Friday, October 31, 2008

Blondes vs. Brunettes - the First 24 Hours

I’ve temporarily taken down my profile picture. It's a long story. In several installments. There might be a new one tomorrow.
I'm a natural [dark] blonde. For years I've had some highlights put in. At the end of 2007 my colorist retired. Replacement Colorist, ignoring my wishes, made my hair lighter and lighter. It superficially makes good business sense for the salon - the more you color hair, the more often you need to re-color it – but was not what I wanted.
The Barbie-fication of beauty standards has been irritating me for a while. It’s Paris Hilton changing her hair, eye and skin color. Young women thinking they need fake breasts, and to look like Playboy bunnies.
My nose is ‘aquiline’ but I'm happy with it. Sometimes random women ask why I haven’t had a nose job. Last time I went to a Metropolitan Museum party in New York, nobody was looking at the art, but three women offered me their diet doctors. Strangely, these women’s men didn’t seem to mind my size: two of their husbands made passes at me [I declined]. My BMI is at the lower end of the ‘normal weight’ category, but I don’t have the ‘just got out of Auschwitz’ size zero look that’s in fashion, so women suggest diet pills.
Some women seem to constantly be offering ‘helpful’ ‘advice’ to ‘improve’ my looks … I should be thinner, taller, shorter, have larger breasts, a flatter stomach, smaller nose, larger lips, browner skin* … and blonder hair. I should look more like a WASPy Barbie doll.
Luckily I don’t care what most people think. But the truth, I realized, is that we have all been subconsciously increasingly conforming to the Barbie Standards [henceforth abbreviated as 'BS'].
Natural blondes are quite rare – but it seems that half the women walking down the street in London are now blonde. Same in New York, Florence, Athens, many large cities around the world.
A few weeks ago was the Day of Atonement. I went to a new hairdresser and she a-toned-down the blonde. It was better, but I was still very much a blonde.
Yesterday several British papers covered a [not terribly scientific PR] 'study' by a hair care company which claimed that men believe Blondes make good girlfriends but brunettes are better wives.
It’s the clich├ę on which Anita Loos based two novels: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes. Not sure what happens to redheads.
On an impulse that I shall now try to pass off as a Serious Scientific Experiment in Anthropology, I went back to the new hairdresser and asked for my hair to be dyed brown. **
An hour later I walked out a brunette.
So how did men react?
Within seconds of walking out of the salon a man came up to me and tried to ‘hit’ on me. I'd walked less than three feet as a brunette and scored. This was not something I had experienced as a blonde. Admittedly it might have had more to do with my broad grin than my new hair color.
Last night I went to a political drinks party, then dinner. Men I already knew seem to find my new hair color amusing, with one slightly fascinated by the change. Strangers – men I met for the first time – treated me differently. Much less flirty, far more serious. Women are friendlier. I seem to have become more approachable, now that I’m no longer an icy Hitchcock Blonde.
Today, in a shop that normally quibbles over returns, I was immediately given a refund – without the usual questions asked. But the lady who runs the grocer on the corner, didn't recognize me.
The reason for this post is that I realized that changing hair color really can be an anthropological experiment. Some girlfriends are quite shocked by how differently people react to me as a brunette. This ‘study' has barely lasted longer than 24 hours, but I can already see a marked change in attitudes.
The real question is: Do Gentlemen Marry Brunettes? So put your marriage proposals in an email addressed to my father – “For Mr. King” in the subject bar, adding any information that you feel might strengthen your case – and we can really put the study to the test! ;-)
* - obviously the 'browner skin' bit only applies to women the color of milk [like me]; if I were naturally brown, society would ironically be telling me that paler is better.
** - lots of people confuse Archaeologist [me] and Anthropologist [not really me], though the two fields are often studied together, so please hang in there.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have been blonde all of my life. Although the older I get, the darker my hair gets. So, now I am constantly at the salon dying my roots and frankly, it's getting old and expensive. I am ready for a change and am now convinced that being a brunette may suit me. And if it doesn't, well. . . there are always hi-lights!

Anonymous said...

Oh,my goodness!!!
I just went from blonde to brunette.
I have recently made an internally spiritual change and the old me was a blonde bombshell-called sexy and the men at my work would act like they'd run into me,but I could see them look at other approving males at the contact which was actually staged.
I went into my hairdresser's armed with brunette pictures and came out a brunette. I feel so free of the stigma attached to the like you said bunny persona. You have so sized it up in your story. Thanks.
A guy came up to me at work (co-worker) and said I really needed to go back to being a blonde. I said NEVER!!!!
I love me now. I actually hated that sexy puppet I had become. No more- I am free.

Anonymous said...

It does seem that the stigma attached to blondes is that of the marilynesque persona e.g dizzy head in the sky type. And as a natural blonde it's very irritating to feel like I have to colour my hair darker to be taken remotely seriously! I was contemplating on going to the dark side to see if it made any social-differences, but then I thought why the hell should *I* have to change to suit other people? If other people are that fickle and superficial that they're preapred to stoop that low as to judge you on your hair colour - then who wants to know people like that anyway?

Anonymous said...

I've recently had the reverse experince. I'm a brunette who went blonde. It seemed very fun at first and men did seem to pay more attention to me than before (but it may have been the way I was acting with my new blonde hair, who knows?) It's been a few weeks now and its starting to get old. I do feel that people treat me differently, but not in a good way.

Anonymous said...

I am a natural blonde, but a medium dark colour. I dyed my hair from the age of 14 to a light blond.. I had fun, and felt flirtier, cute and younger however, when I got to the age of 23, I dyed my hair chocolate brown, and I definately felt the difference in social attitude. I felt sexier, and more challenging and men seemed to value my presence more. I also tried Jet black and Flame red and red's the sexiest I have every felt! I am bored of the brown now, and want to enjoy some fun and frivality, so I am attempting to lighten my hair to eventually go plantinum blonde. Lets not take life too seriously, and realise that our hair colour doesn't define us, it's purley a tool which we can use as we please, changing life attitude around us to suit our needs.

Anonymous said...

I am a very dark brunette, have been for 30 years. I really want to try "the blonde", and not just because I feel I need a change but also as a social experiment as mentioned above. My conclusion is to buy a wig. You can get some really authentic looking ones these days. If I like it... then heck, maybe i'll dive in and bleach it!
All of your stories were very interesting, I'll keep you updated on my experiences.

Anonymous said...

I was born with ultra light platinum blonde hair that changed to dishwasher blonde. I've had my hair red, and black, and medium brown. I spent the last 2 years blonde because I was keeping it with its highlights for my wedding. Well I am dying it darker again this Friday looking forward to the change. I know there is a definite difference in how people treat you when you've got blonde hair I want that independence and that feeling that I'm not a ditz back... we shall see...

Mareli said...

FANTASTIC! i love your article, I am 38, been highlighted blond all my life, and planning seriously to go brunette for the new year! ready for a new experinence! will keep you posted

Anonymous said...

I have done the same, different colors, been black, blonde, red, brown, brown with light blonde streaks....you name it i have done it. i like to change things up a bit when i get bored with how i look....and my hair is short so when i can't pull it back i get bored. especially trying to grow it out...you get annoyed. i say do what you want to do, you do feel different with different styles and colors, whatever makes you feel good i say keep it with that :-)

Anonymous said...

hello :) im a natural brunette. my whole life friends were getting blonde streaks in their dark hair and i was jealous and wanted to fit in. finally i got very thin blonde hilights. i was happy with them but knew my hair could get prettier and more flattering . Next trip to the salon i came out 65% a blonde. Wow i looked horrible and so unatural. People were telling me to die it back my natural color. I hate when your roots pop up so quickly . Finally 5 months later i took I went back to the hair salon. I went a shade darker then my natural kind of a chesnut brown. I went to " brown sugar" very dark brown . Everbody loved it . I will never go blonde again.. Plus my hair looks so more shinier and healthier. Women always end up back to their natural !

Anonymous said...

Im 18 and have naturally blonde hair. it used to be really light but gradually began getting darker. i eventually dyed it for the first time a few months ago to make it lighter but i feel so fake. im so bored with my hair at the moment. all of my friends have really long, dark, beautiful hair and im seriously thinking about going a chocolate brown colour. the only thing im worried about it what people will think of such a drastic change. it will help to boost my confidence if i love it once its done i just really hope i dont regret it.

Anonymous said...

ive been blonde all my life (highlighted) and its gradually built up to a really light blonde, i really want to go brown as i feel it looks more velvety and classy.
but im scared!!! some people say do it some say dont....what to doo....!i also model and i am affraid that if i go brown i will lose work. do you think i should just take the plunge! x

Anonymous said...

I think blond or brunette its not what define if youre beautiful, Its the way you feel in the color

Anonymous said...

I've been both blonde and brunette (natural blonde). and I must say, I noticed no difference. Sure men hit on me more as a blonde, but they took me just as seriously as a blonde. It's all based on personality. I'm a quick witted and sarcastic woman, and those traits do not disappear with hair color. I refuse to go brunette and hide my true hair color. I just love the looks on guys faces when I start talking and they realize that I'm not a dumb bimbo. Why should I have to dye my hair just to be taken more seriously? I think that's ridiculous. I'm a strong willed and opinionated woman, and whoever doesn't like me can just deal with it. I'm not going to change anything about myself just to adapt to social stigmas.

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