On Synaesthesia

Piano keyboard with coloured keys
I don't like how the black keys have
no colour on this, but oh well...
Something most people don't know about me is that I have synaesthesia: emotions, numbers, letters and sounds all have different colours, and some colours have tastes associated with them as well (for example, the number 7 is orange and tastes tangy). I don't really talk about it because I don't really talk about myself much: I don't feel it's world-changingly important for people to know the exact workings of my mind, and it certainly doesn't help me that much in daily life except with some aspects of music (I can associate certain pitches with certain colours, though I see it much more as a spectrum and timbre is generally far more important). About the only thing it's done for me is give me a really irrational dislike of any number with the digit 3 in it, especially if it's prime.

Coloured numbers
I've grown up with this as perfectly normal - I've never known a life without it, and so I get quite shocked and upset when I tell people and they look at me like I've got three heads. In my mind it's really not that complicated; I just connect certain things that non-synaesthetes don't seem to connect. I don't really see anything disturbing about that.

I think what annoys me more, though, is when people pussyfoot around synaesthesia for fear of offending...well...someone, certainly, probably the Righteous Offence Fairy or something like that. I distinctly remember watching one of the Proms televised a couple of years back and there was a wonderful female pianist there, if my memory serves me well enough to not get basic details like gender wrong. The presenter was talking about how this pianist's synaesthesia helped her with her interpretation of the music - which is brilliant. The piece certainly felt like a wonderful explosion of colour in my mind.

What I didn't like so much, though, was how the presenter quite delicately referred to synaesthesia as a condition in that way that implies that it's some kind of terrible sickness and only referred to it by name once or twice, as though synaesthesia were somehow an illness or something to be ashamed of. It jarred me at the time, and I still find it jarring today, because I don't understand why any synaesthete would be offended by someone mentioning that a musician shares their condition. I don't even understand why non-synaesthetes would be offended by the existence of synaesthesia.

Coloured music notes
I'm not offended by or ashamed of my synaesthesia: in fact, I'm really quite proud of it because I think it's a really cool ability to have, and if I woke up one day and didn't have my synaesthesia, I'd be really upset that I couldn't connect things any more.

But if you are that worried about causing offence, please don't insinuate that I'm just a poser claiming to have synaesthesia because it's unique and quirky and I want to get laid - it makes me feel red and grey and ripped apart inside. (Told you I associated colours with emotions, didn't I?) I've been a synaesthete for as long as I can remember, and I've got enough "unique" and "quirky" (read: weird) attributes to set me apart for a lifetime. And whatever you do, please don't react like I've got three heads.