Saturday, December 30, 2006
Do you know how sexy you are? Probably not, because you never have to think about it -- you're effortlessly elegant. Part of the reason you're attractive is that you have much better things to think about than how to be attractive.
First of all, thank you, astrology.com, for the lovely compliment. Does this mean you like me better as a brunette? I think it does.
Seriously, though, this leg of the project has had me thinking a lot about my vanity, my self esteem, and how these things are intertwined with the way that I look. This blonde project evolved in the first place, you see, because I wanted to see what it would feel like to embody this European standard of beauty, this blonde haired, light eyed image that is so intricately woven into the fabric of our culture as THE beauty standard. I knew when I first went undercover that I'd never be waif-thin as I should be, and I'm probably too short to really embody any sort of statuesque, model style beauty. But hair is something I can change, I already have light eyes, and I'd also always wondered what it would be like to be blonde. And so it began.
As the experiment wore one, though, I became increasingly aware of those ways that I fall short of the aforementioned beauty standard. Sure I had blonde hair and light eyes, and sure I was getting lots of attention. But my thoughts were constantly also fretting over things like my weight (Oh my god! I think I gained a pound--I'm off food for the week) and my skin (that wrinkle in between my eyebrows is growing! shit! does my health insurance cover Botox???) In reality, I am intelligent enough to know that I am a healthy weight, have healthy eating habits, and can do nothing to stave off wrinkles, aside from taking great care of my skin. But inside my head there persists a little voice, urging me on, closer and closer towards this very unhealthy notion of "perfection."
Don't believe me? Consider this quote, from a journal entry I penned the night before I dyed my hair brown:
I am nervous. And mortified. What if I hate it? What if I no longer look hot? What if it makes me look fat? What if people don’t think I’m sexy anymore? What if the Mathematician doesn’t love me anymore? What will become of me as a brunette?...
Without the blonde I think I’ll look less pretty, and I think I’ll look ordinary. On the upside, I think people will start to treat me more seriously, and perhaps be more interested in my ideas than in me being hot. But a part of me doesn’t give a shit about that. Which is at once mortifying, and brutally, truly honest.
So, it seems that once again, the stars are talking to me today. It seems that they agree that it was time for me to take a step away from that vain blonde person that I was, and spend a little time focusing on more important things. So, in honor of this decree, here's a photo of me from this morning, taken without make-up, while sitting here, writing, and drinking my coffee.
New Year, New You. Here's to brunettes in 2007!
Thursday, December 28, 2006
I did it! Finally, I have made the conversion. I told no one it was coming, so don't be upset, blog readers. I kept my mouth shut and vowed to tell NO ONE about my decision to go brown today until I just couldn't contain myself yesterday and was left with no choice but to confess my big hair secret to a select group of randomly chosen people (my boss at 647, my mom, my roommate.)
So, here are the preliminary pics. I had to work tonight, so I've already begun to amass a throng of significant reactions...more on those tomorrow, for now, though, I want to see yours...
Thursday, December 21, 2006
"Where the f*** are all the pics from your trip???" she asked. "You promised photos and all we get are some big wine glasses, and that's it???"
It was almost as though she didn't believe I had gone on the trip at all. Okay, she has a point. So, here are a few more pictures to prove it...
Me with my best friend in Siena at night...
Us again, looking mischievous...
Me with Prague Castle...
The Mathematician in Cafe Mucha, one of a gazillion gorgeous Art Deco cafes in Prague. Seriously, it feels like time stopped in Prague in the early 20s, at least architechturally, and in the dining establishments and hotels. Everywhere you eat or drink it looks a little bit like the dining room on the Titanic...
How is that East Side Girl? There will be more to come, too...
Monday, December 18, 2006
This is what a former colleague of mine said to me when I ran into him at the grocery store on Friday night. And he couldn't have known how happy that statement made me.
It was very, very nice to see Brian at Shaw's on Friday. Brian was my supervisor when I was an intern at Beacon Press back in 2003, which feels like 100 years ago now. We do this periodically--he'll pop into Tremont or I'll drop him an email by way of saying hello, and we'll catch up in a cursory way. Last time we spoke I was still acquiring books at my last job, still working at Tremont to pay the bills, and trying to call in a favor and get my friend an internship. That was maybe last March?
This time when I saw Brian, I was rushing through the aisles at the grocery store, trying to find pancetta and bucatini in preparation for the Amatriciana dish I was preparing for a special dinner with the Mathematician--our mini-Christmas before he departed to California for the holidays. I caught a glimpse of Brian out of the corner of my eye as I ran from the pasta aisle to the bacon section (yes, Shaw's has a sepcific refrigerated area labeled "BACON"), by my brain didn't register who he was until I was many, many grocery store aisles away. By then, it seemed the opportunity to make small talk had passed...until I walked right by him in the candy aisle, on my way to the check-out counter.
"Hi!" I said, walking right up to he and his partner, with a very big friendly grin on my face.
"Um...Hi," he said, casting a sidelong to his partner that said, 'Why is this crazy girl STARING at me???' Then, a second later, he realized who I actually was and said the magic words:
"Oh, it's you! How are you? I didn't recognize you...you're so blonde!"
And I felt so proud of my blonde hair. I mean, it caused him to do a double take, to stop mid-sentence, and even cast a dubious sidelong glance to his partner because he didn't know who the fuck I was! My blondiness baffled him! I was--am--so elated by this that it didn't even occur to me until now, as I sit down to write about the effect my blonde hair had on this scene, that in my mind the very, very artificial color of my very, very blonde hair overshadowed ALL of the other life changes and accomplishments that have shaped the past three years of my life. I of course filled Brian in on the latest news--my career change, my fabulous new life as a cookbook publicist, how happy I am that I no longer had to commute every day, how much I ADORE my new boss and my fun new job. But as I was chatting away, all I could think about was how I couldn't wait to go home and write in my blog about Brian's confusion and his inability to recognize me as a blonde. Even as I stood there rattling on about my career and my life changes I felt that Brian's bafflement was somehow proof positive that my theory about going blonde is true--it has made me different.
But really, my hair is about the LEAST significant thing that has changed in my life since I last worked with Brian. Since I left Beacon Press I have:
- Gotten my first publishing job (my first REAL job) as an editorial assistant
- Been promoted in that job and learned how to be a book editor
- Grown dissatisfied with my job as an editor and quit
- Started a new career as a publicist
- Started writing a book
- Survived the demise of my engagement, a slow collapse which included: years of patient waiting, hundreds of hours of personal & couples therapy, even more hundreds of hours of arguments, and gallons of tears
- Supported my mom as she battled breast cancer
- Supported my dad as he battled a myriad of heart problems
- Fallen hopelessly in love with a Mathematician who whisked me away to Prague twice and Italy once
Yet the blonde thing is the thing I cherished most about seeing Brian? Am I a little too obsessed with the project? Or just in the habit of underselling myself? Or is it maybe that I've just got the whole thing twisted...that being blonde hasn't made me different at all, rather, that being different is what made go blonde?
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Well, it appears that “brown” is the new “blonde” in Hollywood. And it kind of has been all fall. And I couldn’t be more annoyed.
I have purposefully been avoiding the likes of People and Us Weekly for at least 8 months now, filthy rags that they are. Don’t get me wrong, I own that are fun to read, and in the past, I have consumed them voraciously. For a time, they provided a deeply satisfying sense of joy (which I now recognize as schadenfreude) in my life whenever I hunkered down with one -- plus you can read them in the time it takes to do my entire circuit on the treadmill and the elliptical machine at the gym. I stopped reading them when my girlfriend Camilla explained to me what schadenfreude actually is. The conversation went something like this:
ME: I know the technical definition of the word schadenfreude: taking pleasure in the pain suffered by others. But I don’t get it. It seems really fucked up.
CAMILLA: Yes, I know. But everyone kind of indulges in it.
ME: Really, even me?
CAMILLA: Of course.
ME: No way. OH MY GOD (gleefully) LOOK at this picture of Britney Spears’ nasty cellulite thighs on this beach that I just found on awfulpicturesoffamouspeoplelookingugly.com. Whoa. Seriously, LOOK! It’s amazing…Ummm, what were you saying?
In an attempt to salvage whatever brain cells I have left after the long restaurant industry induced party-phase that so eloquently shape my early twenties, I stopped reading those magazines some time ago. Really, if I hadn’t, this brunette thing that everyone in Hollywood is doing would not have come as such a surprise to me.
I mean, of course I've noticed the brown ‘do being sported by the likes of Cameron Diaz, Lindsay Lohan, and that awful, alien-esque Olsen twin with their new hair. But my acknowledgement of the trend has been more…peripheral these past few months. I've been too busy working way too much and gallivanting in Europe to care what those media-whores are up to. It wasn’t until this article flashed across the sidebar of my hotmail account yesterday that I realized what is actually happening:
Brown is becoming the new blonde.
I am extremely disappointed by this because I, too, am on the cusp of converting over to the dark side. I know I faked you all out with such decrees in October, and truthfully, I’m glad I didn’t do it then, because I really wasn’t ready. I needed to go to Italy as a blonde, live a few more months as a blonde, and truly get my head around what I think of myself as a blonde.
And you know what? I’m still not ready to go brown. I am just now coming to terms with the fact that regardless of what anybody else thinks, the catcallers, the strange men on the street, the many friends, the very vocal restaurant regulars, and my family members all of whom seem to like me best as a blonde, the fact remains:
I like me better as a blonde.
Nevertheless, I want to see this experiment thru to completion, and in the New Year, I plan to eradicate the blonde, cross over finally to the brunette-side and to see for at least a few months how that other half lives. Jason and I will be setting the date this week. When and how dark will remain a secret to you all—but no worries, I will post pictures.
In any case, the recent brunette trend that has been happening in Hollywood really bugs me. Now people will think I am following in the footsteps of such odious starlets as Britney, who made headlines by going brown, then back to blonde, then back to brown again over this past weekend, and idiots like Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie.
I’m telling you all, and you read it here: I had the idea first.
Monday, December 04, 2006
"Oh, hello," I said, turning around in my chair. I looked at him for a moment, flashed him a big, friendly, big person smile and gave him a pint sized wave, flapping the fingers on my right hand up and down. He looked down at his shoes, like he was maybe a little embarrassed, as though he didn't really know what to say. Then he looked up at me again, and his face broke open into a 1,000-watt smile. He pointed at me, started clapping his hands, and erupted into a fit of giggles.
"Whoa, where you going, kiddo?" said a dark-haired, dark eyed woman, who must have been his mom. "Gosh you're fast! I'm so sorry," she said to me as she wrapped one arm around the little boy's waist and picked him up to take him back to where his family was waiting together for a table. "He likes blondes," she said, shrugging.
"That's okay," I said, gesturing towards the Mathematician. "So does he."
I'm sure the mom was just making a joke...but is it possible that this little boy has already developed a prediliction for blondes? He couldn't have been more than 18 months old, and could barely even talk! But when I looked around at the other people dining around us, it seemed true. Every other diner in our section had dark hair: light brown, reddish chestnut, jet black. I was the lone blonde, and the only person in the restaurant who piqued his interest. Is it possible that he's already got a "type"?
Friday, November 24, 2006
I hope everyone out there in blogland had a happy thanksgiving!
While visting family in Delaware I find myself telling everyone about our trip. It has me thinking about Prague, which is just the most beautiful city. It's a somber, elegant city that worms it's way into your heart and your psyche. At least it did for me. I find myself thinking about it and longing for it, even though I've only ever been a tourist there, and have never gotten down with it the way the locals do, the way we did in Roma.
Here are some fun pictures from our favorite restaurant, Restaruant Davide, which we went to on our very first night in Prague during our visit in 2005.
Let me set the scene...I had been dating the Mathematician for a month and a half when he invited me to accompany him to Prague, where he would be giving a lecture on cryptography. At first I said no, flatly, I cou;dn't possibly come along. I was still reeling from the break-up of my engagement, and I felt like I barely knew the Mathematician. But the more and more I thought about it the more a trip to Europe seemed like a viable option, an adventure, something brazen and impetuous that I, a not-so-brave, very cautious and careful person, was capable of doing. Deep down I think I knew it was the only way to separate myself from my current life, from Boston and all of the ghosts of relationships past. It would be the only way to co-exist with this new person, who I was quite sure I was falling in love with, against a neutral, exotic backdrop.
Our very first night in the city, jet-lagged and confused, we stumbled upon restaurant Davide, thanks to a listing in Rick Steves' Prague & the Czech Republic 2005. Here we were introduced to Czech cuisine done fine dining style, with all the elegance of formal French ettiquette and service. We ate the most delicious, exquisite cabbage soup I have ever eaten: it was salty and sour unforgettably rich and satisfying. We ate a trio of game, inclduing Wild Boar, rabbit, and the most decadent leg of duck confit I've tasted, before or since. It was lavish, and because the dollar is worth so much more than the Czech crown, it cost little more than a full meal with wine at the upscale bistro where I work.
But by far the most enchanting thing about Davide is the fact that they inexplicably serve all of their ice wine, port, cordials, and cognac in irregularly sized, enormous glasses. We saw on customer sipping a honey colored liquid from a glass that had the normal sized tulip shape of a pinot noir glass, but a stem as long as my forearm. We watched as the waiter liberated another glass from an elaborate Louis XIV style cupboard: it was a snifter that was literally as big as my head.
Returning to Davide was one part of my trip that I was so, so excited about. This time we brought my camera, we were sure to sample drinks from glasses of both sizes, and here are the pictures to prove it.
So here's to Prague...city of inexplicably big glasses, salty meats, and love...
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Well, he didn't so much tell me this as he screamed it in the general vicinity of my ear as I was passing by, craning his neck and making an awful, slightly howling sound behind me as I walked on.
It was really an interesting compliment.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
I’m back! First of all, I am a total delinquent in posting, and how silly of me for even thinking that I could post while away. Duh. It’s bad enough that I had to work while traveling (just an hour or so a day, but still), the last thing I felt I could make time for while hotfooting it around the continent was more sitting in front of the computer, even if it was to write, which is something I love. Instead, I detailed the nuances of my blondeness in Italy and Prague a little pink journal. How cute.
I’ve got so much to ruminate upon from the trip, but the abbreviated blanket statement I can make about how blondes fare in Italy is this:
Blondes brunettes, redheads, whatever—you are completely invisible as a woman Italian culture if you are with a man.
If you are NOT with a man, however, but walking down the street with a girlfriend, or heaven forbid, by yourself, you will be lavished with lots of attention, freakish amounts of attention, so much attention in fact that you may be left wondering if you have something on your face or if you’ve accidentally tucked your skirt into your panties and are now flashing all of Rome and the joke is on you.
I can only conjecture that this two-faced sexual harassment happens for the obvious reason that the harasser, who I will refer to as Primate A because behavior like this is truly for the animals, would never disrespect a female in the presence of her boyfriend, Primate B, for fear that Primate B would come to his sweetie’s defense and kick the living shit out of him. Or maybe it’s more subtle than that—maybe men just share an understood, mutual respect for each other that they’d never want to sacrifice, no matter how hot or blonde the woman in question. In any case, this Jekyll and Hyde behavior is something that is a given in my normal life in America as well, and was also true when I lived in Ireland, and I can only imagine that it is as universal as the human inability to subsist without water. And because of all this, our brothers, our boyfriends, and our fathers, no matter how sweet and how sensitive, will never really know what it’s like to be us.
Anyway, the only reason I bring this two-faced behavior up is because in Italy, it was so dramatically pronounced that I felt virtually invisible while I was out and about in Italia with the Mathematician. We’d walk into a coffee bar and the barista would view me with the same measured stare that he seemed to be leveling at all the customers. “Due caffe,” he’d say, with the same businesslike tone he used with the Mathematician. He never cracked a flirtatious smile, or even raised a suggestive eyebrow.
At first I felt silly—both for extending the life of my blondeness so as to be blonde in Italy, and for spending the money on re-blonding to make sure my hair was as bright as possible before I left. “Is my experiment really yielding no results? Is everything that I’d heard about Italianos being abundantly vocal in their praise of anything possessing a vagina a lie? Or perhaps Italian men are impervious to blondes, preferring the dark hair/dark-eyed/olive skinned look of southern Italian women?” Then I had a terrible thought: perhaps I’d somehow…I don’t know…lost it? Maybe I am only easy on the eyes in America?
I started to realize the gig was up somewhere during our first full day in Roma, while the Mathematician and Marissa and I were doing a little sightseeing. We traversed crowded streets, so thronged with tourists and Romans going about the business of their late-Friday afternoon that it was difficult to distinguish us as a group, traveling as three. As we walked I heard comments, whispered to me under the breath, in Italian and I could only understand a handful of words with familiar roots like bella. The minute the Mathematician would emerge from the crowd, appear by my side, or wrap his hand around mine, the comments would cease, the searching eyes of their speaker cast down towards the cobblestone street or skyward, towards the buildings over my head, or occasionally they’d simply watch us pass, innocuous and silent, perhaps relieved that the Mathematician hadn’t heard a word.
Something I did not consider before I left was how vulnerable it feels to spend two weeks in a country where you don’t speak the language. It’s exciting and exotic, for sure, but when you first arrive, after you’ve stumbled off the plane in your jetlagged stupor, been made to feel foolish by airport personnel, taxi cab drivers who charge you twice what you owe because of your American accent, and coffee bar staff who can’t understand why you don’t understand their simple, basic, Italian question about your coffee and pastry purchase, it can leave you a bit raw. For this reason, experiment, project, and book aside, at least in the beginning of the trip, I relished the silence.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Jason did it! He made me blonde again! Bless him! I feel so much better! Now, I HAD adjusted to the darker version of my hair, mind you. However, this is much more what I am going for. And this will most likely have been my last visit, so I'm going to relish every second and every strand.
As I was sitting in the chair, having my hair blown out, Jason and I overheard the girl in the chair next to me asking HER stylist about going brunette. "I'm thinking of going darker," she said, "what do you think?" She had just a few light layers, and they looked like they needed to be touched up or put out of their misery (she had obviously only visited for a cut that afternoon.) So, her stylist went on and on about the deep chestnut color she could do, or maybe even an auburn.
Jason just looked at me in th mirror and said, under his breath: "She's gonna hate it."
A few minutes later, I heard HER stylist say, "I'm really not into going too blonde." Jason just looks at me again. "I mean, I think it's really easy to end up looking washed out."
Half an hour later, as Jason curled and styled and put finishing touches on my new goldie locks, I couldn't help but wonder if that was exactly what was happening on my own head.
What do you guys think? More pictures (from Italy and Prague, of course) to come...
We leave in half an hour! I'm simply bubbling...
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
We're also going to Prague (Praha), which should provide a very different back-drop for the experiment. According to one of my new fave bloggers, blondeness is so much more common than any other hair color in Prague. We shall see how the two European cities stack up.
There will be another visit to Jason before I go, next Tuesday, to touch up those roots and maybe even go a little lighter. If I can convince him to brighten me up, that is...
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Mary, on the other hand, was the exact opposite of all of these things. “Mary was in all ways perfect," writes Joanna Pitman, author of On Blondes. "One of her many distinguishing characteristics was her freedom from carnal desire. Not only had she been conceived immaculately by divine intervention, but her purity had been preserved by the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ.” She was without a doubt the purest woman in all of Catholicism, and as such it makes sense that she be visually depicted as a brunette, or perhaps more commonly, with hair that was not visible at all, hidden beneath a pious veil.
Thanks to the visions of a Swede named Bridget, all of this changed in the 14th century. Bridget, later to become St. Bridget, first began to receive visions when she was just 7 years old. After the death of her husband, King Ulfo, she pursued what I would call a seriously religious life, eventually denouncing her place in her court and her title as Princess, and turning to a life as a woman of the cloth in the service of God. She went on to found the Bridgettine order.
Bridget’s visions were extremely popular during her life, and even more so after her death. They were originally written in Swedish and translated into Latin, but these revelations were in such high demand that they were eventually translated into most European languages. According to Pittman, “Within a few decades of her death in 1373, the revelations became a standard part of the works of devotion.” St. Bridget’s visions had wide appeal, and even longer-enduring effects. Here is how Bridget envisioned Catholicism’s first lady during the nativity (quoting from Joanna Pittman’s translation in On Blondes):
“I beheld a Virgin of extreme beauty…then the virgin pulled off the shoes from her feet, drew off the white mantle than enveloped her, removed the veil from her head, laying it by her side, thus remaining in her tunic alone with her beautiful golden hair falling loosely down her shoulders…”
It wasn’t long before artists began to incorporate these images into their renderings of the Madonna, casting her as a luminous, transcendent blonde for all posterity, and creating a serious dichotomy in the symbolism of the blonde. All of this thanks to a Swedish saint named Bridget.
Hmm…she was Swedish after all...is it possible that Bridget was blonde herself?
Friday, September 22, 2006
For most of the walk, the boys strode ahead of us, confabbing about their careers in the field of engineering, whiling away the hours talking about math. Maysoon and I hung back, bonded by our inability to understand. It's not like we're dumb or ditzy, and it's clear that we both try to understand our sig others most of the time--Maysoon even majored in Math! But when it comes to the Mathematician, I also know when to wave a white flag, and the minute I heard the words "log-base-two" come out of his mouth, casually as if he were commenting on the blueness of the sky, I knew my part in that conversation was over. It was a nice opportunity for Maysoon and I to stroll on together and get to know each other, paired off the way couple friends do when they hang out together.
Inevitably Maysoon asked me: "what do you do?" This question is a tough one for me: if I am to answer truthfully (and sometimes I don't), it prompts a seriously long-winded, self-absorbed sounding monologue. I never really know where to begin, and have an equally difficult time determining where "what I do" ends. And though I fully realize that no one will ever take me seriously as anything unless I speak about "what I do" with conviction, mustering up the balls to explain that "I'm a writer" (despite the fact that I've yet to get something published), or that "I do PR for cookbooks and culinary books" (even though I barely know what PR actually is) is sometimes just daunting. These jobs sound like pipe-dreams to so many people, and the minute I explain that I also make a substantial portion of my income as a waitress, I'm sure some people assume that I simply made all of these other jobs up, that these are more like lofty goals I conceptualize while rolling silverware and setting up the dining room at Tremont 647. Of course, any asshole who would pass this type of judgment on my career is probably not the type of person I want to be friends with anyway, their lives consumed by a boring job that I'd rather die than spend half my life working. This is the same breed of person who would ask me my major in college ("concentration...we don't have majors at Sarah Lawrence...mine is creative writing") then say, "oh, so you want to be a teacher???"with a a insidious smirk.
Maysoon, however, is a really, really nice person. She's very easy to talk to, and very easy to be around. So, I told her the truth when she asked me what I do, unleashed the whole 5-minute monologue about where I'm at and where I'm going. She made me feel so comfortable, that I decided I'd even explain to her that I'm writing a book. "It's about being blonde," I said, and she didn't even flinch.
The wind started to pick up around us as I went on about my book idea in greater detail. I explained the experiment behind it, what I hoped to accomplish going forward, and as we were talking, the tide was coming in, making the waves crash a little bit louder, and the exquisite stone cliffs and sparkling blue ocean around us seem that much more wild. Because of all this nature, Maysoon misheard me.
"Well, of course, it makes sense, you can see by your coloring and your fair eyebrows that you're a natural blonde. It will be interesting to see how you're treated differently when you dye your hair brown and live as a brunette."
"No, no, Maysoon. I'm not naturally blonde! All of this is fake, I've spent the last six months bleaching the hell out of my hair. That's the experiment. See," I said, grabbing at a tendril from the bottom layer of my hair, the part Jason refuses to bleach. "This color is my natural color. See? I'm not naturally blonde."
But as I twisted the little tendril around my forefinger, my hair looked a lot more golden than it did brown. This little tendril seemed to be pick up all of the rays of the afternoon's abundant sunshine. Strands of gold woven in among shades of deeper gold and golden brown glinted up at me, and as Maysoon leaned in closer to check out my natural hue, it actually looked...well, blonde.
"Oh, okay," she said, her face vague and puzzled. As I said, Maysoon's a nice person, an easy person, and probably not the type of person to throw down the gauntlet with her friend's colorblind girlfriend. Besides, Maysoon is Jordanian, and compared to her chestnut hair, dark, olive-y skin, and deep greenish-brown eyes, my natural color does look...well, blonde.
I know what I am, that I haven't been naturally blonde since puberty, that it's always taken a spritz of lemon juice or Sun-In to bring out the bright streaks I sported when I was a baby. But in that moment, I wondered if something magic had happened in my dye-ing crusade. I mean, at this point, I strongly feel that if I only take one thing from this experiment, it's the knowledge that blonde is my proper hair color. I like it, I like me in it, I think it suits the wildly contradictory pieces of my personality more than I ever could have known. When all is said and done, I'm certain I'll go back to blonde.
And in that moment, as I stood dumbly trying to explain to Maysoon that I was a brunette, I wondered: is all of this talk and experimenting and writing for shit? Is my hair somehow, miraculously going blonde on it's own? Has my body somehow recognized how at home I feel with this hair color? Hey, it could happen. I mean, identity is a powerful thing. Perhaps, once your personality finds its stride, your body begins to show it, from the inside out? Perhaps, under all that bleach, my natural hue had decided to miraculously changed back to blonde?
The next morning, while brushing my hair in the harsh, false light of the Mathematician's bathroom, I had my answer. No magic beans for me, my roots are starting to show. There is a sharp line of demarcation between where the natural hair ends and where the bleach begins. My roots are real and they are dark (and an inch long--yikes!)
No alchemy for me. At least, not naturally.
Then I suppose alchemy, by definition, is something we make happen on our own
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Yeah, well, I’ve decided it’s not going to happen on October the 3rd.
I have a good reason, though! It’s not an excuse to stay blonde because I like being blonde, because I’m hooked on being blonde, because I’ve discovered that that’s the real hair color of the real me! It’s not. I swear…
The reason is because I’m going to Italy in a few weeks, and I want to visit that mecca of romance and overbearing men and dark featured people as a blonde.
When I told my best friend that I’d announced my date-to-go-dark to the world, she was horrified:
"But you have to come to Italy as a blonde!" she said, with exaggerated, gesticulating, Italian-inspired emphaticness. "OF COURSE you should come to Italy as a blonde, you NEED to experience Italy as a blonde, you’ll get so much more material and be treated so differently as a blonde." She'd never say it because she is the sweetest person, but I know in her mind she was thinking: "Duh!"
So, I’m thinking that I’m going to stay blonde thru Italy.
What do you guys think? Do we think this is a cop out?
The dates are set for my Italian adventure: October 11th the Mathematician and I fly away. We'll go to Rome, then to Prague for four days (Prague again! I can't wait!), then to Florence, and maybe Cinque Terre.
I can always go brown in November…or December…or perhaps I’ll go brown as a change for the new year? New Year, New You and all that jazz.
And of course, all of this only means one thing: that I’ll simply have to go back to Italy as a brunette.
I have to. It’s for the book. It’s for posterity. It’s for the greater good of blondes and brunettes everywhere.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
(NOTE: Bear in mind, my mother knows all about the book.)
ME: Well, yeah, mom. I'm writing a book about having it this way, remember??? I love it blonde. I think having it this color is really fun. I want to keep it blonde forever, but I’m only going to for the next few weeks. Then I’m going to dye it brown. You know that.
DAD: Noooooooooo! You’re going to dye it BROWN? WHY?
(NOTE: Bear in mind, my father, too, knows all about the book. He was my main advisor when I asked him if I should quit my job to write it. Just a week earlier, he asked me to email him my blog address.)
ME: For the book, dad. Remember the blog address you asked to see last week?
DAD: Yes. I still don't really understand what a "blog" is...(Absently turns to the next page of his paper.)
BROTHER GREG: You’re writing a book?
MOM: Yes, she needs to dye it brown, so she can see what happens. First she is BLONDE, to see if people treat her differently. Then she dyes it BROWN, and sees if people treat her differently. Haven't you checked out her weblog?
BROTHER GREG: Brown? Really? Why brown?
ME: Dude. Mom just said.
DAD: Don’t dye it brown…you should keep it blonde! (Shaking his head and going back to his paper.) It looks so pretty blonde.
GREG: Yeah, blonde’s the way to go.
ME: But guys, I have to. I just told you. It's for the experiement. That's the whole point of the book.
DAD: What book?
ME: (Sigh.) Nevermind.
Well, at least now I know how my family feels.
Monday, September 18, 2006
I was thoroughly engrossed in my book (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) when the adolescent looking ticket collector made his grand entrance in car three of the 4:40 p.m. train to Littleton.
“Oh, yeah,” I said. By this point I was so caught up in the adventures of Tibby, Bridget, Lena and Carmen that I'd completely forgotten that trains are something you have to pay to ride. “I need to buy one, please. I’m going to Littleton.”
“Littleton’ll be five-fifty” he said, cheerfully.
‘He looks about 12 years old,’ I thought, 'Since when did the MBTA start violating child labor laws?' Of course, I had yet to go to the bank with the weekend’s installment of cold hard cash from my waitrssing job, and was left to wrestle through a fistful of disorganized twenties before I could find fives and ones.
‘On second thought, he’s at least 24,’ I decided as I my fingers plucked a five from my money pile. ‘He’s just one of those guys who looks way young. He is also short and has chubby cheeks which make him look young and vulnerable.’ I was just pulling out a 1 from my stash when the ticket guy blurted out:
“Oh, no, no…Five’s fine. Don’t worry about it, I’ve got the fifty cents. I've got it. Heh.”
“But, I’ve got it right here…” I started to say, stopping at “but…” when I looked up and saw his eager, smiling face. Truthfully, it was a little silly, I mean, I was holding the 1 dollar bill right there, in the same hand as the five I was about to pass across the aisle to him. But his smile seemed so earnest that I just shrugged instead.
“Okay, here’s five. Thanks!” ‘How nice,’ I thought to myself, and smiled at his back as he walked away.
Ready to become totally absorbed in the magical powers of the traveling pants, I looked back down at my book. As I glanced down, my gaze fell on the low, scooped neckline of my shirt.
Oh. So that's why hewas being so nice.
And that, folks, was a lesson I learned last week. That my modestly sized breasts exaggerated by a low-cut neckline, and coupled with my carefully dyed blonde hair, can get me 50 cents off a train ticket to Littleton.
Awesome. My boobs are worth fifty cents.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
BOSTONIANS NOTE: Despite the inherently middle-of-the-road nature of the spicy tuna roll, I implore you to check out Duozo’s take on this gateway-sushi. Perfect ratios of tuna, spicy mayo, and light, flaky, crunchy tempura—it will make you re-think the roll entirely…But I digress.
After every last bit of the sushi had been eaten and every drop of the Soave drained, but before dessert (which sneaky Shanna ordered unbeknownst to me), I excused myself to the ladies. I walked out of the dining room, through the busy bustling bar area, where all the bar stools and bar tables were full. I paid attention to no one as I walked, feeling pleasantly sushi’d, pleasantly Soave’d, and thinking all the while about the fabulous spicy tuna roll I’d just eaten, and about how Shanna makes my life feel a little more fabulous in general.
I was still thinking about all of this when I exited the ladies room, and started back out through the bar area. But I was quickly jostled out of these thoughts when my eyes alighted upon a familiar face:
There sat my ex-fiance.
That’s right, the one who I just saw for the first time about a month ago. The one who moved to Texas, who I never thought I’d have cause to run in to in Boston again.
“Hi!” I said, walking over to the table where he sat with two of our mutual friends. “I didn’t even see you sitting here! Have you been sitting here the whole time???”
“Yes!” He said.
“So, I just walked right by you guys, nose in the air, like a total asshole? I feel so silly!”
“No, no, that’s okay! I didn’t realize you were here either,” he said. “I didn’t realize that was you walking by, until I recognized your jeans.”
Yes, that’s the Ex. He recognizes jeans.
“Yeah, I’m here having dinner with Shanna, see, she’s right down there!” And I pointed down to Shanna, who waved up at us from the dining room.
“That’s who that is!” The Ex said. “Yeah, you know, I knew I recognized that girl, but I couldn’t figure out where I knew her from! That’s right. And I didn’t even see you, since your back was facing us. I mean…well , I did see you…I just didn’t recognize you from the back of your head,” he said.
“It’s understandable,” I said. “I mean, it is the back of my head.” Though, after five years together, you’d think he’d recognize me by any body part, liltof tone, or gesture, no matter how obscured his line of sight.
“Yeah, I don’t know,” he said. I guess I just didn’t recognize the hair.”
And I smiled. “Yeah, I guess you wouldn’t!” I said.
What a difference a year makes.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
[INSERT CONGRATULATIONS & HAPPY BIRTHDAY WISHES HERE]
Thank you!!! That's very sweet.
[INSERT OBLIGATORY BIRTHDAY QUESTIONS, I.E. HOW OLD ARE YOU? WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO CELEBRATE? ETC, ETC]
I am 27-years old. As the Mathematician pointed out, in true Mathematician form, that is 3 to the 3rd power, or 3 times 3 times 3. It is also 3 times one of my favorite numbers: 9. I love my birthday, and I love today, not just because everyone must treat me like I’m special, but also because I like the combination of numbers that came together the day my twin & I popped out of the womb: 9-13-1979. It’s a good, special, magical numerical combo.
Tonight I am going to dinner at No.9 Park with the Mathematician. I am so excited and am going to eat as little as possible all day, in the hopes of maybe partaking in their tasting menu. As the Mathematician pointed out, I will need to eat something so I don't wind up too bombed after my first cocktail to enjoy dinner, or so hungry that I have 2 bites of bread and end up full. But I will eat very little so as to make as much room as possible in my body for Barbara Lynch's delicious food.
I will also get a pedicure, do a little yoga, and try to write a little bit, and ruminate about what I hope that my 27th year holds.
A lot has happened in a year. I have:
Quit a dead-end job that I hated.
Built a wonderful relationship with a hot Mathematician.
Started a career in PR.
Started writing a book.
Started freelance writing (it’s been a slow start, but a start nonetheless.)
Opened a savings account that actually has some money in it.
Begun to pay quarterly taxes.
Really started doing things for myself, with my own best interest in mind, for the very first time in my life.
And I have no doubts that my 27th year will hold more of the same.
I have more to say, but for now, that’s all. This post can just be about my birthday, more about blondeness later...
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Sunlight streams in through south facing windows, bright on the outside, but muted in my bedroom, strained through drawn plastic blinds, like liquid through a colander.
Three stories down, trucks amble down Mass Ave., noisy despite their mufflers.
Suddenly I am struck by a craving, a deep, intense, core of my being longing. It is the kind of longing that can only be triggered by the perfect conflux of sensory images, by a just right stream of light, the familiar timbre of a squeaking truck axle, and the faint scent of laundry detergent, wafting up from my sweatshirt.
Everything in the right proportion, at the right moment. All of this, coming together, making me long for and crave a television set, a comfy couch, and reruns of one of my favorite TV shows:
The Golden Girls.
I am lucky that I do not have a TV because if I did, I would swathe myself in a blanket, march out to my living room, and settle deep into my roommate’s black leather couch. I would grab the remote and hungrily surf the channels until I found the show that I would for some inexplicable reason give anything to watch right now. I would feel an overwhelming sense of peace settle into my cells as the first few chords of the theme song rang out.
Thank you for being a friend…
Travel down the road and back again…
I do not know why I want to watch The Golden Girls right now. I am happy today, energetic, in a good mood, delighted & totally not bored by my work. I feel productive. I am having a good day.
Yet for some reason, if I could settle in with Rose, Dorothy, Blanche, and Sofia, I think I’d be a million times happier right now, at this very instant.
Insights are welcome…and if you don’t have any, Happy Tuesday!
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
"Hey gorgeous!" I heard him scream to me from across the street. Then he started to move towards the sidewalk, then the crosswalk, then oh no! He was crossing the street, coming over to the restaurant to say hi to me. SHIT! Having just gone on at length about how DARK and terrible my hair looked, I felt disloyal, like a disobedient child who was about to get busted with her hand in the cookie jar.
On the other hand, I was also dying to ask him when I could come in to get it lightened again.
"How's my beautiful blondie today," he said, approaching me with a big hug and a kiss on each cheek, like the French, all smiles and cheeriness.
I had no choice but to dive right in:
"Jason...we need to talk," I said. I looked desperately into his light blue eyes, then away above his head, then down at the sidewalk, fumbling for the right words. "I just...I think it's too dark. And...I'm kinda freaking out."
"Kitty," he said, his face breaking open into a wide smile, his tone, soothing and sweet, once again like that of my therapist. "Don't be silly. I told you, it's not any darker. Hey Julie! Julie, come over here a sec!" he yelled inside the restaurant to the bartender. "Do you think Kitty's hair looks too dark?"
“No,” says Julie, “I told her the other day, I think it looks pretty.”
“See, Kitty. Not any darker. Oh, hey, there’s my 5 o’clock, gotta run!” And he swooped away, almost as quickly as he came.
As he dashed across the street, he turned around to yell back at me: “You know, it’s going to lighten up the more you wash it!!!”
“It is?” I hollered back, lamely, unconvinced.
“Yes, silly, I told you that last week. Just wash it again, you’ll see.”
“Yeah, right,” I said, my heart sinking as low as the concrete patio floor. And I almost cried. If Jason doesn’t believe me, then what am I to do?
But then you know what happened? Yesterday I washed my hair for the first time in…a while…and it did, in fact look lighter. I caught a glimpse of the sun reflecting off the highlights as I walked by my own reflection in a store window, and smiled. I’m back!
The moral of the story?
Jason is always right.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Last time I saw Jason in July, he was very bold with my color. He told me "you're not going to believe this, but we're going lighter." He said he couldn't believe it himself, but that we were taking a risk, a risk he'd ONLY take with me because ONLY I could work hair that light, and well, I'm writing a goddamn book on being blonde, aren't I? So, we went for it. Bold was what we did. And when the smock came off and the hair was blown out, there I sat the blondest I'd been since I was a little girl. I was the same shade of blonde as my four year-old niece. And suddenly, I was a blonde who wasn't even pretending to be natural. My long goldie locks were just one small step away from platinum, and that was what it all was about.
Now, I trust Jason implicitly. I really do. He is amazing, and I highly endorse his services. If you go to see him, you will never leave his salon looking bad. So, when he caught sight of me while walking down the street one day, and a look of surprise and a mild shadow of concern flitted across his face like a small cloud traversing the sun, I was appropriately worried.
"What?!" I said. "What was that look??? You don't like the hair, do you. Oh my god, do you think it looks trashy?!?!?"
"No, sweetie," he said, his voice the same calm timbre as that of my therapist. "You? Never. You will never look trashy, even if you are wearing a trash bag and a pair of Candies loafers. But...you should come see me next week. I have the morning free all week, you can just call me and come in when you have a second, and we'll have a nice, leisurely morning together. Sound good?" He made it sounds social, like all we'd be doing was a minor touch up while spending some quality stylist-subject time at the sink over coffee and the latest 700-page issue of Vogue.
So I went in. I followed his instructions, because Jason is my darling, and because he would never do wrong by me.
Except now, after our nice, leisurely morning together over coffee & the latest 700-page issue of Vogue, my hair seems...darker. And I am in a mild state of panic.
Jason swore up and down as I was leaving the salon that it was not, in fact darker, rather, he'd added more depth to the color, infused it with more gold, given me a more natural, sun-kissed look, as opposed to the all-over, almost platinum he'd he'd faded me to in July. "I'm only doing this because it's you, honey. I wouldn't do this with just anybody, because not everyone can rock gold. I'd only ever do this with you."
But to me, it looks darker. Everyone I ask smiles, says it "looks good!" and "looks really pretty, I LIKE it!" But I know in my heart what is true, and that is that, no matter what everybody says, my hair looks darker than it did before.
Here is a before picture:
And here, my friends, is the after picture:
Yes it look more natural, but herein lies the lesson of the story: I know now that I do not want to be natural. Natural left the equation some time ago. Maybe once upon a time I sought to look like a natural blonde, before I undertook this stupid project, back when I was still a nubile young highlight virgin, hoping no one would accuse me of being some sort of blonde poser since I'd taken up the peroxide.
Well, the cherry's been popped, folks, and those days are long gone.
I'll tell you what I want now: I want my hair to be the same almost fluorescent shade of flaxen that it was just a week ago. I want it to be as unnaturally light as the hair of the girl on the bus this morning, and the woman in the grocery store this afternoon, or my little niece Caelan and her baby brother Griffen, and the blonde heads I am beginning to see everywhere I turn. What was I thinking? If those harlots don't care about looking trashy, why the hell should I?
There is only room for blonde on this head. The gauntlet has been thrown down, and for the duration of this experiment, the only way out is up the color scale. Blonde baby. Blonde.
And I am very upset about what to do next because now I am also kind of broke.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Why this happened yesterday of all days has me completely baffled. I mean, I spent four years at "Queer in a Year or Your Money Back" Sarah Lawrence. I know tons of lesbians (some of my best friends are lesbians!) and have spent plenty of time with/among lesbians. In college I took women's Studies courses, every goddamn paper I ever wrote was about gender & stuff, and even spent a semester learning about the cannon of Gay & Lesbian Literature. I visited the lesbian bar, drank chamomile tea at the lesbian coffeeshop, marched in Boston's Gay Pride parade, and in my Sarah Lawrence days, I even adopted some lesbianic aphorisms, including making reference to straight people as "hets" and "breeders." And despite all of this, I still was never once mistaken for actually being a lesbian.
Yesterday, however, while sitting outside JP Licks located in the very lesbianic center of Jamaica Plain (commonly referred to as Gay P) a man approached me and my friend Jen as we chatted over coffee. We were quite clearly engrossed in our conversation--I hadn't seen the girl in over a year!--and in my opinion, we were quite clearly uninterested in making Âfriends.Â Mr. Intrusive Straight Man decided to interrupt us anyway.
ÂExcuse me, may I ask you a question?Â Mr. Intrusive Straight Man said. He had walked right up to Jen where we sat at a patio table, close to the entrance of the store and far away from where he was standing on the sidewalk . He didn't really look at me, and I couldn't really hear what he was saying. Perhaps Jen, who is about the cutest baby-dyke you ever saw, seemed more approachable. She sports a short faux hawk and is always riding her bike all over the place--she looks like a cute, indie-rock little boy. In any case, the Mr. Intrusive Straight Man was black and he wore a red shirt, and had some sort of accent. His English was broken and strangely proper, and I at first, I couldnÂt really understand what he was saying.
"I want to ask of you a question," Mr. Intrusive Straight Man said, hemming and hawing, a bit.
"Okay," said Jen. When he still didn't respond, she rolled her eye and said to me, "Ugh, I think I know where this is going."
"I just want to ask you a question if I may," Mr. Intrusive Straight Man repeated.
"Yes, that's fine, dude, go ahead," she said.
"I want to ask you, what is it that you feel as love between two women?"
My jaw dropped. What? "Is he asking us why we're lesbians?" I said to Jen, incredulous.
"I think so," she laughed, her face exploding into a smile as she leaned back and started clapping her hands because this was so funny. That's the other thing about Jen, she's so laid back and cool. "I get this shit all the time, Kitty, it's okay, let me handle this."
"I just want to ask, when there are two women, what is it that they feel between them?" He just kept asking the same question, over and over, repeating himself in his confusing English. At first his stumbling sentences sounded innocent, but then they began sound mocking. There was something about his tone, his posture, his implication that I didn't like. It made me feel uncomfortable, and my gut was telling me to make him go away as quickly as possible, that if we didn't end the conversation immediately, he was either going to a) try to turn us straight, or b) start talking about Jesus. Or maybe something worse.
"Okay. That's enough. We're busy," I said. "Can you please leave us alone now? We're trying to have a conversation here." I gave him attitude, lots of mean, lesbian attitude.
And he just kept standing there, stammering on at us, like we were exotic and slightly frightening creatures at the zoo.
"I just want to know, what is it that you feel between two women. I just wanted to ask you a question..." he repeated, this time acting a little huffy, as though he really wanted to know, and had every right to ask and be curious.
"Yeah, well you're gonna have to ask somebody else," I said. "Don't worry, there are plenty of lesbians in JP, I'm sure you'll have no problem."
It was really fucking annoying, I have to say.
I hear comments from men every day. Some days are worse than others, and some days, if I happen to be walking out and about a lot, and it happens to be warm, and I happen to be wearing my long blonde hair down and a short little skirt, I hear comments all day. These comments are are invasive, intrusive, and they make me feel vulnerable and angry. They nibble away at my self confidence, erode my freedom of motion, and make me feel as small as I did the very first time I was sexually harassed when I was only fifteen years old. And for the past year or so, I have been analyzing this state of being, this strange and uncomfortable existence, thinking constantly about how being blonde changes these dynamics, makes the comments worse or more intrusive, less respectful or more frightening.
But I have never dealt with intrusion or comments like these.
As he walked away, he mumbled something about writing a book (yeah, I am too, buddy), acted like we were making a big deal out of nothing for blowing him off. But it was a big deal. It was a big, invasive, inappropriate deal. Why anybody would think it okay to interrupt us, and ask us what it feels like to love one another, as though we were freaks, as though there arenÂt thousands of lesbians loving one another every day, in the exact same way that men love women, or that men love other men, is wildly inappropriate, and 100% none of his goddamn business. And I didn't like his tone. He had the same look on his face that men get after you ignore their calls of"hey sexy", and right before they say "hey you stuck-up bitch, who the fuck do you think you are???"
And I'm not even a lesbian, I was just having coffee with one! Imagine how I'd feel if this happened to me every day?
Perhaps the next title of my next book should be Undercover Dyke: My Personal Quest to See if Lesbians Have More Fun.
Monday, August 28, 2006
This feature will differ from all other posts that you are likely to read on this site. It will not take you deep inside the inner-workings of the Undercover Blonde brain, discussing the minutiae of my blonde existence. It will not detail the ebb and flow of my self-esteem as I press on with this project, or the toll that my social experiment with blonding has taken on my psyche. Instead, this post will scale back a bit, offering a moment’s respite in honor of (and in some cases, to introduce you to) significant blondes that have left their luminescent impression on the world.
Without further ado, it is my pleasure to introduce you to the Blonde of the Week. This last week of August 2006 we'll be celebrating Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess who was in many ways the Original Blonde (if it didn’t sound totally retarded, we could call her the O.B.
Aphrodite was the Goddess of Love, Beauty, and Sexual Rapture. “She was tall, voluptuous, magnificent, with translucent skin as smooth as the surface of oil, and the graceful, ample nakedness of pure pleasure,” writes blonde scholar Joanna Pitman in her foremost work on the topic, On Blondes. Here Pitman describes Aphrodite as she was imagined in the form of the worship inducing statue, Aphrodite of Knidos, sculpted of Parian marble and tinted with gold by Praxiteles in 360 B.C. Aprhodite was the “universal blonde, the world’s original model of sexual fantasy and power.” Aphrodite was celebrated all over Greece with her own festival, the Aphrodisiac, and in Corinth, sex with one of her priestesses was considered a method of worshipping the stone-cold fox Goddess of Love.
Aphrodite was also something of a handful. Afraid that her beauty would be too much for the other Gods, and would cause violence and bloodshed over her attentions & affection, Zeus married her off to Hephaestus, the hard-working, steady God of blacksmiths, smithing, metalwork, etc. She was frequently unfaithful to him, and preferred to mess around with his brother Ares, the God of War (who can blame her, we all have our “bad boy” phase) among others of both the Godly and Mortal persuasion. She was also the originator of that little 10 year-long spat, the Trojan War.
Aphrodite, with her long, flowing blonde locks and her smooth, milky, hairless skin (we can also thank Aphrodite for popularizing the bikini wax) so inflamed the passion and desires of ancient Greek men, that prostitutes began to mimic her on earth. Greek women employed in the world’s oldest profession went to extraordinary lengths to dye their dark Mediterranean locks blonde, all in an effort to drum up business. Peroxide had not been invented yet, but these ambitious women were resourceful, and found ways to turn their brown hair blonde. They rubbed dye containing saffron into their hair, painted blonde highlights onto their hair with colored powders, set their curls with yellow muds. For really big customers, wigs purchased from far-off northern lands at considerable expense were employed.
I think of Aphrodite often since I first read up on her. I think of her when calling up Giacomo and Rondi, to schedule a bikini wax (Rhonda is amazing, by the way, if anyone is looking for a new aesthetician.) I think of her when I waltz into Liquid, and take my seat in Jason’s chair at the color table. Sometimes, when I’m walking to the T, trying to ignore the leering stares of the men I pass, and pretend their catcalls and hisses and whistles aren’t happening, I think of Aprhodite. With her in mind, all of this seems less intimidating, and somehow, less arbitrary. It’s as though all of us are paying tribute, in our own small way, taking part in a daily worship of Aphrodite, the ancient Greek Goddess of Love.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Say what you will, that it's silly, vague, made-up bullshit, written to make foolish people feel better about the fact that we have no real control over our lives. But I love it. Every day when I read my horoscope I feel that much savvier, that much more in tune with the universe. And it starts off each day with a breathless touch of anticipation: after reading, I know what the world has in store for me, and I can't wait to see how the next 24 hours unfold.
The other day, Wednesday, August 9th, this is what the stars had to say to me:
Tackle an activity that scares you. Sign up for SCUBA certification. Go surfing. Volunteer to speak at a high school for career day. Walking straight up to your fear vanquishes it and stimulates your brain in new ways.
And this, my friends, is exactly what I did:
Last Wednesday, for the first time in ten months, I saw my Ex. The Ex. As in, my Ex-fiancee, the Ex-future-Mr. Kitty.
Somehow, despite the fact that Boston is a tiny, tiny city, and despite the fact the we still both go drink at the same tiny South End bars, dine at the same cliquey Tremont and Washington Street restaurants, and hang out with many of the same friends we had when we were a couple, I have managed to avoid running into the Ex for no less than ten months--with very little effort on my own behalf.
It's not that I did not hear about him. In fact, I knew all about the goings-on of the Ex's life: I knew where he was hanging out, I knew who he was dating, I knew who she hangs out with, I knew how they met, and I was even among the first to know when he got engaged. I found out before several of his closest friends, and probably before some of his immediate family. But somehow, by some very forgiving twist of fate, I never once ran into the man that used to be my future husband. Not once.
And let me tell you, as I made my way over to the anonymous Back Bay coffeeshop I'd suggested for our meeting, I was terrified. My palms were sweating as I walked to over to Boston's very toursity, very Euro Newbury Street, chosen for it's neutrality (and lack of alcoholic beverages.) I'd never been to that coffeeshop before, and will probably never go there again.
My outfit (new trouser-style Sevens, kitten heels, brown lace shirt with a low neckline, tan clutch) had been chosen with great care, my make-up applied meticulously, and my hair styled into soft, smooth waves, so as to accentuate the blondeness. All to emphasizing the difference a year makes.
Curiously, I heard no comments from lecherous passersby as I wove my way through the South End streets to our meeting. This had me a bit worried: I mean, I usually can't walk across the street to buy toilet-paper without having some disgusting guy ask me for my phone number, even when I'm wearing sweatpants and the Mathematician's grey hoodie. Maybe it's because I'm exuding confidence? I thought.
The fact of the matter is, I had every reason in the world to be nervous. Last time we met for a seemingly cordial drink, we all know what happened. The final stages of my breakup with the Ex were simply awful: volatile and mean enough to erase any misgivings I ever could have had about my decision to end the relationship. But, what I had let myself forget, or rather, ignore in that past 10 months of estrangement is that the Ex is also a kind, caring, gentle and extremely intelligent man. ThatÂs why I hitched my wagon to his star in the first place, soimpetuouslyy, so many years ago.
But as he descended the small staircase to the garden level patio where waited for him, in a sundrenched corner at a green metal table, I felt pleasantly surprised to realize: the Ex still looks exactly the same. He was wearing different jeans, different shoes, and allegedly has gained about 15lbs, which is completely unnoticeable because the Ex is a tall motherfucker, a whopping 6'4". But aside from all of that, I still...I don't know...recognized him.
A lot has happened in the ten months since we last saw each other, and for 2 1/2 hours, we talked about pretty much everything. We talked a lot about his new relationship, with a brunette girl, his new fiancee. They have plans to tie the knot in some tropical location in six months. A year from now, they will be Mr. and Mrs. Ex. He seems to actually mean it this time, and I say, good for him for holding on tight.
All in all, itÂs amazing how much people stay the same, even when you are estranged from them, even when everything in your life changes and shifts around you, even when you thought for a second that they (you?) have morphed into someone else. Last Wednesday I realized: I still love talking to the Ex. I feel delighted that we are going to try to be friends; friends is something we always did very well.
And a supportive friend the Ex is: just like old times, I had to get his opinion on my jeans, because I wasn't quite sure about them & I bought them without Shanna by my side. He told me he loves my blog, and that he loves my book idea, and is so excited that I'm writing a book. He even told me he's happy for me and the Mathematician, which I know took a lot for him to say. And I also know that he means it.
And best of all: he told me that he loved the new, blonde, hair.
I told him it's not so new, it's been like this for almost a year.
And I felt delighted that I'd read my horoscope that day.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
You know those pictures they show in Us Weekly and Star magazine, of Paris Hilton before she became the Paris we all know and gawk at? She is 25 lbs heavier, wearing little or no make-up, her hair is it's natural mousy brown, her nose it's awkward, pre-surgical shape, she's sports a velvet body suit and high waisted jeans, and a gaudy, gothic-looking cross circa-Claire's boutique 1994 hangs between her non-existent, pre-boob-job lack of cleavage?
We all love those pictures, right? Because we all have 'em. Well, here's mine, for you all to enjoy. And don't forget to thank my beloved Jamie for posting this on my MySpace page, and reminding me of my humble beginnings.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
It was a slow Friday and I finished my waitressing shift early. We heard that some people got mugged at gunpoint earlier in the evening, so the Mathematician picked me up at the restaurant, instead of walking home alone like I usually do. I stopped to say goodbye to some of my co-workers and a long-time regular, who were boozing it up on the patio as we walked out.
"You are a sex-pot!" the regular said, out of the blue and completely unsolicited as we stood there, talking. In truth, there was something really awkward about it, but he's a long-time regular, he's gay, and I know he meant it as a compliment, so I smiled, laughed and rolled with it. "More like a sex Kitten," B-lo said, and the conversation tapered away, punctuated by kitty noises, meow-ing and fake clawing at the air as we bid my friends farewell. While all of this was going on, the Mathematician stood there, silent.
Later, at home in my bedroom, the Mathematician brought the comment up.
"I thought it was kind of not that cool, what that guy said to you back there at the restaurant."
"What do you mean?" I said.
"Well, I just thought it was not that cool. It seemed inappropriate and not his place to say something like that."
"Baby, he's gay."
"I know. But, still. I just wasn't that into it."
And it's funny: I am so used to hearing stupid comments like that from men, gay, straight, what have you, that I didn't even think twice about the fact that this regular had just called me a sex-pot, or the way that he called me a sex-pot, or the dynamics of the interaction at all.
"Well, I just think it's not that cool that he said that to you," the Mathematician said. "I know he meant it as a compliment, but it came off sounding derogatory. Yes, you're beautiful, but telling you so like that just cheapens the whole thing."
Now, this regular of mine is a fine person, and someone who I've known in passing from the restaurant for years. He's gay, and because of this, I didn't feel hurt or threatened by the comment. In fact, I took it exactly as I presume he intended it: as a compliment. But as we sat there talking, replaying the incident, I began to realize that people don't talk like that in the Mathematician's world. In his world, of men and computers and systems processors and cache partitioning, compliments are paid in the form of praise for your ideas, respect for innovative concepts, and congratulations on a job well done. In my world, the majority of compliments I receive are in this objectifying form of flattery.
I realized the Mathematician is right: that regular was not complimenting my stellar waitressing skills, my killer personality, or my noticeable intelligence. He was not commenting about my creativity, my aptitude for writing, or my ability to dream up fresh book or PR ideas. He was complimenting me for being hot. And I was flattered,…very flattered,…so flattered that it didn't even occur to me that in reality I want to be so much more than just hot.
In this moment, the Mathematician had a little window into what it feels like to be me. "Well, you have to understand, baby, people talk to me like that all the time. In fact, oftentimes men say things to me that are a zillion times more offensive."
I know he didn't want to hear it. No one wants to think of their girlfriend/sister/mother/best friend being treated like an object. But for that brief moment, the Mathematician had a little window into my odd little world. And I'm glad for it. Because if he hadn't bought it up, if he hadn't taken issue with the comment, and pointed out to me that I am so much more than just a sex-pot and people should respect that, I wouldn't have thought of it either. At the end of the day, gay or straight, comments like these miss the point, reduce me to nothing more than just a body. They totally overlook who I really am.
I also undertstand that someday these comments will stop coming. Gravity will start to work against me, my breasts will sag, my hair will turn coarse and gray, and my skin will reveal its age with irrevocable cracks and crevices. And if people aren't respecting me for anything but my sex-pot body, what will I have then?
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Yet I realized something interesting as I was thinking about this project the other day. It was Tuesday, a mild mannered afternoon. I had a spare hour between rushing here and there, and decided to write. You see, self-critical Virgo that I am, I have been having doubts about this project lately. Thoughts like:
"This is a fool's errand."
"No one will ever buy a book on this."
"Yeah, you get treated differently as a blonde. So what?"
You know, that sort of thing. Self-critical, deprecating thoughts, whispered to me from the back of my mind.
So, on this mild mannered Tuesday, I decided that it was time to have it out with these self-critical voices. I mean, really. Who were they to go around, getting all up inside my head and making me feel discouraged? I sat down with my journal, blank page open in front of me. It was time to take these voices down.
I armed myself with logical thinking skills and not a few generically affirming phrases ("I'm good enough"..."I'm smart enough"...)I wrestled them out, thought by thought, parced them out, feeling by feeling, and sifted through this mass of negativity. And as I did so, I realized something: these thoughts aren't thoughts that I dreamed up on my own. Sure, I've exacerbated them, nurtured them with insecurity and fertilized them with self-doubt. But, when I sit down and think long and hard about where these awful ideas come from I realize, they echo the words of some key men in my life upon learning the subject matter of this experiment: being blonde. Par example:
BROTHER #1: So, let me get this straight...you're going to dye your hair blonde? And then see if people treat you differently? Of course people will treat you differently. Blondes are hot. Duh.
BROTHER #2: You're writing a book that's based on research you do in a bar? Uh, okay.
GAY FRIEND: Oh. How interesting. (Turns his face into a smiling mask; the smile is fake; his tone betrays that he thinks the project is bullshit.) Anyway...(turns the conversation back to himself.)
THE MATHEMATICIAN: Truthfully, I think people are going to pay attention to you no matter what color your hair is 'cuz you're a stone cold fox. (Biased much?)
These comments don't make the aforementioned men any less great, but they do underline an important point that it has taken me over a year to realize: this book is not something that men are going to inherently understand. Very few men know what it feels like to be ogled at 7:30 in the morning when you're simply running up to the corner store to grab some goddamn milk, or to be degraded by teenagers while buying a pack of gum, or to be blatantly sexually harassed, then blamed for it because, well, "you are wearing a short skirt."
But women do understand. All women. Regardless of hair color, waist size, or age. This daily circus of testosterone is something that we all have to deal with, the minute we develop breasts and sprout hips. This is a universal thing and it happens to all of us.
So men of the world who get it: thank you for your support, I adore you and appreciate it.
And the men who don't get it: I just don't know what to tell you. You're never going to get the project, and there's not much I can do about it. So with all do respect guys, if you think the project is bullshit, keep those thoughts to yourself. You wouldn't understand.
And I'm no longer going to listen.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
It will be Tuesday, October 3rd.
In 62 days, I will cross the threshold of Liquid salon a blondie and walk back out a brunette. This will take many, many hours, cost me plenty of money, and lots of courage. I plan to have at least one cocktail beforehand, and to make sure that the Mathematician and perhaps one other very close friend can accompany me. On second thought, I might decide to do it alone. I will most likely cry, I will most likely be a mess, and this may one of those intimate moments that is better shared between stylist and client.
You see, as I've mentioned to many of you before, the blondeness has really begun to seep into my identity. So much so that I've even considered scrapping this entire project altogether, considered moving on to something less personal, something a bit less scary. A few weeks ago, the Mathematician said to me: "You're going brunette in October. Yeah, right. Are you really going to become a brunette again? Honestly, I don't think you have the guts." When he said this, I felt indignant. But the Mathematician had a point.
The more and more I read about blondes, about the image of blondeness and the potent symbolism blonde hair has had over the past 2,500 years, the more I realize I've found my most truly appropriate hair hue. I've come to find out that blondeness is a paradox. It is on the one hand a color of innocence and purity, and on the other a color of potent, sizzling, even dangerous sensuality.
And that pretty much sums up in one hair color how people often view me: dumb or ditzy because of the lilting patterns of my speech, oversexualized, like my bitchy restaurant colleagues, who started a rumor that I used to be a stripper. A lovely, commodifiable paradox.
What have I learned in my year as a blonde? That though my hormones betrayed me, and darkened my hair as a teenager, deep down inside, as my mother insists:
I've always been a blonde.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
DATE: July 26, 2006
TIME: Approx 9:23
NO. OF TOTAL WOMEN: 38
NO. OF BLONDES: 19
Of the 39 women in the restaurant at that point, 19 of them were blonde. So, fifty percent of the total female population, or, 1 in 2.
As I counted, I wanted my mission to remain truly undercover--I was in no mood to explain my research or my methodology. I made my way through the restaurant, circling thru the room slowly like a blonde-seeking shark. I made my face into the blankest canvas possible, a clean yet appraising mask, and took the room in as though I were on some sort of very managerial, very important mission. In reality, I was scoping out all the other women in the room.
There were young blondes: a girl who looked maybe 23 on a date with her handsome, muscular boyfriend. They were generally a handsome couple. She had a sweet, innocent face, a stylish haircut, and seemed flattered that I was being so welcoming to them. She wore designer jeans and looked demureand cute.
There were blondes in their mid-30s: a woman on a date with her boyfriend or husband or what have you. They both wore white pants, not in a clueless European way, but in a "we're a cute, in love couple who looks hot in everything we do" way. And also in a "her boyfriend might be gay but he kinda looks like Clive Owen, so can you really blame her for trying?" kinda way. She was cool, poised, had bare, tan shoulders and was kind.
There was a bitchy blonde, a girl/woman who was most likely 28 or 29, who was so snotty to the manager Adam when he told her that we don't have a valet, I thought he just might tackle her ("Well, where am I supposed to park???" I suggested he direct her to the closest project, three blocks away.) She kept her sunglasses on well after dusk, and waved her stupid Louis Vuitton bag around as though it gave her carte blanche to be a bitch. I have no doubt in my mind that Adam couldn't have picked a Louis Vuitton bag out of a line up if his life depended on it. They weren't speaking the same language: he doesn't speak bags and she only speaks bitch. She was a bit heavier, which I think also made her act competitive towards me. (Who doesn't hate it when "the help" looks better than they do?)
There were middle aged blondes: two thin women in their 40s, looked like they might be from the South Shore, both wearing white pants and black tops, looking a little too tan, even in the low, forgiving light. Their hair was super, super light, and one of them looked like her hair had been damaged, it was so frizzy and friend looking: borderline..dare I say it...trashy. They both looked to be a 10 or 11 on the lightness scale. Too light for them. (Too light for me?)
There were older blondes: a blonde in her later 40s, whose cheeks turned pink with her first sip of alchohol, who was short and nicely dressed like a work appropriate soccer mom, but whose outfit still involved somewhat awkward looking shorts. She looked vulnerable as she sat down at the bar alone to wait for her three friends, but who lit up like a firefly as soon as the first friend arrived.
I watched these women, calculating their age, studying their blondeness: are they really naturally blonde? I studied their roots, their layers, their highlights and lowlights. And I'm almost 100% positive that not one of the 19 goldilocks were naturally so. And as I looked them all over it occured to me: they all looked as though they were trying. Trying to be something, making effort to appear a certain way. In that moment I realized that they all all undercover blondes.
When I woke up this morning I realized that I calculated wrong last night. There were 20 blondes in the restaurant, making it 51% of total blondes in Toro at 9:23 on Wednesday, July 28th. I forgot to include myself: a 20-something blonde, perched at the door in a tasteful but sexy dress, trying to look nonchalant as she ignores the imploring gaze of the 2 men who've been staring at her all night long, shifting her weight from left foot to right foot, back and forth from left hip to right hip, in a what appears to be a sexually charged gesture, but is actually an attempt to soothe her aching feet, in her stupid high heeled shoes. She tryies very hard to be something she thinks she's not. She wonders if anyone will notice.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Today was a day for reblonding. It was my second to last trip...as a blonde, that is. After swearing up and down that it couldn't be done, that it wouldn't be done, that my color could not go a shade lighter...Jason brought me up yet another notch. I'm now a certifiable 11 on the blondie scale. Who knows if you can tell, but here's a picture.
I had lots of thoughts on my impending brunette-ness during this visit, much witty banter with stylist Jason, and of course, loads to report on the entire process of banishing the brown from my roots. Yet all of that is trumped for the moment by what happened to me once I left the salon:
They don't let you use credit card payments to tip the stylists at Liquid (to anyone who wants to make a pilgrimage to see Jason the great, please note), so I had to make a quick run to the ATM at Kosmos before getting on with my day. Standing in the crosswalk, I step gingerly out into oncoming traffic, prepared to wait, as there appears no end to the traffic in sight. But the cars on both sides of me screech to a halt, ceasing their good clip to let me pass by. Perhaps they were blinded by the sun as it glinted off my hair--in any case, crossing the street is never easier than when I leave Liquid. I see several heads turn out of the corner of my eyes as I walk, but pretend not to notice, as if it's always this way, as if I was born looking this polished and trimmed and "gorgeous" and blonde.
You see, that's how I feel today. "Gorgeous" in quotes, as though allegedly pretty, as though theoretically so. Like a different person on the inside than the one you see on the outside.
Two teenage boys are walk out of Kosmos as I walk in. Young, black, hip-hop gear, from the neighborhood. "Oh, you look so cute today," one of them says, and I'm taken off guard and I blush. "How are you today?" says the other as he holds the door open for me. I smile politely but don't say a word, and think about how unusual it is for boys this young to be so forward with me. Guys talk to me on the street all the time, especially in this neighborhood, but rarely boys as young as these two: tall, lanky, baggy clothes, cool as hell, and goofy. They can't be more than 17 or 18. The big tongues of their Nikes poke out from under the hems of their jeans.
"Oh miss, excuse me miss," the Kosmos guy says, as I try unsuccessfully to shove my debit card in the machine. "That machine is out. It's broken today." I turn my head to look at him: "Oh, thank you," I say, laughing at my efforts to suck water from a bone dry well. His tone softens, brightens, and his face breaks out into an interested smile, "I'm very sorry, miss. Closest machine is across the street," he says, with meaning and feeling, as though we're having a real conversation. He crosses the room to wear I stand, and makes a big show of showing me the Aguadilla Market, pointing earnestly at the bodega across the street. My hero. "You are looking very nice today, miss," he says. "You have a very nice day."
I shake my head to myself as I cross the threshold of the door into the fading afternoon sunlight. It's one of those days--I feel bewildered by all the comments, and though I'm mentally chalking it up to research, I can't quite get my head around it. All of this fuss...for what? Some blonde hair? And suddenly it occurs to me: this is my life.
The two teenage boys are still there as I walk out of Kosmos. I am hectic, shuffling around in my purse, trying to get my debit card back into my wallet and my wallet back into my bag, then remembering that I'm going to need both in just a moment, and make a desperate attempt to fish it back out...I'm barely paying attention, but out of the corner of my eye I see the boys looking at me and, somewhere under the sound of keys and change jangling in my purse and the litany of my own thoughts I hear them half-heartedly try to get my attention. Then, somewhere between all of these sounds slips:"Yeah, that's right, that bitch can suck on my dick any time..."
Suddenly, I don't want to be blonde any more. But I don't want to be anything else, besides blonde either. I shuffle my wallet into my purse, drop my enormous sunglasses onto my nose, and look half-heartedly to my left then to my right before stepping out into the street. I do not mind the oncoming traffic--the law of blondeness dictates that it always stops. I try my hardest to pretend I've heard nothing. I don't want to be blonde, and I don't want to be anything. I want to to bury that comment, that moment, that series of events in the rustle of receipts in my bag, in the jostle of keys and pens and iPod and notes scribbled on sticky yellow paper and lipstick and lip gloss and lip balm and while I fish out my phone, glance sightlessly at the face, and drop it right back where I found it, in the black hole of my bag.