What The HECK are "Beige Flags"!?
Promise this was a relevant topic when we recorded it ages ago. Although the conversation may be fashionably late, we hope you will enjoy it all the same!
Courtney: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to The Ace Couple podcast. My name is Courtney. I am here with my spouse, Royce. And today, we’re talking about beige flags.
Courtney: So a couple months ago — me not being someone who is currently on TikTok — I got this information kind of secondhand through Twitter. But there was a period of a couple of weeks where everybody was talking about “beige flags”: their own beige flags, their partner’s beige flags. And me, being a silly, silly, out-of-the-loop person [laughs] who’s a little older than the average TikTok user, was like, “What the heck is a beige flag?”
Courtney: So I had to Google it. And, of course, since this went very viral, lots of people talking about it, there were all of these news articles that were trying to explain to people like me, who are out of the loop, like, “What is a beige flag? What is with this new TikTok trend?” [laughs] And I spent a few minutes combing through the articles and combing through the posts to try to ascertain exactly what a beige flag is, and I still can’t totally say with an abundance of certainty that I know what it is. Because, based on the definitions people were providing me, but the examples people were providing me, there was definitely something that was not adding up. Because, in terms of a relationship, like, we know what “red flag” means. Like, this is a warning sign that this might not be a healthy relationship. And green flags are, like, very, very positive things. So I would have assumed that a beige flag was just a very mundane detail about a person.
Royce: I feel like that’s what the color beige represents is boring.
Courtney: Yes! That’s usually how it’s used in phrases and metaphors, right? But apparently, from what I can tell, a beige flag isn’t just something mundane. It’s actually something very quirky, something very weird and unusual.
Royce: I feel like that should be using a weird or unusual color, though. Like, a very vibrant color.
Courtney: Yes! I would think so, too. But I suppose the reason why they call it a “beige flag” is because of the fact that, while this is a quirky and unusual thing this person does, it is neither a dealbreaker nor a reason to continue pursuing the relationship. So it’s still not gonna make or break a relationship, but it’s different, it’s kind of funky.
Courtney: So, with that kind of definition that I was given, I was seeing all of these examples that people were posting, and so many of the examples were actually just red flags. [laughs] And I was like, “Oh no! Like, sweetie, that is a red flag. That is bad.” But then the only ones that were, at the end of the day, pretty neutral to me kind of just felt like neurodivergence. Like, I’m going through all these. I’m like, “Nope, that’s a red flag. Nope, that’s a red flag. Nope, that’s Autism.” [laughs] So we’re gonna just go through some examples of beige flags that have been presented on the internet over the last couple of months and, I guess, determine whether or not we think it is truly a beige flag.
Courtney: This was the very first one I saw that gave me the phrase “beige flag.” So perhaps, once I give you this example, you’ll be able to tell why the definition versus the examples wasn’t quite adding up. “My boyfriend’s beige flag is that he gets impatient at restaurants and helps the waitress bring the plates to our table.”
Courtney: [laughs] That’s the questionable word here.
Royce: [laughing] Are the people at the restaurant - Do they tend to look appreciative or annoyed?
Courtney: There is no way any member of the waitstaff would be like, “Aw, man, thanks so much. Like, you’re so helpful. Favorite customer of the day.” Absolutely not. First of all, this is probably wildly frowned upon for, like, company policy, restaurant rules, for, like, insurance reasons. Like, if he drops the plate and hurts himself, like, you’re not doing something you’re supposed to be doing. Like, that could actually be a safety concern. But also just regardless of whether or not it’s appropriate etiquette, I don’t think anyone getting that impatient at a restaurant is ever going to be a neutral sign.
Courtney: Like, that — [laughs]
Royce: And that is another thing to mention. Like, how you behave at restaurants. I feel like we’ve seen that on, I don’t know, maybe some Am I The Asshole videos or something, where someone going to a restaurant and, like, yelling at a waitress is an immediate “Okay, this date is over.”
Courtney: Like, that is red flag. Like, red flag. So I saw this. It’s like, “Oh, that’s my boyfriend’s beige flag.” It’s like, [laughing] “Uh, pardon me?”
Royce: Yeah. That is a combination of not being able to handle, like, impatience and not being able to follow established boundaries.
Royce: Because the restaurant has guidelines for a reason.
Courtney: Yes. And first — also, like, I’m thinking about who the… “waitress” is the word they used here, so I’m thinking about who this waitress is. If I were in… presumably this is the US, I guess I don’t really know, but in our country, tipping culture. Like, they aren’t making minimum wage, even, at 99% of restaurants, so they’re relying on tips to live. If someone just got up, like, the food is ready, like, the chef has put the plate there, and I haven’t gotten to it yet, and the customer gets up, walks over, grabs it, and walks it to his own table, I’m immediately anxious, thinking I’m not getting a tip. And I’m also going to be hyper-alert and concerned about how I am treating this person and how he’s treating me and how to talk to him for, like, the rest of the time that you’re here. Like, everything about this screams “red flag” to me.
Courtney: So here is an article from The New York Times. So this got to be a big enough trend that all the big news sites are talking about beige flags, beige flags. And it starts with a bit of exposition, and it’s like, “Red flags are behaviors to avoid, like deceit and poor dental hygiene,” but then “Green flags are go-ahead signs (honestly, owning floss).” I already don’t like [laughing] the tone of this article.
Courtney: But they’re talking about, “Here are some examples according to TikTok users.” And they’re defining the term as, “A beige flag is an odd trait in a romantic prospect that is not quite a deal breaker, but not exactly a plus, either,” such as “dunking Oreos in water instead of milk.” I think that actually might be a beige flag based on the definition.
Royce: Yeah, that is a behavior that does not affect me but brings some questions. Like —
Courtney: [laughs] Yeah, how did you start doing that?
Royce: How did you start doing that? When did you have this idea? Is milk just too thick? Are you lactose intolerant?
Royce: Like, I would have never thought to just take an Oreo and dip it in water. You eat them dry or you dip them in milk.
Courtney: Well, for me, I never even understood the dipping in milk. Well, first of all, when I was a kid, I hated Oreos. I did not even develop a tolerance for eating Oreos until I was a teenager. And then — maybe this is my beige flag — when I was a teenager, I would eat Oreos with Cheddar Pringles.
Royce: Yeah, that’s weird.
Courtney: That was my combination: Oreos and Cheddar Pringles. [laughing] And I was like, “Alright, this is the way I can enjoy Oreos.” [laughs] But I mean, I always… like, everyone I knew would dip the Oreos in milk. Even chocolate chip cookies I’ve never understood why you dip them in milk.
Royce: I’ve done that before. I don’t think I prefer it that way.
Courtney: I have done it just by nature of other people have. But then I was like, “This is worse than just eating the cookie and drinking the milk.” [laughs]
Royce: In my case, I think it was fine, but I don’t remember ever having a cookie and thinking, “I should go pour myself a glass of milk.” Like, someone else would do that.
Courtney: Yes. [laughs] Yeah! So I’d say, “Sure, that is a beige flag.” Because I think by nature of it being not a plus and not a dealbreaker, it does kind of have to be something that doesn’t affect the other person in the relationship or other people around. Because, like, the waitress situation, like, I don’t care if you’re not directly harming me, but if you’re in public and you are hurting someone else in whatever way, whatever form that takes, like, that is also a problem.
Courtney: But yeah, just your own eating habits, even if they’re out of the ordinary, like, that makes sense to me. I think that suffices. This article says also, “Turning on caps lock to type the first letter of every sentence.”
Royce: I mean, so, I would, if I knew this person, if I was friends or more with this person, I would be compelled at least one time to say, “You know that right below the caps lock, there is a shift key.”
Royce: “And you wouldn’t have to tap it twice.” But…
Courtney: Yeah. You’d also have to watch someone, like, very carefully in very specific situations to even know that they were doing that.
Royce: Yeah, but it’d be like, “Wait a minute. Are you hitting caps lock?”
Royce: “Why are you doing that?”
Courtney: Yeah! And I don’t know if there’s a situation — Like, theoretically, the way you’re typing, based on the keyboard and someone’s particular, like, fingers, hands, wrists, I could see a theoretical situation where maybe it is just genuinely more comfortable to move your pinky to the side than it is, like, down and to the side, so —
Royce: Yeah, depending on how you hold your hands.
Courtney: So, like, if that’s a factor in it, that makes perfect sense to me. But otherwise, like, yeah, did you not know that shift did that? Or did you at least not know that when you first learned to type, and it became such an ingrained habit that you didn’t stop? Like, what…
Royce: I can’t think of any right now, but I have certainly come across situations where people learned how to do one thing on a computer and just never learned that there were five other options to do the same thing.
Courtney: Oh, it wasn’t until I worked in an office that I knew about, like, control-C and control-V. Like, I was just using the mouse and the dropdowns to do copy and paste until someone over my shoulder was like, “Uh, you know you can do that on the keyboard, right?” And I was like, “No! Teach me!” But this… So I could say, “Sure, that’s…” It’s almost too subtle to be a beige flag, because… I guess it is. Like, it qualifies under the definition. But again, like, how are you going to know?
Royce: I think that one counts.
Courtney: It counts. This third example, though, I don’t think I like it as a beige flag. It is correct that it’s neither a dealbreaker nor a plus, but I don’t think it’s an odd trait, and I don’t like the fact that people are considering it odd. But: “Maintaining a Lego obsession into adulthood.” I don’t like that. Because people are allowed to have passions and hobbies.
Royce: Yeah, that’s true.
Courtney: In fact, I think passions and hobbies are a green flag. I like people with interests. [laughs]
Royce: I think our current society draws too firm of a line between childhood and adulthood behaviors —
Royce: — and that a lot of people end up less happy than they could be because they see all the things they liked in childhood as something that they can’t like as an adult.
Courtney: Yes! And it’s really sad, because you also, like, especially see that with, like, preteens. Like, once you start getting to, like, 10, 11, 12, and people are kind of telling you, like, “It’s kind of time to grow up,” or you’re just feeling the societal pressures, and it’s like, you still have a lot of childhood whimsy in you — like, in your heart and in your brain — at that time, but you kind of force yourself to start hiding them or making yourself stop, and that’s sad!
Royce: Yeah. That is reflected, I think, pretty firmly in the way that older generations tend to look at things like cartoons or games.
Courtney: Mhm. Yeah. So, I honestly think, like, a Lego obsession as an adult is really cool. I think that’s positive. I never played with Legos. Even, really, as a kid, I didn’t, because it just wasn’t my favorite way to play. And I don’t think… Well, first of all, no one ever got me, like, a set that was supposed to be like, “Here’s a model and instructions on how to make this model.” I might have liked that a little better, because I did like things like puzzles. But the only Legos I had were like, “Here’s a box of garage sale Legos that are just bricks and pieces,” so I could just stack the bricks and put them together, but I wasn’t making anything in particular, and that didn’t do much for me. So if I were to meet an adult that has, like, really intricate models, who has lots of different things, and, like, spends a lot of time really enjoying doing this, I think that’s cool!
Royce: And occasionally you do see exceptions that break through the social criticism, where you’ll see, like, some kind of large-scale, intricate work that is big enough and complicated enough for the world to see it as art, even though it’s made of Legos.
Royce: And that is appreciated, but somehow the concept of an adult playing with what is generally marketed as a children’s toy is not.
Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely agree. Ooh, I like this definition: “Benign, but baffling.” [laughs] That’s a good way to think of it. I still think the color choice is weird. Like, the phrase is still giving me a bit of pause.
Courtney: “As one TikTok user put it, a beige flag makes a potential partner or a partner pause and say ‘Huh?’ for a few seconds before carrying on with the relationship.”
Courtney: So this is one from Twitter: “My beige flag.” So some people — after people… I think this started by people saying, like, “Oh, this is my boyfriend’s red flag,” “This is my girlfriend’s red flag” — or, not red. Beige. Beige flag. Then people started saying, “Here’s what my beige flag is,” and I think that’s really interesting. But one Twitter user says, “My beige flag is that I look at a restaurant’s menu 10 business days in advance of going to eat there. No, I don’t need time to decide what I want to eat. I’ve known for a week and a half. Thank you.”
Royce: And this was the first one you read where you were like, “Yep, that’s Autism.”
Courtney: It’s definitely some kind of neurodivergence or, you know, method of circumventing future anxiety.
Royce: Yeah. I mean, to me it reads… scheduling.
Courtney: Yeah! So I wouldn’t even say that that’s a beige flag, because I feel like there’s a reason why you do that. I might not know the exact reason, but if you know that’s what you need to do to be your happiest, most efficient self, then I think that is a net positive. [laughs]
Courtney: Here’s another weird one from Twitter: “Fiancé’s beige flag is when looking up a new restaurant, he looks for the menu in the reviews instead of on the website, like the review picks people take. If no one has posted any, he goes, ‘Babe, they don’t have their menu online.’” [laughs]
Royce: Okay, I feel like there’s going to be a certain percentage of these that are just, like, computer literacy.
Courtney: Oh, sure. [laughs]
Royce: Because, I mean, that’s kind of what the caps lock is. Like, it could be some kind of personal preference for a variety of reasons, but it could also be — and in my opinion, most likely is — “I just learned to do it this way.”
Courtney: Yes. [laughs] So here’s another one. This was one of the ones I saw very shortly after first seeing that first one and then trying to search various social media sites for more examples. “My husband’s beige flag is that he is obsessed with learning new public transit systems on vacation. In a new city and ready to order an Uber to dinner from the hotel? Absolutely not. We’re taking the Piccadilly Line three steps to the Circle Line with a four minute walk. I now just follow his ‘Turn left when you leave the train’ directions like a public transit passenger princess.” That’s, to me, somewhere between green flag and Autism. [laughs] Maybe an Autistic green flag.
Royce: Why do you consider that green flag?
Courtney: It’s more efficient and it actually takes work off of the other person, theoretically. Like, we’re traveling and this is a job that you are just handling.
Royce: Okay, I see.
Courtney: You are figuring out how we get from point A to point B in the most, like, environmentally friendly way, in the most… you know, like —
Royce: It’s more cost effective, too.
Royce: I can see that.
Courtney: So I don’t… Yeah. I think that’s a positive overall.
Royce: Yeah. Just following along is fine. I saw it as a trait that, again, like the other one you mentioned, seems like a need to have the schedule completely figured out and memorized. Maybe there’s more to it, too. They use the word “obsessed.” I didn’t know if maybe there’s some enjoyment in figuring this out. That could be, too.
Courtney: Yeah. “Obsessed” was in all caps, too. So it could also be like a puzzle, too. Like, if I’m the one who memorizes everything, then I can figure out the most efficient point, rather than, like, relying on Google Maps or something.
Courtney: Because you can use Google Maps to get public transit information, too.
Royce: Yeah. I find that oftentimes, the need to schedule something comes from a place of anxiety, but a similar thing could come from a desire to understand something or, like you said, to try to optimize something.
Royce: The reason why I was just curious about “green flag” is because sometimes jumping in an Uber would be easier than taking multiple trains or something like that.
Courtney: Yeah, which, in my perspective, I don’t have nearly as much physical capacity to always take public transit. Because I have at various points — I mean, for work, I have traveled to places with, like, subway systems — like, I’ve been to New York, I’ve been in London — and sometimes, that requires going up and down stairs. Not all the stops have elevators. Especially if I’m right off of a plane and I have a really heavy bag — like, I did get stuck at the bottom of a subway once, until a nice stranger came to help me carry my suitcase up the stairs. So sometimes it’s not accessible. Sometimes there is, like, a five-minute walk between one to another, and sometimes when I’m traveling, I just can’t make that five-minute walk. So oftentimes, taking a cab, Uber, Lyft, something like that is just the most accessible option for me, because it doesn’t kill my body. They’ll come right to where I’m standing on the sidewalk, usually.
Courtney: But if this is a relationship where both parties are able-bodied and perfectly capable of doing that and, you know, have the time and physical energy to spare, like, yeah, it is environmentally friendly, it is more cost-effective, I think it’s a pretty good deal. It would be less of a good deal if the other party was disabled and it was physically difficult to do all these things, and they still insisted. But given the, like, “Oh, I’m just a public transit passenger princess. I just follow all his directions and sit back and do nothing,” like, she seems perfectly content with it, if not happy with it.
Courtney: This one ought to sound familiar to you.
Courtney: “My boyfriend’s beige flag is that he’s so unbothered, he never asks for details. His best friend broke up with his girlfriend. Why? He didn’t ask. His sister got a new job. Where? He doesn’t know.” [laughs]
Royce: Yeah. I don’t particularly need to know those details, and if they wanted to share, they could have.
Courtney: This is also on a quote tweet where someone said, “This is Autism. The beige flag is Autism.” [laughs] If it is, in fact, Autism, it’s a specific brand of Autism, the type that you have that I do not. Because I want the details. And sometimes I’ll be like, “Oh my gosh, you heard this from that person? Like, tell me more!” And you’re like, “I don’t know.” [laughs]
Royce: Yeah, I told you what I know already.
Courtney: [laughs] So here’s one: “My girlfriend’s beige flag is that she gets really hyper and giggly seven minutes before bedtime and ends up keeping us both up for another hour while she goofs off and does a billion impressions and voices before calming down again.” I think that’s adorable, [laughs] honestly. If there’s actually a concern about getting enough sleep or needing to wake up the next day or go to work, I could see how that could potentially be annoying. But if this is something you know happens every night, just go bed a little early and have your goof-off time. I think it’s cute.
Royce: Haven’t we heard from friends of ours that sudden bursts of energy right before bedtime is a symptom of ADHD?
Courtney: Hey. [laughs] I definitely get that, too. Like, there are some times where I can be just drop-dead exhausted during the day, but as soon as it’s, like, actually an appropriate bedtime, I’m like, “Oh, there’s the energy I’ve been craving all day!”
Royce: And I’m like, “We agreed we were going to bed.”
Royce: “We had the last four hours to do energetic silly things.”
Courtney: “No, time to be silly now!”
Royce: My… I mean, this depends on the relationship, like you said. If they’re happy and fine with that, that is fine. For me, it’s like, if you’re tired enough to not do things very high-energy in the evening, and then you decide to go to bed so you can wake up earlier and do things, but that right-before-bed time becomes, like, a couple more hours of nonsense, then it’s like, half my day was not spent doing things that I want to do.
Courtney: So what color flag do you think that is? Is that a beige flag or no?
Royce: I don’t know!
Royce: I don’t think it’s enough to be a red flag. I think it’s a conversation to be had if it’s a problem.
Courtney: I think it’s a green flag that requires accommodation to become a green flag. Like, if you can work around it in a way that is satisfactory —
Royce: Oh —
Courtney: — I think it’s cute.
Royce: You’re saying, “It’s fun, as long as it is not a problem.”
Royce: I’d agree with that.
Courtney: Yeah! I don’t know what color that is, though.
Royce: I don’t think we can color-code all of the human behaviors. At least not in colors I can see.
Courtney: I think that — [laughs]. That’s… I think that’s my inherent issue with the entire concept of beige flags, because I just don’t think it works. At least, like, red and green — we have pre-established in other areas of society: red means stop, green means go. Traffic lights, you know, that’s what we know. I think anything outside of that is just, like, mmm, it’s a little too much. Do we need to color-code behaviors?
Royce: Even red and green for stop and go is not universal. There are other countries that invert those colors or use different ones entirely.
Courtney: Right. Probably wasn’t the best combination anyway, since, like, red-green colorblindness is, like, the most common kind.
Courtney: So of course, in these, like, public social media posts, when they’re like, “This is my beige flag” or “This is my partner’s beige flag,” so many people in the comments will go and try to, like, debate whether or not it is a red flag. And there are some that are pretty unanimous, like, yeah, quote, “Helping” the server carry the plates due to impatience, pretty universally, everyone’s like, “No, that is a red flag. That is a red flag, sweetie.”
Courtney: But some people also would just deem something a red flag because it gave them, like, a very personal ick, which I don’t even know if I like considering that to be a red flag either. Like, it might bother you in particular, but it is not an unhealthy behavior, it’s not a potentially abusive behavior, and that’s how I think of red flags.
Courtney: But one person here is saying, for example, that her boyfriend’s beige flag is “Eating live ants he finds crawling around his house.” And someone else is like, “That is a red flag to me.” Like, “I would end the relationship.” And it’s like, yeah, you might end the relationship, but does that actually… I don’t even think if you personally dislike something like that, that you can blanketly label it a red flag, either.
Royce: I think we’re talking about these in two different contexts. I think flags can be very personal, because if you’re talking about dating and getting all your red flags out of the way, if you are someone who does not want kids, someone who is adamant about having children is a red flag for you.
Courtney: Mmm, I suppose. I guess I was just picturing it like, people can still have their personal preferences and their personal boundaries, but I’ve always, in the past, thought of red flags as, like, this is a sign of something deeply unhealthy.
Royce: I see.
Courtney: Like, this is red flag, like, being rude to the waitstaff. Like, mmm, that person might not be rude to you — yet — but that is a red flag, that they have some kind of, you know, toxic trait in them that you might want to examine.
Royce: Yeah, I think I deemed it more as anything that could bring about the failure of the relationship, which…
Courtney: Well, let’s Google “red flag.” Let’s get out our pocket dictionary here.
Royce: Because a fundamental disagreement about where the relationship is supposed to end up would cause that.
Courtney: So by Merriam-Webster’s standard, a red flag is “A warning signal or sign or something that indicates or draws attention to a problem, danger or irregularity.” So, I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure people use it either way. I need, like, a New York Times article — when they’re like, “What is a beige flag?” I need someone to explain to me what they consider a red flag is.
Courtney: Let’s see. Number one result when you type in “red flag meaning in relationship” says, “Red flags are warning signs that indicate unhealthy or manipulative behavior.” So that was the sense that I was considering it to be in.
Royce: Okay, that makes sense.
Courtney: Like, not always recognizable at first, but could be a sign. Like, if someone is treating you perfectly well at the beginning of a relationship but you see them treating other people poorly, like, that is a sign that some people might miss because they’re like, “Oh, well, he’s nice to me.” But, yeah, something unhealthy and fundamentally, like, toxic, was how I was seeing it. And like, yeah, eating live ants might be an icky thing to you, but I don’t think that’s indicative of any kind of harm. So, I’m sure that is just a difference of how we’re using the phrase.
Courtney: But yeah, I mean, even the definition of “beige flag” is something that this article cites is in flux. Because last year, people discussing beige flags on TikTok were using the phrase “beige flag” to say that “These are things that come across as boring on a dating app profile. For example, alluding in any way to The Office, if you’re looking for the Pam to your Jim,” [laughs] which is kind of funny. But that’s what I would have expected it to be more like. Like, something that’s just, like, indicative that this person is boring or not particularly deep, maybe. So apparently it has been used that way in the past.
Courtney: Oh, my goodness! [laughs] Okay, here’s one. [laughs] “My husband’s beige flag is when he acts like he’s going to give me a kiss, but he’s really hiding a whole strawberry in his mouth and then proceeds to push the strawberry into my mouth.” [laughs]
Courtney: Beige flag?
Royce: I don’t know what else to call it.
Courtney: [laughs] I feel like that is one of those things where, in a particular relationship, it’s like, “God damn it, I hate when you do that!” And you get, like, a little bit upset, but not very upset, and it just happens sometimes. I feel like it’s a lot more common to just, like, lick or bite your partner in a not particularly pleasant way randomly, or, like — ooh, if someone yawns and you, like, stick your finger in their mouth. Like, that’s the kind of energy this one is giving me.
Royce: That’s what it feels like, yeah.
Courtney: Ooh. Lamont White, a dating coach — I know they’re out there, but still very odd profession to me — says, “Guess what? You have beige flags too.” Saying, “Anybody who says they don’t have beige flags is lying.” I think that’s probably a fair assumption. I think humans are just very diverse and pretty darn weird. I think everyone does have weird quirks.
Royce: Yeah, and weird is a matter of perspective so you just wouldn’t notice what is weird about your own behaviors until someone else calls it such.
Courtney: Mhm. Well, even, like, regional slang. Like, if you grow up somewhere and there are just particular words or phrases that are very hyper-specific to your region, you won’t think that’s weird because other people around you are using them and know what you mean when you use them. But if you move outside of your area, sometimes you’ll say something and people go, “What now?” [laughs]
Courtney: All right, so here’s a TikToker who says, “My beige flag: I won’t watch a movie unless I can check the IMDB Parents Guide first.” And I do feel like I want more details about that. Because, first of all, I don’t know how old this person is, so I don’t know if this is just something they have basically always done, or if they existed and watched movies in a time long before IMDB and just found it really handy once they were able to do that, or if this is another kind of anxiety management of some kind.
Royce: What is the IMDB Parents Guide? Does that just describe, like, what sorts of things are in this movie? Like, kind of like a content warning?
Courtney: Yeah, I think so. That’s a pretty apt way to describe it. But yeah, they’ll have tags like “sex and nudity,” “violence and gore,” “profanity.” So I don’t even think that’s particularly weird. I feel like there’s a reason why you do that.
Royce: Yeah, I don’t think it’s particularly odd. To the notion of it being habit, if you grew up and watched cable television, every episode of a show would have the TV rating and the reason for the rating.
Courtney: Mhm. That’s true. But the same user also said that her fiance’s beige flag is that “He’s terrified of astronauts,” but then describes being terrified of astronauts as “a little cute quirk,” and I don’t know if I like calling any fears “little cute quirks.”
Royce: Yeah, the way that’s being described, that sounds like a phobia.
Royce: Which I don’t think can constitute a — like, you wouldn’t be like, “Oh, my spouse’s beige flag is that every time they see a tiny spider on the wall, they scream.”
Courtney: Right. [laughs] Yeah. So I don’t know how I feel about that one in this categorization. And this one… [sighs] I’ll just read it and I’ll hear what you have to say first. But, again, I question. “My beige flag in that I literally cannot accept that cash is money. Cash is a coupon. Bought my coffee with cash? It was free. Got my nails done and paid in cash? Also free. Cannot see the dollar amount leave my bank account, then no money was spent.”
Royce: I’m having trouble understanding this one.
Courtney: I feel like that is potentially a red flag. Not necessarily in the “this is a toxic person” situation, but in a, like, “this could be a really unhealthy relationship dynamic,” if there’s ever any sort of mutual financial interest in the relationship.
Royce: Oh, yeah, definitely, particularly if it becomes, like, a compulsive spending thing, where they are intentionally trying to funnel things into cash because they don’t have the same anxieties about spending or the same reservations about spending cash compared to using a card or something like that. That could be very damaging behavior, either to themselves or, you know, the shared financial situation. I just — the way that that was described as, “I literally can’t see cash as money” —
Courtney: That’s what gets me.
Royce: Like, what?
Courtney: That’s what gets me. Well, the thing is, because there is technically a very financially healthy way to use cash this way. Like, if you have a savings account that whatever percentage you’re able to save goes right into, and then you have, like, your checking account that has enough for bills, payments, like, necessities, but you’re someone who, like, for the sake of your budget, you’re like, “I’m going to withdraw my amount of, like, fun money, my flexible spending money, in cash, and that’s how I’m going to manage it. Like, I will just use cash for my, you know, more frivolous purchases so that my bank accounts are completely always in line.” Because some people, like, do have issues with budgeting, and that could be a way to solve the budgeting issue. But the way it’s presented being like “I cannot accept that cash is money,” that makes me feel like that’s probably not what’s going on here. [laughs]
Royce: So yeah, our thought on this one is: don’t know if that’s a beige flag. Also, need more information to determine if this is potentially problematic behavior.
Courtney: Yes. [laughs] This one’s fairly relatable to me: “My beige flag is that I haven’t watched most of the classics. Titanic: Nope. Star Wars: no idea. What is it about? Marvel: too lazy to watch that. The Office, Friends, The Vampire Diaries, Twilight, Grey’s Anatomy: no, no, no, and nope. And my friends always bully me for it because I never know what they’re talking about.”
Courtney: So, I have seen a couple of those things. Like, I saw Titanic a lot as a kid, but it was also one of the only movies I saw a lot, because I just never was a big movie person. But yeah, things like Star Wars. If you tell people you’ve never seen Star Wars, they will hound you about it. But I don’t know if I, like… It’s not really a personality trait, it’s just a thing you haven’t done.
Royce: Yeah, it’s a difference in experience. Which, by the way, trying to pressure someone into the collective knowledge base that is fandoms. Like, that is a weird behavior that is so common.
Courtney: It is a weird behavior and does have very strong overlaps with, like, if you tell someone you don’t like coffee, or you tell someone that you don’t drink.
Royce: I didn’t really drink coffee until my… I think I was approaching, like, mid-20s. I never had someone go, “You don’t drink coffee? Here, let me make you a cup. Drink it.” But if you would be like, “I’ve never seen Firefly,” they’d be like, “What?!”
Courtney: Yeah. [laughs]
Royce: “Go watch it right now. I will let you borrow it.”
Courtney: Well, there are some people that will do that, like, “Oh, if you don’t like coffee, you just haven’t had the right kind of coffee.” Or, “If you don’t like tea, you haven’t had the right kind of tea.” And, like, people do do that. Or if it’s something that people generally accept as universally liked. Like, try telling someone you don’t like ice cream. They’ll be like, “What?!” But yeah, “You haven’t seen Firefly? Like, sit down and watch it right now.” No, it’s fine. [laughs] We really don’t need to do that.
Courtney: But yeah, for me, like, I haven’t watched Star Wars or Star Trek, and that is such an issue, because there have been times where I’ve been like, “Oh, I’ve never seen Star Wars,” and people will be like, “Oh, so you’re more of a Star Trek person.” Uhh, [laughs] I hate to break it to you, but no? [laughs]
Courtney: Here’s another tech one for you. “My boyfriend’s beige flag is that he sets timers instead of alarms. It’s midnight and he needs to wake up at 6:00? He’ll set a six-hour timer.”
Royce: Is one of your beige flags that instead of changing the time on alarms, you have, like, a hundred different alarms —
Royce: — that are all at different hours and minutes, and they’re all inactive, and so you scroll through all of the alarms to find, like, the 8:30 one to turn it on?
Courtney: [laugh] Yeah, I think that qualifies as a beige flag by these standards. Well, I was going to ask if we wanted to give beige flags for each other, but I’m thinking of anything that could potentially qualify as a beige flag for you, and I’m like, “That’s just Autism.” Like, your beige flag: you walk on your toes if you aren’t wearing shoes. Like, I don’t know. And I don’t know how I feel about that. I probably have a lot of beige flags. [laughs] Just call me out on my alarms.
Royce: Well, it was very topical.
Royce: The stopwatch timer sort of noise is a lot harsher than the sleeping alarm noise on my phone, too, so that would definitely wake me up.
Courtney: See, and some of these, I feel like are actually just fairly young people trying to humblebrag about how good their relationship is. Because this one here: “My boyfriend’s beige flag is whenever we go out on a date, he’ll call me immediately after dropping me off and say, ‘You’re never going to believe it,’ and then he’ll proceed to tell me about this girl he went out with and tell me every little detail about what we did. I have fallen for it every single time. On the bright side, he always says the girl is really pretty.” Like, that’s kind of just a… I think a lot of people would probably say that that’s a pretty romantic thing to do. Like, it’s kind of silly, it’s kind of flirty. I don’t feel like the person posting this was probably posting it to be like, “Yes, this is a neutral thing that is neither good or bad.”
Courtney: They’re probably like, “I’m just going to say this is neutral, but really I just want you all to know how cute my boyfriend is.” [laughs] But yeah, overall — and it’s interesting, too, because weird and quirky things, I tend to like. So in any beige flags I’m thinking of that are either potentially a beige flag for me or a beige flag for you, it’s like, either it’s actually just a neurodivergent trait, in which case I don’t think I’m particularly jazzed about using this framing or phrase about anyway. But it’s also like, yeah, this might be a weird and quirky thing to someone else if I was like, “Oh, we do this or my spouse does this.” But what’s weird and quirky to someone else is actually, like, a net positive to me because I like weird and quirky.
Courtney: So, I don’t know. Because I’m thinking about mine, too. Like, I definitely have some, like, OCD quirks where I don’t think I’d really want to put under the umbrella of beige flag either. But, I don’t know, maybe one of my beige flags is: I always remember something that I was going to say to you [laughing] as you’re leaving the room. Unless that’s a red flag. I don’t mean to.
Royce: I assume it’s more of a neurodivergent trait that hasn’t been correlated to the masses.
Courtney: Oh yeah?
Royce: Have we explained that before?
Courtney: I don’t know, have we?
Royce: I think we have, but I don’t know. So…
Royce: I will be in a room with Courtney trying to figure things out for the day or for the immediate future, and Courtney will have no thoughts.
Royce: And then I will go, “Okay, I’m gonna go get back to doing other things.” And I will be either in the doorframe or two steps outside the door, and Courtney will remember something.
Courtney: “Oh wait!” [laughs] Every single time.
Royce: Other variations of this are realizing something the moment I sit down.
Royce: I’m trying to think of other concrete examples, but it’s just generally like… I don’t know if this happens consistently enough, but it would correlate to, like, have just taken shoes off, just gotten comfortable in some way, and it’s like, “Oh yeah, this thing.”
Courtney: Which, after we realized this, it was really funny, because then I started noticing that basically every time I was over at my mom’s house and I left, I would get a text right down the road that was like, “Oh wait, forgot to tell you,” and it’s like, I was just with you for six hours. [laughs]
Courtney: And then I was like, “Oh no, it’s hereditary!” [laughs]
Royce: Also, like, those are the things that you actually got out the door for.
Royce: There’s also, like, I’m trying to leave, “Oh yeah, and another thing, and another thing.”
Courtney: I’m quicker on the uptake! Like, “Wait, don’t get too far away.”
Royce: No, your mom does that too. Like, you’re trying to leave and it’s like, “Oh, here’s another thing.”
Courtney: [laughs] “And another thing!” So yeah, if anyone’s aware of that being a neurodivergent trait, please let me know. Maybe that falls more under ADHD. The more we explore neurodivergence, the more I’m convinced that I have, like, the trifecta of Autism, ADHD, and OCD.
Royce: I wonder… I mean, there are concepts like body doubling, where just having a person — having a body near you has an effect on, like, how you’re processing things.
Royce: And I wonder if it’s, like, tangentially related to that. Like, the act of someone leaving is triggering some kind of thought process.
Courtney: I don’t know. It could be.
Royce: Who knows? It is consistent.
Courtney: This must be studied! And the fact that we did start realizing that my mom does it too, it’s like, “Oh wow, does that just run in the family?” [laughs]
Courtney: So, of course, as with any new, trending word or phrase that’s getting a lot of buzz, inevitably, someone’s going to take that phrase and use it for, like, an even worse reason. Because then, we got an article from Fast Company: “3 Employee ‘Beige Flags’ that Should Give You Pause.” Why do — why do we have to make this about business? Why do… [sighs] Why is capitalism?
[Windows notification chime]
Courtney: Hello, my beige flag is that I never plug in my laptop until it dies. [laughs]
Royce: Is another beige flag that you…
Royce: [sighs] No, I think this is too common a behavior. It’s too studied upon. It’s the computer prompt equivalent of banner blindness, where you just do not see major aspects of user interface. Same thing — sometimes with games, too. Like —
Courtney: Very un-tech savvy.
Royce: You will just ignore the instruction that is on screen. I was going to say earlier that if it wasn’t so common, the fact that you normally have, like, 50 tabs open would be a beige flag.
Royce: But it’s so… So many people do that.
Courtney: [laughs] Also possibly associated with neurodivergent traits, just saying. Alright, so you’re calling me out on all of my beige flags. What are your beige flags, Royce?
Royce: I don’t know if I can deduce them for myself. And, like you said, I think a lot of them are probably just neurodivergent behaviors.
Courtney: Yeah. Yeah, and I guess some of them we touched on. Like, you also just don’t ask for details of things.
Courtney: So this article about employee beige flags starts with a little bit of exposition, like “Setting timers instead of alarms, preferring Pepsi over Coke, and being afraid of astronauts.” I don’t know where the Pepsi over Coke one is, because that’s just solidly personal preference.
Royce: Yeah, that’s a weird one. I think this author’s beige flag is an obsession over, like, soda elitism.
Courtney: Is that beige, though?
Royce: It’s not.
Courtney: Is that beige, though? [laughs]
Royce: It’s kind of like — The other article you pointed out was the person who wrote it clearly had a thing about flossing.
Courtney: Yeah. And like, sure, taking care of yourself and hygiene is good, but people can also get a little too elitist about hygiene. And like, not necessarily tooth-related, but like, some people will consider things hygiene that really aren’t.
Courtney: I’ve seen things about, like, shaving in this list, too, about beige flags — like, whether you do or do not shave. And it’s like, shaving is not hygiene and should be considered personal preference, because that’s what it is.
Courtney: But yeah, it says, like, oh, “They’re not considered assets, but not dealbreakers, either. They just make you pause.” However, “Max Wessel, the chief learning officer at the enterprise application software provider SAP, says employees can display beige flags, too, and they often indicate that they’ve become disengaged.”
Courtney: And I don’t even know. We’ll talk about what the indicators are of an employee beige flag, but this is being described as, “There is a point in time in a relationship where somebody begins to disengage.” And they’re talking about in the context of even an employee/employer relationship, there are times when someone can become disengaged.
Royce: So they’re trying to take the idea of beige flags and just rewrite quiet quitting?
Courtney: Yeah, that’s kind of what it seems like off the bat. Because it says, “These signs are not outright negative, but they’re things you have to pay pretty close attention to to understand the beginning of the end.”
Royce: If the point is that it’s a sign of a problem or a decline, then —
Courtney: It’s not a beige flag.
Royce: — that is negative, so that would be a red flag. Maybe a small red flag.
Courtney: Yeah. I don’t even know if I’d use “red flag” for it, but in a situation where it’s like an employee/employer, it’s like, does the employer need to take a long hard look at themselves and how much you’re paying people and what you’re expecting and workload? I don’t know. But number one: “They do the minimum.” And that is giving me very, very quiet quitting vibes. Which, I know when “quiet quitting” became a phrase that everyone was using, again, a lot of people were saying “quiet quitting” on social media and then all these news sites started coming out with “What is quiet quitting, and are your employees doing it?”
Royce: Generally, quiet quitting was just people doing the jobs they were paid for and not, like, giving the company free labor.
Courtney: Yeah! And the free labor is the issue too. Because even in this paragraph, it says, “Job descriptions usually include the basic expectations an employer has of an employee. However, an employee who is engaged in their job often goes above and beyond those line items.”
Royce: And then they burn out.
Courtney: And then they burn out!
Royce: Because that’s unhealthy.
Courtney: “When someone who was always a go-getter starts to pull back, it could be a beige flag.” And here’s the thing. I was what you could have called a “go-getter” in a lot of previous jobs, but the reason why I was doing that was because I felt like I had to do that to get ahead, because I was in situations where, like, all of the bosses were middle-aged white men. I felt like there were situations I had to work so much harder to get further ahead. I was paid less than anyone else in the office and doing better work, like, metrically, having much higher stats than anyone else that were measurable for the job.
Courtney: And so, like, I felt like I had to do that. And then, when I realized that I wasn’t going to be getting the promotions I wanted, I wasn’t going to be getting the pay increases, then it was like — it gets to a point where it’s like, “Well, shit. Why am I doing all this extra work? Why am I killing myself when someone over there doing the bare minimum is technically getting paid more than me? Why would I do my manager’s job when I am not going to get a promotion?” Like, come on now. This is another situation where it’s like, is this really the employee’s fault? And I don’t know why we’re applying “beige flag” to it.
Courtney: Number two: “They withdraw from others.”
Royce: Depending on the office space, sometimes, corporations will have an air of, like, mandatory fun.
Courtney: Mmm. Mhm.
Royce: Like, “You all have to spend your time doing things that you don’t want to do because —”
Courtney: “Company culture.”
Royce: — “it improves company culture.” And it’s just not for everyone. Some of those people would rather be actually doing the things that they were tasked with doing, or would rather be home.
Courtney: Yeah. Well, they’re even talking about the pandemic here. They’re saying that “When work moved to remote settings, it became transactional.” It’s like —
Royce: It’s always been transactional. That’s why you —
Courtney: [laughs] Yes.
Royce: That’s why you’re getting paid for your labor.
Courtney: Yes. [laughs] I think more people started to realize that they were being forced to do more than was necessary in those in-person settings and a lot of people realized that they liked when they didn’t have to do those things anymore. And there’s an author here, author of Lifting People Up: the Power of Recognition, who calls this “egg shelling.” So we’re also getting phrase on top of phrase here. Like, we’re using “beige flag” in the same way people have been using “quiet quitting,” but this particular beige flag that is actually just quiet quitting is called “egg shelling.” [laughs] Why do we need so many phrases?
Royce: I mean, because we’re getting corporate now.
Courtney: Oh no.
Royce: We need several layers of indirection. We need more three-letter acronyms.
Courtney: I hate three-letter acronyms.
Royce: But what are you gonna do without your TLAs?
Courtney: Noooo! Look, I was… Pre-pandemic, I was in so many business networking groups. I was in so many entrepreneur groups. And some of the people there I genuinely did really like. Some of those folks did actually become friends. But there were so many just very… like, people that were too business. You are just too business. [laughs] And it can just be insufferable to talk to a person like that, especially if you don’t work together, they aren’t your boss, you don’t have to be subject to this, but you’re going to a business networking event as an entrepreneur and these people are constantly talking about the hustle and the grind and “here’s an acronym you need to know,” and… [groans]
Courtney: But anyway, what is egg shelling, you may ask? “Employees manifest egg shelling in a variety of ways. They may increase sick days, come in late or leave early for in-person non-remote days, turn coworkers down for lunch or a drink after work, or keep quiet in meetings.” These are all examples of egg shelling, which, again, not fundamentally a bad thing. Like, increased sick days. Are they actually just sick more often? That can happen. Was there a period of time when they forced themselves to come into work sick and now they realize, due to pandemic things, how unhealthy that is, not only for themselves, but everyone else around them? And like, yeah, turning down coworkers for lunch or a drink after work. Maybe they just don’t like you. [laughs]
Royce: Yeah, I mean, or…
Courtney: Or they want to get home to their families or their hobbies or…
Royce: Or they're budgeting.
Courtney: Or they're budgeting.
Royce: Like, I’ve been in offices where people go out to lunch like every day.
Courtney: Yeah. Or they’re exhausted and they just want to go home and, like, take a bath and read a book.
Courtney: Number three: “They seem different. ‘For example, an assertive or energetic coworker becomes more reserved and quiet,’ says the vice president of HR for TechSmith. ‘This is usually in conjunction with a lack of interest in career advancement opportunities with your company.’” Which is really fascinating, because — I only know this because I’m married to you, but this is a software company. It’s not common for people in software companies to stay with the company for more than a couple of years, usually.
Royce: Yeah. It definitely depends on the company and where they’re at in the country. But yeah, I remember a conversation with my… I think it was my grandmother, a little bit after college, after I had gotten a job, where people were asking me about the new job and were like, “Is there plenty of room for advancement?” And I had to be like, “This industry doesn’t work like that.”
Courtney: Because, yeah, like, a lot of software engineers just want to continue being a software engineer and don’t necessarily want to become a middle manager or an executive.
Royce: Yeah. I mean, some programmers do go up into doing management or getting into, like, a C-level position. But I’ve known people who have done that and are like, “Sometimes I just wish I could program again. I don’t want to do people management.”
Courtney: Yeah! Well, it’s a different skill set. And so some people who might be a really talented engineer might not be a really talented manager either, let alone personal interest. But in situations like this, companies are also just so averse to giving generous raises —
Courtney: — that in a lot of industries, if you aren’t looking for a job at another company where they’re going to give you a pay bump from what you got before, you might actually be losing out on salary dollars, because you’ll be making less and less every single year, with meager raises, than if you jumped to a new position elsewhere.
Royce: I should also mention that I would say more so than most industries, software companies tend to be flatter.
Courtney: Mhm. And again, a situation like this, it does sound so familiar to my experience even at non-software companies, where, like, yeah, I was very energetic and assertive, I had new ideas, I was going above and beyond and doing things that were outside of my job description. And then it got to a point where it’s like, I’m not actually going to get meaningfully rewarded for any of this. Like, everyone’s dangling it like a carrot over my face, like, “Keep doing what you’re doing! You’re gonna be successful someday!” Once you realize that that’s all nonsense, like, of course you’re going to pull back! Because what’s the point? And again, that’s the company’s problem, not “the employee has a problem to watch.”
Courtney: So then it ends with a section saying, “What to do when you spot a beige flag.” And this is for, like, bosses, managers… Very weird conversation to be having overall, I think. But they acknowledge that the hard thing is training people how to have the conversation since it’s something that’s so ambiguous. Because, quote, “The employee might say, ‘I haven’t done anything wrong. Why am I having a conversation about this?’” Which I think is probably the appropriate answer. Like, if a boss just came to me and was like, “I noticed that you aren’t going above and beyond anymore. You aren’t doing things that are outside of your job description anymore. You aren’t working as much overtime. What’s going on with that?” I’d be like, “Um, how dare you?”
Courtney: So instead of waiting for a beige flag to pop up to have this conversation, managers should hold routine check-ins. So this isn’t so much as what to do if you spot a beige flag — quote, “beige flag.” I still think that’s wildly the wrong phrase. Just do things to try to prevent that by holding regular check-ins.
Courtney: And yeah, it just seems so… so ignorantly corporate. Because it says, oh, “Be careful to not alienate them. You should address this with a genuine desire to help the person feel more like they belong, by focusing on positives. And if the employee is not responsive, then at some point you have to ask them about their intentions as to this job. Do they see a future with the organization? Do they have any performance goals? Where do they want to be in X years?” That’s awful. Like, that, to me, is like, “Are you going to fire me?” Like, “What are your intentions with this job?” That’s not a pleasant question to be asked.
Courtney: But they say, “The goal is to let the employee know how much you appreciate them and their contributions,” which, I had so many conversations like that when I had corporate jobs. So many people told me how much they appreciate me. But you know what? That’s not money. That’s not advancement. That’s not promotion. That’s not actually utilizing my skills to the best of their abilities. That’s getting free labor out of me. [laughs]
Courtney: So yeah, I would like to think that by the corporatizing of the beige flags and the improper… See, I don’t think it was ever a proper use of “beige flag.” I don’t think the definition super works in either of these contexts, but it definitely doesn’t work in the employee context. Like, super does not work. And I would also say that most corporate folks that I know would actually see these things as red flags. Like, they probably wouldn’t even call them beige flags because they’re like, “Oh no, an employee isn’t going above and beyond of their own volition? That’s bad.” And that’s part of the problem.
Royce: Yeah, it kind of seems like someone jumped on a keyword —
Royce: — to get more clicks. But yeah, I agree that the employers would see those as red flags. That’s why quiet quitting was this big warning that was going around. But —
Royce: — the details in those articles should be red flags for employees about the companies that they work for.
Courtney: Yes! [laughs] I agree. Because in fact there even is, if we were to use the phrase “quiet quitting” instead, I just Googled it and the top article I found is called “Quiet Quitting — Keep an Eye Out for Red Flags.” So, [laughs] I don’t know. Hopefully, with the very weird, incorrect usage of this, the beige flag trend is going to definitely be on the downswing. Maybe people won’t be using it this way long into the future, since the definition has already shifted a couple of different times.
Courtney: But I don’t know. Part of it’s just kind of fun and innocent, because there are certain parts of it where I’m just, like, genuinely curious about other people and I like weird quirks about people. Like, that’s normally a very positive thing for me. So part of me, when I see what they’re calling as genuine beige flags, I like it. I like seeing people share those little weird details about themselves or their partners.
Courtney: But so much of it is also like, “Uhh, that’s actually a very bad thing. That’s actually a very red flag.” Some of them are like, “That might be your personal preference, but this just seems to me like ick culture.” Like, just you personally don’t like this thing, and I don’t particularly like that usage of it either. So, I don’t know. It’s a mixed bag for me. But I have found how funny it is the people who will be like, “All these beige flags are just Autism.” [laughs]
Courtney: So, on that note, I think that’s about all we have to talk about beige flags for today, maybe for all of eternity. But do the things you need to do on whatever platform you’re listening to us on. Give us those follows, subscribes, likes, comments. Ooh, if you’re listening on Twitter, comment and tell us what your beige flag is! And we will talk to you all next week. Goodbye.