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 cliché 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.