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.