The Day I Learned that Brunettes are Best

If you remember the 70s and 80s very well you’ll recall the popularity of The Blonde. Farrah Fawcett, Olivia Newton John, Christie Brinkley, Jessica/Elizabeth from Sweet Valley High, and pretty much every smiling face in Seventeen Magazine was a girl with shiny blonde hair. The brunettes in the media were represented by Joanie on Happy Days or Sabrina on Charlie’s Angels or Janet from Three’s Company; none of whom were particularly pretty or smart or spunky. (Chrissy had flaxen ponytails and short shorts but Janet had a disgusting mullet and boring dresses with pantyhose. So unfair!) All I can guess is that the brunette was supposed to be the “normal” person whose job was to make the blondes look more fantastic.   (Yes, eventually Jaclyn Smith showed up on Charlie’s Angels but by then I had a pre-teen girl crush on Cheryl Ladd.)

Then there was Barbie. I always hoped for a brunette version but Mattel decided that nobody would want to play with a brown-haired doll. I was forever trying to dye my Barbies’ hair (Brown crayola markers do not work well, FYI). Sometimes I would just get sick of those golden inches and I’d chop it all off.

One day I was at the mall waiting for my mom outside of my all-time favorite store, The Canary and The Elephant, which sold a broad assortment of gaudy 80’s plastic jewelry. (My favorite piece was a big silver bracelet with plastic ice cubes hanging from it. I was the belle of 8th grade, take my word for it.)  I had been watching all the blonde girls go by (although this was Michigan. There can’t have been that many. Heaven help me if I’d lived in California or the nation’s capital of blondness: Utah.)

When my mother showed up I wistfully told her how I wished I were blonde. She stopped dead and looked into my eyes. You’d have thought I’d just announced I wanted to pursue a life of prostitution. “You don’t ever want to be blonde.” She said slowly. “Do you have any idea how terrible they look without makeup? So washed out. There is nothing worse than a blonde first thing in the morning.”  She thought for a moment before continuing. “They look like they have no eyelashes and sometimes no eyebrows! A blonde without mascara looks horrible. They aren’t lucky enough to have well-defined eyes like us. No. Be thankful that you were born with brown hair. A striking complexion will win the day every time.”

And with that we walked out the door into the Detroit slush.

Her testimony of the superiority of brunettes stuck with me. It blossomed until I didn’t try to peroxide my hair anymore. I rolled my eyes at the yellow-haired girls on the TV screen. “I know what you really look like,” I said to them. (I was completely unaware that most blonde adults color their hair anyway.)

I love my brown hair. I mean, it’s not as great as red. That’s my dream hair. But it least I can skip the mascara sometimes.

And although I hate Bella from Twilight, I was thrilled to finally find a Barbie that has my coloring.

11 thoughts on “The Day I Learned that Brunettes are Best

  1. At age 5, I talked my grandma into buying me a blind wig from the rack at KMart ( what was she thinking? That’s where head lice lives dontcha’ know?! ) Anyway I sported this blond wig over my dark brown ( not black! Geez, kids get it right) hair and announced I wanted to be Chrissy cause Janet was a dork. I said to my dad that I needed to be blond cause their happier and boys love em’. And then I spent my teenage years paint brushing a mixture and bleach and baking soda on my dark brown tresses to lighten them. (btw that only gives you orange hair!) Ahhh the memories!
    Like you now I love my hair! But I am glad now that at age 37, I have your moms wisdom. Classic. I will think of her insight every time I see a gorgeous blond 🙂

  2. Your mom was sooooo right about blonds looking washed out without makeup. That is such a frustration for me. The only thing that makes it not so bad is a super awesome tan, but my skin is way too important to me for me to tan it. So, I continue with makeup, except for when I’m exercising, or asleep!

  3. Huh. I was just spending the entire post thinking “where the heck did she get a barbie that is brunette like us? like REAL brunette, not sandy blonde or kinda dark blonde, or etc. Brunette. ” and now I know. Wonder if I can sneak it out of the box before my dau sees it and says “EW. Twilight? really mom?” and goes back to playing with her other barbies. Including the pink haired fairy ones. (we’re raising her more Hermione than Bella, lol.)

    1. As much as I wanted to buy that Barbie I just couldn’t go through with it, knowing I was supporting the Twilight franchise. But I do want it!

  4. You mom’s statement about blonde’s without makeup hit home for me too as I am a redhead. My eyebrows and lashes are so fair and thin that without makeup I too look washed out. Put that with fair skin and freckles and it’s just awfully bland! 🙂 I’ve always admired brunettes for the ability to wear no makeup and yet still look defined. I use an auburn eyebrow pencil on my brows to help define them and up until the last 10 years or so mascara for me was bad. Black was just way too dark for the little makeup that I wear everyday. Many companies made brown mascara but I felt that for me all it really looked like was slightly lighter black. A few companies now make truly brown or bronze mascara (http://www.marykay.com/color/eyes/lashlovemascara/default.aspx and http://justforredheads.com/mase.html) and it’s wonderful for me. I get defined lashes without looking like a raccoon.

    And it was hard finding red-haired dolls for me growing up in the 70s that were not cartoonish (Raggedy Ann and Little Orphan Annie).

  5. My challenge now is finding African American dolls or books with main characters who are Black. Amazon and eBay have been a godsend. I’ve bought most of Kiira’s dolls online and found great children’s books that have a variety of races represented in the stories. You just don’t realize how much society is geared towards the prototypical blonde White perception of beauty until it affects you personally.

  6. Haha This really is hilarious. I’ve always had reallly dark, almost black hair but so does the rest of my family so somehow it didn’t bother me. I did LOVE my Hawaiin barbie though. I’m not sure when I got her or who gave her to me but, she had very long black hair and I always loved her more than my other barbies. My daughter is only 3 so we haven’t started on barbies yet but, reading this post has given me an idea what to expect. Only blonde barbies? Does anyone else find that just a little weird?

  7. Brunettes are beautiful. Blondes are beautiful. No one is superior to the other. Let’s stop comparing to make ourselves feel better about ourselves and love each other for each other’s uniqueness instead. Sure I’m blonde and look like a 13 year old boy without makeup, but that’s still beautiful! No one is superior. But I have also totally tried dying my hair brunette and turned out with red hair. Moral of the story: everyone is uniquely beautiful the way they are (:

    -20 year-old blonde

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