And The Ribbon Goes To….

I thought I was smart investing in ribbon futures, when I should have put my money into magnets! (Image from

College football season has begun, and TV viewers may have noticed that blue ribbons are on display.  Like any loop of ribbon in America today, there’s a cause attached.

Apparently, the big business of college football is uniting against the molestation of little boys by defensive coordinators.  A noble cause to be sure, though I’m sure that as far as certain former little boys are concerned, it’s a case of far too little, way too late.  I’m pretty sure I was not molested as a child, but I’m no slouch at repressing memories.  If I was molested, I’m not convinced that seeing a bunch of blue ribbons would make me feel a whole lot better about it.

In my recollection of popular culture, the start of the whole ribbons-as-metaphors-for-giving-a-crap fad started with Tony Orlando and Dawn’s sappy hit “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree”.  It was about a guy who was away for three long years and wanted to know if his long-lost gal still wanted him back.  I can’t recall if he was away in prison, the military or backpacking across Europe.  It was a schmaltzy AM radio classic, as sickly-sweet as anything Bobby Goldsboro or Terry Jacks could have mustered.

Years later, during Operation Desert Storm or one of those other wars with the catchy names, people began tying yellow ribbons around oaks, hemlocks, elms, street lamps and fire hydrants to welcome home soldiers.  It was a sweet, nostalgic gesture. It caught on and people soon became fixated with out-ribboning one another, tying bigger yellow ribbons around larger and larger things to prove that they were even prouder and more loving than those people down the street.

They quickly discovered that yellow ribbons faded out in the elements and their glorious tributes to returning vets ended up looking kind of sad before too many weeks went past.   Marketing geniuses figured out that a picture of a single loop of ribbon held the color longer and saved people the pesky task of tying bows.  Further refinements involved putting the picture of the ribbon loop on a magnet thus allowing people to display the ribbons on their cars.  Even idiots know that we care much more about our cars than we do our old oak trees.

Somewhere along the way, people began using alternate colors of ribbons for other causes.

One thing is for sure; whether you’re far away in the military, a victim of abuse or afflicted with some disease, there’s a pretty good chance that there’s a special ribbon just for you.  There are periwinkle ribbons for eating disorders, pink ones for breast cancer, raw sienna ones for yeast infection awareness and one with special meaning to me; paisley ribbons in support of victims of Mongolian Brain Fever.*

It’s not surprising that colo-rectal cancer has an alternate ribbon color of blue instead of the original brown.  Though the choice of brown for cancer of that region has a certain logic to it, not all logical connections are equally positive.  Rectal cancer? Brown?  Great idea, we’ll take ten thousand magnets and five thousand lapel pins.  Can you make the lettering a nice corn yellow?

Correct labelling of the colors is critical.  There’s a huge difference between the meanings of light blue and plain old blue.  Blue ribbons have the biggest number of causes, including child abuse, anti-second hand smoke and “Save The Music”.  Seriously?!  Save The Music?  Do you guys really need a ribbon for that?  I would have kept those crate of LP’s in the basement without some silly ribbon.

Light blue, on the other hand, represents prostate cancer, among other causes.  It’s possible that a certain ex-football coach could sport a light blue ribbon pin on his orange jumpsuit.  He might find comfort about his fears of the enlarged prostate which men of his age know to be a risk factor for prostate cancer.  Imagine the potential for misinterpretation if a casual observer in a prison interview failed to distinguish that it was a light blue ribbon and not regular blue.  Better yet, imagine said ex-coach getting the prostate exam he truly deserves from Dr. Bubba.

In my fifteen minutes of research, I was disappointed to find that there is no ribbon color designated for bulging and herniated discs.  I somehow feel under-represented.  To add insult to injury, though there was a ribbon for alopecia, there was not one for male pattern baldness.  Where’s the justice?  I guess I should just be happy that the proponents of my various causes didn’t choose brown.

*Those of you interested in learning more about Mongolian Brain Fever will be disappointed if you read this linked blog

52 thoughts on “And The Ribbon Goes To….

  1. I have no ribbons. Does that make me an uncaring person? I hope not. It probably just means I rarely notice these things, because I’m so caught up in my own little cerebral world. Maybe you should create a Blogger’s Block ribbon for those of us who suffer from this malady from time to time.

    1. I don’t have any ribbons either, but I have lots of magnets, just not on my car. The magnets are on the fridge, holding coupons and receipts.

      I was worried that perhaps I’d crossed a line and offended more people than usual. Thank goodness Carrie Rubin commented!

  2. If Carrie exposed, confessed and/or complained that she has no ribbons…the question then is: Does Carrie have magnets? 1point…you are focusing on the wrong perspective.
    PS. JOTS has neither.

    1. No magnets?!!? Next you’re going to tell me that you have no chip-clips to keep your corn chips fresh! For the record, I have magnets, but not ribbon magnets. My magnets are from local businesses trying to help me recall their phone numbers for home delivery of pizzas.

    2. I do have magnets, but only from places I’ve visited. We don’t buy souvenirs; instead we buy a magnet. Keeps our memories of our trips alive without cluttering our home. Just clutters our fridge. Of course, most of these magnets have been knocked off and subsequently superglued back together, but they still serve their purpose. Sadly, a few have missing limbs (our M&M magnets from M&M world; our starfish from the Bahamas), but you know, that’s life.

  3. What a nice colorful picture. Yes, I’m the type of person who thinks a 64 count of crayons spilled out onto a white piece of paper is beautiful.

    I didn’t read your post all the way though. Not offend (maybe cause I didn’t read it all the way through, wink). Actually like WordPress and know I don’t have to agree with every post or continue reading. Nice freedom.

    BUT the main reason I wanted to comment is because I like the picture 🙂 It was when I started scanning the comments I became aware of your concerns. See first line of my comment.

    1. I’m sufficiently confused.

      The credit for the ribbon photo goes to, I found it in a quick Google image search. In my humble opinion, the creidt for the ribbon pic and its being easily found go to and Google – I take no responsibility whatosever for the colorful image.

      Sometime if you’re feeling cynical and bitter about the world, feel free to read the post – it won’t change your mood, but it’ll keep you company.

  4. I’m willing to come out of the closet as an active ribbon hater. But I also get sick of bumper stickers, cutesy ad slogans and being nickel and dimed for donations every time I shop at a store. In short, I’m kind of a jerk that way. I choose where and to what causes I donate. I put in some volunteer time as well. That’s going to do a shitload more than slapping something on my bumper. We need a ribbon to signify “hey. life is shitty, but if you DO something instead of buying this stupid ribbon, you might make a difference”. I’d feel sorry for the poor bastards who would have to market that. They’d need a ribbon, too.

  5. I don’t like the ribbons, the car magnets (except the one on my car), nor the stupid plastic wrist bands in various colors. Maybe I’m just old and crotchety, but I like to just write out a check and send it along. And I don’t think ribbons signify that you give a crap, I think it signifies that you only give a partial crap. Anybody can get any color ribbon and fashion a stick-pin brooch from it, but you don’t actually have to donate, volunteer, or assist your cause in any way. My way (sending the check) benefits those I totally give a crap about, and is tax deductable.

    But what do I know, I’m on drugs, too.

  6. As has been alluded to above, wearing a ribbon can be an excuse not to do anything – “I’m doing my bit, I’m wearing this ribbon”. I’m not claiming that I do a whole lot to further important causes myself, nor am I completely dissing ribbons; raising awareness of issues is all part of moving causes forward, but I don’t want to be made to feel like I’m not doing my bit just because I’m not sporting a ribbon. I think I’ve just rambled on a bit there and not really said anything, but oh well! (Is there a ribbon for that?).

    Entertaining post by the way, made me smile, like this 🙂

    1. Makng you smile means so much more than any color ribbon ever could. I wasn’t necessarily trashing ribbons as a substitute for actual action, but there’s certainly a point to be made there. I do believe that 100 years from now, ribbons will have been replaced by some new, but equally vaccuous symbolism.

  7. Do we really need to raise “awareness” of molestation of little boys? Is this something people don’t know about, or have been on the fence about? Is money needed for research to find a cure? Are molesters seeing the ribbons and changing their ways? That sort of “passive activism” drives me nuts. Is there a ribbon for people who are driven nuts by these sort of things?

  8. I am tired of seeing pink ribbons, but will get behind the red ribbon of heart disease next February which is the #1 killer.
    I remember the yellow ribbons…..Pretty soon someone will come out with a cheat sheet card to keep them all straight.
    I am surprised that I haven’t seen any raw sienna ribbons out there… 🙂

    1. Yeah! The red ribbons need to make a comeback. My mom (who has heart disease) gets all upset because (as she rightly puts it) heart attacks kill more women than breast cancer, yet gets none of the ‘spotlight’. (like causes can be considered trendy…I know, crazy, but I think it happens…)

  9. Well, I like the pink ribbon and I have a pink ribbon magnet on my fridge. But I didn’t stop there after my radiation. I bought pink jeans, pink shoes, pink tops, pink underwear, pink eyeshadow…you get the picture. I guess I’m compulsive sometimes. So sorry you’re particular ailments are not represented. There must be some color for you. 🙂 We Americans, we do seem to take things too far, don’t we?

  10. Freaking hilarious- especially the bowel cancer ribbon. I got a good laugh. Very timely- I often see people wearing ribbons (or those coloured bracelets) and feel like I’m missing something if I have to ask (and they often look at me like I’ve been hiding under a rock.. like “DUH this one is for CHILD ABUSE, don’t you watch TV??” They have become more about a trend of fitting in rather than actually supporting a cause. (well except my breast cancer PINK work boots… they are VERY important to the cause I’m sure).

  11. This is brilliant. I appreciate efforts to bring attention to how trivial so many of our awareness causes are. It’s hard to be aware of so much all the time. I suggest we start wearing a rainbow ribbon to raise awareness of the overuse of ribbons to raise awareness.

        1. Greatsby was one of the first writers who I found on this site to be really impressive from both a content and style standpoint – so any praise of his for my post will have a special value to me.

          To be clear, I’ve found quite a few more great writers on this site, I try to make sure they know how much I enjoy their work. You know you’re one of them, so stop pouting.

    1. Thanks for checking in.

      My neck is still problematic, but it’s not quite as awful as it had been. In addition, work is at the apex of stressful at this time of year. I’ve found I can only sit at a computer for 15 minutes or so before my symptoms get ramped up. I don’t typically write in 15 minute chunks, so I haven’t been able to do much. In addtion, pain typically overrides any creative impulses.

      I appreciate your concern. I’ll be back on here eventually.

  12. I remember when Tony Orlando started this trend – his song “hero” was in prison. I always wondered if returning vets had any trouble with the comparison.

    Do you think the ribbon trend has just about run its course? Pretty soon we’re going to be splitting tint-hairs so fine nobody will be able to keep their good causes straight without a color wheel.

    Thanks for the summary – I don’t know how I missed this rainbow-hued, bloggy gem.

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