Saturday, June 09, 2007

blondes vs. brunettes

More marketing at it's best! Since I don't have a TV (which really must change, since after all, I am a publicist) I only recently learned about the new marketing campaign for Sunsilk Color Boost. Here's the jist: marketing mavens at Mindshare Chicago have designed a totally interactive campaign to literally pit blondes and brunettes against one another, complete with TV ads like these that feature blondes and brunettes talking trash about each other, print ads (none of which I've seen yet), tie-ins to things like MySpace, and an interactive website called, where blondes and brunettes can log in, choose a team, and "compete" to end this age-old question.

Isn't marketing fascinating?

Here's the lead to the press release I found on

In order to answer the age-old question of who is better: blondes or brunettes?, Sunsilk created the Color Showdown, a campaign to ignite conversation about hair color rivalry while launching our newest line of products: the Sunsilk Color Collections.

Who is better? Blondes or brunettes? This first sentence struck me, because it is so basic. For two years now I have been pondering the "idea" of being blonde, images of blondes, commonly held notions of blondeness, my own deeply rooted feelings about being blonde, etc. To me, hair color has become a complicated web of questions. Blonde? Brunette? What does it all mean, to the world and to me, personally? And how can I work all of the many ideas and experiences I've had living as both into a cohesive, readable, 256-288 page book?

Left in the hands of a marketing team, however, there is really only one question: Who is better?

I was raised not to play favorites. I am one of four children and I have a twin brother, and no matter how many times I've tried to get my parents to confess to me that yes, I in fact was both the favorite twin AND the best child overall, it always yielded the same response:

"I love you ALL equally. You are ALL special and different and my favorite. I love ALL of you the best."

Sometimes my mom would answer "Well, you're our favorite daughter" (I am the only daughter), or "You're the best writer in the family" (I am the only writer in the family), but her and my father's message was always in it's essence the same: "You are all equally good and equally valued." In light of this, I find it audacious of Sunsilk Color Collections to so blatantly ask the world to play favorites on the question of blondes or brunettes.

On second thought, I suppose, Sunsilk probably does view brunettes and blondes equally. As long as women are spending money on their products, I'm sure the CEOs of their parent company Unilever will happily say, "Blondes & brunettes, we love ALL of you the best."

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Are you familiar with this word? I wasn't until an older co-worker of mine used it to describe me. I smiled and nodded and said, "Oh, thank you very much, you are too kind, you're making me blush." Then I got home and looked it up in the dictionary:

ob·se·qui·ous : [uhb-see-kwee-uhs] –adjective
1.characterized by or showing servile complaisance or deference; fawning: an obsequious bow.
2.servilely compliant or deferential: obsequious servants.
3.obedient; dutiful.

I was pissed.

Do she think I act SERVILE???" I thought. "Maybe at my waitressing job, where I literally am a SERVER, but in my professional, 9-5 desk job? Where I wear high heels every day and use words like 'corporate restructuring' and 'P&L statement' and 'Q3 and Q4'? Is that really how I seem to my bosses and colleagues? At their beckon-call, ready FAWN over their achievements or honor them with the likes of an OBSEQUIOUS BOW?"

Sadly, she was right. At that point in my life and at that point in my career I'd developed this awful habit of "YES-ing' everybody to death:

YES, I will send that fax for you.
YES, I will pick up your lunch.
YES, I will take on the work that you should be be doing because you are too "busy" (a.k.a. incompetent/lazy) to do it yourself.

I YES-ed myself into over-working myself at all times and wondered why I constantly felt taken for granted.

After spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on therapy, I have learned to be less obsequious with people. It's a constant battle for me, but I've gotten much better about it. I use little words like "NO" a lot more often:

NO, I cannot get that done by 5 o'clock.
NO, I cannot work extra hours this week.

And it has been difficult, but I have even found ways to work this less-obsequious persona into my servile waitressing job:

NO I will not cover your shift for you so you can go see the Red Sox.
NO I will not give you separate checks.
NO you may not have another drink, you are shut off.

As a brunette especially I felt the naturally obsequious woman inside me melting away. She was replaced by this whole other kind of woman, a brunette woman who didn't feel pressured to smile all the time, to laugh at other people's bad jokes, or be super-duper friendly to people who were being rude to her. She was reserved and conservative and she had this way of commanding respect from people, all people, even those seated at her tables at the restaurant. She was poised, polite, and friendly, but she was never obsequious. She knew that a straight, serious facial expression which only broke into a bright smile if you earned it was just as effective with people as the bright, bubbly smile that never left her face when she was a blonde. She was confident that her natural demeanor was quite enough.

Now my blonde hair is back, and all of that obsequiousness is back right along with it. Last night at work, for example, I kept hearing myself say things like:

"Oh, I'm so sorry! We're out of the ribeye. I'm sorry for that, really. I should have told you that earlier. Sorry," and,

"Oh, you want one glass of wine split between two glasses? NO, no, no, that's fine!!! You don't need to do that here at the table, it's quite alright, I'll have the bartender do it for you, or I'll do it. Really, it's no trouble at all!" and,

"Thank you guys so much for coming in! Really, it was a pleasure. Enjoy your night, and enjoy the rest of your week! Thanks very, very much!"

All night long I heard phrases like these coming out of my mouth, and each time, I felt shocked at how over-the-top they sounded. Seriously, when would I have told them we were out of ribeye? Before they came in to the restaurant? Should I have called them at home? And one glass of wine split into two glasses? Who does that? They wouldn't have minded pouring it at the table, why did I make such a fuss when I knew the bartender was slammed? And who was I, imploring these strangers to have a great night and a great week and a great life...they were nice enough, but seriously, who cares? 'Thank you' is certainly a plenty friendly way to say goodbye.

But I felt even more shocked by how naturally these words spilled from my lips.

And at the end of the night I felt exhausted. Really, it's tiring, showing this SERVILE COMPLAISANCE all the time, and FAWNING over people left and right.

Where did that sassy, no bullshit brunette attitude go?