Thursday, March 29, 2007

color blind

So, further to my post of last Monday, the current state of affairs with my hair color is dark.

Yep, it's dark alright. As we know from my inital posts about the blonde-to-brunette change, I elicited some great reactions my very first night working in the restaurant as a brunette. Here's a laundry list of favorites that I have not yet shared:

Andy, the chef, said:
"Hey, Kitty! That looks HOT! I like it. But next time, I think you should go RED. Red hair's awesome."
(His girlfriend is a redhead. Not surprisingly.)

Olivia, my friend's adorable baby, who was always standoffish when I was a blonde:
She said nothing, since she's only 18 months old. However, I took grasping for my hands and smiling and laughing at me instead of cowering in fear as a positive reaction.

Uri, the sous chef from Belarus:
Uri also said nothing. He also wouldn't make eye contact with me for the first hour of service, and squared his jaw in a way that was so somber, so Eastern bloc, that I feared I'd sent him spiraling into some sort of deep depression. Only later did he speak to me, to squeak out one little syllable: "Why?"

Tony, the very fabulous Brazillian busser who calls me Barbie:
"AAAACCK, Kitty, what did you DOOOOO??????"
(Thereby supporting my theory that Latin American gentlemen, at least, prefer blondes.)

All of these reactions really made me feel that I'd made a remarkable change to my outward appearance, that my new hair color was something that would not go unnoticed.

Then after my most recent touch up, a peculiar thing started to happen. People who I had seen at least once, perhaps even twice or three times since my initial deblonding, starting saying things like:
"Hey, oh my GOD. Did you dye your hair? I didn't recognize you, it's so different!!!! I like it! I really do!"

"Um, yeah," I'd say, puzzled, "I did dye it, Like two months ago, have I not seen you since then? No, no, wait a minute, I saw you last week. And the week before. Dude, I've seen you like six times since I dyed it. WTF?"

"Oh," they'd say, "well, hmmm... But now it's REALLY, REALLY dark. Before it was just, you know, a little darker."

"You mean when I went from platinum to dark brown? Yeah, that's hardly noticeable."

I can only assume that these people are color blind.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

my brunette garbage

A reader recently left an interesting comment in response to this post. It was so interesting, in fact, that I wanted to post about it. She said:

Brunettes that are bleached are not Blonde. Yes, I know that Bleached Brunette sounds ugly but hey, if you are a Brunette and you're bleached, then you're a Bleached Brunette. Stop using the name Blonde to dress up your Brunette garbage. Blondes are actively disassociating from this forced relationship. Blonde is the name of the Blonde people and nobody else.

Well, she certainly told me, didn't she?

(Also, did you guys know there were a "blonde people?" Perhaps they hail from a great "Blonde nation" located in some remote region of Scandinavia?)

I was intrigued and just had to check out this reader's website, Blond from Birth. It's basically a soapbox where this very disgruntled blonde laments the shitty, undermining stereotypes she faces as a blond woman, and has likely been facing all of her life (if she is, in fact, among the 1 in 20 women who are naturally blond from birth--she's posted no pictures to prove it.)

The content is problematic to me: virtually unsupported & for the most part WAY oversimplified, i.e. her comparisons between blonde prejudice & racism or anti-semitism--in my opinion, that's totally inappropriate. But, I can't say I blame this woman for feeling upset about her plight. I'm sure that as a blonde, she's treated like a bimbo all the time. I lived as an almost platinum blonde for a year and a half, I know what that feels like. And truly, it sucks to be treated like you're stupid, solely because of the color of your hair.

That said, I think that more of the time, blondes are celebrated based solely on the color of their hair. I certainly was as a child, from the moment wispy strands of baby hair grew in flaxen on my head (yes, I was blonde from birth), thru my teens, when puberty, hormones, and the natural aging process turned my hair light brown. All of that happened again in a whole new way when I went blonde as an adult, and persisted thru the day I dyed my hair brown. Sometimes, as a brunette, I truly miss that special treatment...though I am beginning to suspect that the person who felt the most special about my blonde hair most of the time was me.

So, thanks for the food for thought, Carol "Blond from Birth" Cox. It's too bad you didn't take the time to read my blog, and just skimmed thru that one post before leaving me an angry/mean/slightly scary comment. The fact of the matter is, Undercover Blonde is a very pro-blonde, very pro-woman project, designed to question stereotypical notions of blondes, and make readers think twice about the prejudices we hold based on meaningless physical traits.

Far more interesting to me than your 'natural' blond hair color, however, is your self-protective, othering attitude about your blondness. It tells me that you fail to see the big picture I am so desperately trying to deconstruct with my project. The fact of the matter is, your experience of marginalization is so much bigger than you, and so much bigger than the plight of blondes alone. It's part of a very complicated web that has all women of every race, class, and sexual orientation ensnared in it's sticky fiber. It's the experience of being female in a sexist, looksist, unfair society.

The sad thing is, by fostering an "us" and "them" mentality with rhetoric about my "brunette garbage" and invalidating my experience because I'm not part of the elite "blond from birth," you are only making a complex situation worse. As women, we are constantly pitted against each other in this culture, constantly finding ways to undermine or undercut the other, based on horribly superficial things. Anyone who has ever critiqued the length of a colleague's skirt is guilty; anyone who has ever been so critiqued is a victim. It's a classic example of divide & conquer, baby. Ever heard of it? As aggrandizing as it is to put another woman down in the moment, it only serves to undermine our power as a group. And it's a remarkably effective way to perpetuate a sexist, looksist, and totally unfair status quo.

With a little bit of patience and a little bit more reading, you might understand that I get what it feels like to be treated like an idiot because of the color of my hair. Every woman does, because if it's not our hair that marks us as ditzy sex objects, it's our bust size or our height or not being pretty enough, or being too pretty, you name it...mostly we're marked as inferior because we were born with a vagina. It's part & parcel of the sticky web of sexism. Hair color? That's just the icing on the patriarchal cake.

Then again, perhaps you're not actually the blog reading type. Perhaps you lack the patience to pore through the many pages of Undercover Blonde, to make sense of my goals and ambitions with this carefully drawn project. If that's the case, you can wait until it's all out in book form, buy a copy on Amazon, or take a copy home from your local library. By then, I'm sure, it will be much more concise.

Lucky for you, that will sooner than late, because I just signed on with a literary agent.

And no, I will NOT be changing the title of my "brunette garbage" to Undercover Bleached Brunette. Something tells me a title like that just wouldn't work in the marketplace.

Monday, March 26, 2007

darker still

I have gone darker & darker still twice since my initial date with the brown bottle.

I first returned just a few weeks after the great deblonding of Dec 29th, 2006 because my locks were starting to look totally peaked as the semi-permanent color Jason so judiciously employed washed out. I couldn't handle it, as this post attests. When I went back again, just two weeks after that, well, that was sort of an accident: I had scheduled a meeting with Jason to discuss the various color stages we'd gone thru over the course of this project, just so I could get some solid details & facts written down, and when I called him that morning to confirm, he informed me that instead of meeting over coffee, we'd meet over color.

So, by now, I'm a brunette twice over. However, it occurred to me the other day while I was scrolling thru my phone that I've taken an absurd amount of pictures of myself over the course of these past four months as a brunette, and have hardly posted any of them for you all to enjoy. So, without further ado, here are the lost brunette archives:

After a few glasses of wine late on Dec 28th, the night before I was scheduled to deblonde. I was freaking when this picture was taken, and also, totally over it with the roots. Look at those roots? Wouldn't you have been, too?

With orange hair, because they had to add "gold" before they added back any brunette color. It was a frightfully long process that took 3 hours to complete. And this looks more like an attempt at strawberry blonde gone wrong to me than "gold", but what do I know.

Looking like sophisticated brunette with Shanna, my brunette idol (the color from the initial deblonding was three weeks old and starting to fade & wash out here. In light of this, I wore it up.

My girlfriends, reacting to my new hair color...they all like it!!!

This is after my first touch up (kinda how my hair looks now.)

Darker still, an experimental shot of the brunette sans make-up taken just the other day.

So there you have it, it's much, much darker than even after the first process. This, however, is the darkest it will go, lest we turn my hair irreparably brown and I have to shave it off to go back to blonde.

More on all of this later, of course, but I thought it was time I stopped being so tight lipped about my brunette color.

Monday, March 19, 2007

is blonde boring?

Once upon a time, when I filled in at Toro as a host, I'd have nothing to do at the end of the night in the period after the yuppies had stopped clamoring at the door for tables, but before I could be released from my guardpost. Always a multi-tasker, I'd use this opportunity to circle the restaurant and take inventory of the number of blondes in the room, as "research" for my book. I'd walk slowly around the room, and take notes. I found some just the other day, in a box that is yet to be fully unpacked from my recent move. It's written on the back of an old discarded menu and reads: "19 women out of 38 = blonde...98% = obviously dyed...97% have visible roots."

Now I work at Toro as a waitress, and I'm typically too busy for this kind of record keeping. I still take mental note of the blondes in the restaurant, though, and at least twice I week I'll find myself thinking: "look at all these dye jobs!" at some point during the night. Sometimes these women number half the women in the room. Sometimes more. Sometimes I inspect their roots from where I stand taking their order, high enough above them to look down at the crowns of their heads, but still at the perfect height to get a good, close look. From here, I appraise the quality of their highlights, note whether the blonde has been employed to cover brown hair or grey hair, and assess how much longer these women have before they need to hightail it back to Newbury Street for a foil.

Sometimes, when I see a really good set of highlights, like the ones that Zoe, our hostess, rocks, I feel jealous. I long for the days when I, too, was the hostess with with long blonde hair that always made me feel special, like I was pretty and sparkly and something to look at.

But most of the time, especially lately, I find myself struck by how artificial all of this unnaturally blonde hair looks. I look around and I wonder to myself, "Do these women think they're fooling anyone? Because they so aren't. They all look fake."

The fact of the matter is, I am 100% sure that these women don't care how fake they look. I know this because back when my hair was that blonde, as it was in this picture, looking natural was the last thing on my mind.

In fact, when my hair was that light, I embraced the fakeness. I rocked it. And for some reason, it make me feel oh-so special.

This candid, snapped by the Mathematician in Florence's Boboli Gardens, is one of 100 random pictures from the trips we've taken since we started dating. It flashes across the screen of my work computer as a part of a slideshow screensaver of all the pictures on my Iphoto, a feature I turned on a few months ago by accident. Every time the screensaver comes on the pictures go thru their cycle, and visually rehash our first trip to Prague, our Xmas '05 odyssey in California, and our second trip to Italy and Prague in Fall '06. My hair gets lighter and lighter with our travels. I like watching the screensaver, and I'll just let it run sometimes, when I'm on a call with a client or chatting with my roommates. And whenever I get to the Italia-Praha 2006 photos, I am shocked at how light my hair is. It just looks so...fake. I thought I'd miss those goldilocks so desperately once I became a brunette, but the fact of the matter is, I don't.

Now, at Toro, I look around the room at these blondes and I don't feel jealous, as I thought I would in the eleventh anxious hour before my de-blonding. Nor do I feel struck by how "pretty" these girls and women look with their fake blonde locks. What interests me is that I usually feel nothing at all when I take note of these blonde women. I stare and I scrutinize, and still, the only thing that comes up for me is an ennui so deep it would be the envy of even the most affected Williamsburg hipsters.

So, my question to all the brunettes out there is this: is blonde actually boring? Are the only people who buy into the whole "blondes have more fun" thing blondes, themselves? And men with blonde fetishes?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

liam's thoughts

We were busy tonight at Toro. Some sort of yuppie catnip must have been blowing through the air in the South End, or maybe it was just the shocking "oh-my-God-it's-not-2-degrees-out" factor of the evening that had people out and about. Whatever it was, they seemed to be coming to Toro in droves, all headed straight to my section to eat tapas. It wasn't the busiest night I've seen at Toro, but it was definitely one of the choppiest. The flow of new tables to my section was about as graceful as an offensive line rush, and I felt like I couldn't get a break all night.

My body language must reveal all of this as I finalize my tips and print my cashout report on the computer terminal that's right next to the kitchen.

"Aw, Kitty. What's the matter?" asks Liam, one of the cooks. "Did you have a bad night?"

Liam has completely busted me during one of those down moments when you REALLY don't expect that someone else is watching you. I can tell by his tone that I must look like a sad little kitten who got stuck outside during a rainstorm. The fact is, I spend so much time smiling when I'm in the presence of other people that if I look even the tiniest bit sober, somber, or tired, people usually take it to mean that I'm, like, really upset (remember the Bells Palsy posts?)

"No, my night was fine," I say. "Busy. I'm just tired. I work another job, did you know that? I work here, and as a publicist...and I'm also writing a book, so it's kinda like working three jobs. So, I had a little bit of a rough day at my day job, and now, tonight was just a rough night. Just tired."

"I didn't know you had another job. And you're writing a book, huh? What's your book about?"

So, I explain my hair color project, and the blog, and the whole mission behind Undercover Blonde. As I am talking, my manager Adam approaches.

"I do the majority of my research here, you know. On the customers. And my managers," I say. "Hey Adam, did you see the blog post I wrote about you yet?" I ask.

"No," Adam says, "what's it say? Something awesome?"

"Of course," I smile. "I talk about how refreshingly honest you are. It's about the time I asked you how I look as a brunette, and you told me I look less ditzy than I did as a blonde."

"Oh yeah," he laughs. "You do."

"I know, and now the whole world does, too. It's on the InterWeb. He's right, though," I say to Liam, "People do think I'm less stupid as a brunette. I mean, people always tend to think I'm stupid at first, but they thought I was really stupid when I was blonde."

Surprise and slight confusion cross Liam's face. "Stupid? Really? I didn't think you were stupid when I met you," he says.

"It's okay," I tell him. "You can admit it. A lot of people think that I'm dumb when they first meet me. Trust me, I won't take it personally."

"No, really, Kitty. Stupid is not something that comes to mind when I think of the first impression I had of you." He pauses for a moment, as if giving the topic some serious thought. "No, I definitely didn't think you were stupid."

I look at him warily. Is he teasing me? I have three brothers, lots of guy friends, and have worked in restaurants forever. I expect that most exchanges with kitchen guys will not be serious, and that even the serious ones will involve at least some degree of ball-busting. But Liam appears to be totally serious. Yes, he is definitely serious.

"Wow," I say. "Huh. Are you sure you didn't think I was dumb when we first met? Because you can tell me if you did. I won't get mad."

"Nope. I didn't think you were dumb," he says.

"Interesting. How refreshing. Maybe it's because you met me after I became a brunette...?" It doesn't matter either way, this is very nice to hear after a shitty night. The fact is, people have always perceived me as ditzy or gullible (and I am gullible), for as long as I can remember. Or at least I thought they did. But who knows, maybe I'm wrong now. Maybe people are finally starting to take me seriously. Starting with Liam.

"Yeah," says Adam, flashing a cat-like grin as he walks away to do something 'managerial.' "Because trust me, she did seem ditzy as a blonde."

That's Adam, unflinchingly honest.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"the fancy people"

One of my fellow waitresses, Cinthya, also works as a backwaiter at Clio. Clio is an amazing place, one of my favorites in Boston. Dinner there is the culinary equivalent of a runway fashion show--delicious, expensive, and totally inaccessible to most people. In that sense, it is very different from Toro, where work together.

I was curious as to what it's like for Cinthya to work at both places, so after our shift together about a week ago, I decided to ask. Cinthya had a lot to say, and most of her thoughts confirmed my suspicions: the clientele there is a lot more stuck up, a lot more demanding and difficult, and it makes being a waiter there "very hard." Cinthya is very diplomatic, though. She is pretty much the sweetest person on the planet and very bright. So, it came as no surprise to me that her way of saying that the rich people who dine at Clio are a pain in the ass was completely sweet and utterly innocent:

"For example," she said, in very charming, accented English, "the fancy people are very allergic, and it's very difficult when they can't eat something, because many of the dishes are very complicated."

Cinthya's English may have been a little bit off here, but I got what she was trying to say, and I have to agree. In my illustrious, eight-year waitressing career, it's always been the rich people who have a mysterious "butter allergy" but can somehow eat cheese, or have a "garlic allergy, but a little bit is okay." And I have no way to prove this, but I'm fairly confident that cries of "NO carbs!!!", "dressing ON THE SIDE!!!, "and "ABSOLUTELY NO OIL!!!" echo off the walls of very few Dennys' or Waffle Houses or, other more accessible eating establishments, where people of almost any income can afford to dine.

So, I'm wondering: is it possible that rich people are actually very allergic? Are they more allergic than poor people? Does money cause allergies to foodstuffs that a common chef would deign to employ to make his entrees taste good?

A legitimate food allergy is one thing, but come on, people. At what point to people cross over from being tolerant, hardy human beings, into pampered pains-in-the-ass? I suspect that it correlates to your tax bracket, and that it has more to do with power, prestige, and dominance than it does to do with food.

In any event, I don't like it. And I vow that, no matter how fancy I get, I will never turn into one of those people. Barring adult on-set food allergies, of course.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

how Jason keeps me in line

Jason came in to visit me at Toro the other night. This is how our conversation went:

JASON: (Inspecting my color, as he does whenever we see each other) It's holding up nicely! You're about a week and a half out on roots, though, honey.
ME: Ugh, really?
JASON: Yes, I know...but it's like I told you, you're actually going to have to come more as a brunette than you did as a blonde. You can't have light roots and dark locks. That just looks weird.
ME: True. Okay, so I'll come in like 2 weeks maybe?
JASON: Mmm-hmm...see, you're at almost a four now, down from 11-almost-platinum, so we're going to have to do [INSERT SCIENTIFIC SOUNDING STYLIST MUMBO JUMBO] with some [MORE CHEMICALLY SOUNDING TERMS] to bring you to a nice, warm 5 with some [STYLIST TERM]-y overtones. And all of this without using any permanent color.
ME: Cool! So...does all of that mean that next time I come in, we can start going lighter again? Like, kinda back on the road to being blonde?
JASON: (shaking his head like a parent telling me I can't stay up past my bedtime) No.
ME: Oh. Okay. But...
JASON: (now speaking like a FIRM parent telling me I can't stay up past my bedtime) NO. Kitty. Brunette for six months. Remember?
ME: (Sheepish) Yeah...I guess I remember...

Jason always keeps me in line.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

adam's thoughts

ADAM: So, what made you decide to dye your hair brown? Dark for winter?
ME: Well, no, actually, I'm writing a book about being blonde. It's called Undercover Blonde. So, the brown hair is part of the research. What do you think? Do you like me better as a blonde? Or as a brunette?
ADAM: I don't know, I like it both ways.
ME: Be honest. Don't just say you like it better brown because you feel bad.
ADAM: I don't know. It looks good.
ME: Thanks. That's really helpful feeedback. I'll be sure to record that in my notes.

It is a few hours later, and now we are kind of busy. I am new and still getting my bearings. I am not exactly in the weeds but my mind is about as far away from my hair as it could get.

ADAM: You look less ditzy.
ME: Excuse me?
ADAM: With your hair brown, you just seem less ditzy. You were a lot ditzier when you were blonde.
ME: Oh, so you used to think I was a ditz? Kinda dumb, perhaps?
ADAM: Yeah. Kind of.
ME: Thanks. That is helpful, Adam. truly.

Hey, at least he's honest.