Wednesday, June 25, 2008

identifying as a blonde

I got to thinking rather nostalgically about one of my former Sarah Lawrence classmates today, Bethany. Bethany was a year behind me and one of the cutest, sweetest, most sought after little baby dykes on campus. We lost touch when I was away during junior year, but on my very first day of school the following fall, she was one of the first people I ran into. I was super pscyhed!

We swapped stories over coffee and bagels before running off to interview our teachers and pick classes (yes, we interviewed them, it's THAT kind of school.) I went on and on about how I felt I'd changed so much in the past year, about how much I'd grown from living on my own for a while and then going to study abroad in Ireland, and living as this cultural "outsider".

I forget the point I was making but about half way through our visit , I said: "And you know, Bethany," when she suddenly got this funny look on her face and started laughing. "What?" I said. "Do I have something on my face?

"No, it's just...I mean, I guess I forgot to tell you...I changed my name and my gender while you were away."

"Oh. Okay," I said. I was a little surprised, but this kinda thing happens often at Sarah Lawrence. "So wait...can I still call you Bethany?"

"No," she laughed. "No, you can't."

"Oh, duh. Sorry," I grimaced at my own ditziness. "Well, what should I call you, then?"

"Drew. My new name is Drew," she told me.

"Cool. And you know, Drew..." and on I went, finishing my thought.

And thus, at 20, Bethany became Drew. Nothing changed physically about Drew. Drew continued to date women (who also identified as men, which made things really confusing when she'd tell me about her boyfriends and I'd meet them and they were actually anatomically female, but that's another blog post) and continued to be the same person I knew and adored, but for this massive new difference -- Drew now identified as a man.

I got to thinking about the verb "identify" today, and about the weird brain bendy thing that used to happen when people asked me what my hair color was previous to dying it blonde for this project. Since I was about ten it has been light brown, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Yet I have thought of myself as a blonde for all of my 28 years. When asked about my hair color, I'd tell people, "I'm blonde." Duh.

Though I was only naturally blonde for the first ten years of my life, have I identified as a blonde for the rest?

1 comment:

Molly said...

It's interesting how hair color can become an identity issue. I was blonde all my life; in grad school I started to edge into strawberry blonde and finally went the full redhead route about six months ago. Recently, I had to get fingerprinted to get security clearance for some equipment at school, and the form asked standard questions like age, height, and ... hair color. I went into full minor-existential-crisis mode. With a desperate glance at the grizzled officer, I said "I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO PUT!" Who WAS I? All catalyzed by hair color!