, entitled You Can Heal Your Life, except much less relevant to me.
“So… a coloring book,” I grinned, appreciative of the gag gift, until I realized it wasn’t a gag.
“It’ll relieve stress,” the sender replied. “You’re stressed.”
By which I concluded the sender did not know me at all, because anyone who knew me would understand that such a coloring book would only stress me out more.
Case in point: Monday, I attended my last mini clinic ever. Twice a year, our drill team hosts a dance camp for over 100 girls, aged kindergarten through eighth-grade. Each team member is assigned different age groups. Essentially, because I somehow received kindergarteners again even after the water fiasco last time, I was tasked with babysitting duty and held responsible for attending to their every whim for eight hours or so.
After half an hour of trying to explain to Girl #1 the concept that one simply cannot fit infinite beads onto a finite length of bracelet, the next whim was coloring. So I brought the girls to join another teammate’s buddy group, which had already formed a coloring station, and tore out pages for everyone. Including myself, just to see if there really was something to this coloring therapy, after all.
“Coloring Therapy”: Expectation vs. Reality
- Sense of accomplishment. When I finished filling in a particularly misshapen circle and announced its completion to the group, I looked up proudly only to see the faces of six unimpressed elementary school children holding equally impressive works of art.
- Feeling artistic. No explanation necessary.
- Stress relief. After starting to color, I actually became more stressed. The thought of how much I had left to color stressed me out. The thought of all the more productive things I could be doing instead of coloring, like compulsively checking my email or hiding from my cat, stressed me out. The thought of being stressed out stressed me out.
- Embracing a return to the past. People try to explain this “adult coloring phenomenon” with the Peter Pan syndrome, or our subconscious longing for an escape from a “digital society” and return to the simpler days of our childhood.
Watching the little girls engrossed in their coloring before me, I considered that idea up until one girl sneezed and, as I looked on, tried to shove the snot back up her nose.