Monday, September 29, 2008

who makes better tips? Blondes or brunettes?

I was out of town and out of a service area this weekend, but when I returned to civilization and my IPhone refreshed, I found this query in my email inbox:
I would really appreciate your advice.
I've been looking on-line and haven't really found an answer yet, but maybe your experience can help. Do blonde's get tipped better than brunettes in a waitress position?
Well, curious reader, that's an interesting question with a complicated answer. I'm posting my thoughts here in the hopes that any other blonde waitresses (undercover or otherwise) who might happen by can chime in with theirs.

Yes, I do get bigger tips as a blonde. I think that has more to do with how I am me as a blonde than anything else. As a blonde waitress I tend to be more obsequious, affect a more bubbly demeanor, and more flirty. I can't explain why, beyond that I feel this is what is expected of me by the people who sit in my section. In the mirror of their eyes, this is how I am as a blonde.

As a brunette, I did not act as bubbly or overly friendly or super-duper-nice. When I said, "Hello, how are you this evening?" my voice came out of my throat at a lower decibel, my tone more business-like. I approached my tables with confidence and poise, and assumed a more subdued demeanor with guests. I also didn't feel compelled to smile excessively or laugh at their stupid jokes so heartily. Good, attentive service seemed enough.

Occasionally, this distanced brunette demeanor did not go over well. I've only had a table complain to a manager that I provided bad service once in the past several years; that happened while I was a brunette. What can I say? I remained polite to the high maintenance bitch, but refused to kiss her ass: as a brunette, I didn't need to. Guess she didn't like it. When I served her a few months later as a blonde, she didn't seem to remember me...and the interaction was perfectly cordial.

Then there's the whole guy thing. Undesirable characters are MUCH more likely to sexualize the customer-waitress interaction when my hair is blonde. Men of all ages, from guys who are still in college to dudes old enough to be my dad; men of all walks of life, from rugged manual-laborer types to filthy rich guys who pay with a black AmEx; men of all stripes, from quietly classy to full-blown, downright, sexual harrassers. Do they tip me better? Maybe; unless I waited on them as a brunette, I have no way to compare. Is it worth a few extra bucks to feel totally objectified and mildly embarrassed every time I have to offer someone a drink or take away a plate? Not really. Then there are times when a guy at a table will have a few too many, make a total ass out of himself, and really humiliate me with his behavior, only to tip a paltry 15% or less. That's totally degrading, one of the shittiest feelings I've had to sustain in this line of work.

I distinctly remember approaching my first table of the night within a few days of dying my hair back to blonde. I looked up, saw two rugged, manly-looking man-men who were totally out of place in the high end South End establishment where I am employed (they asked for Michelob Light), and sighed. Shit, I thought. I have to go flirt with those guys right now and I really am just not in the mood. Then I realized what I'd just said to myself: Oh my God, did I really just think that???

So, in short, I do feel like I get bigger tips as a blonde. But are they better tips? Not so much.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Marilyn by LUSH Product review: Part I

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I'm testing Marilyn by LUSH this month for it's blondaliciousness. Here's what the website has to say about the stuff:

Marilyn Hair Treatment Hair Moisturizer
Moisturizing treatment to soften and brighten blonde hair

Chamomile, lemon and saffron brighten blonde hair. Use it regularly and get fairer hair. Linseed mucilage results in softer tresses and fresh, organic lemon juice adds a ton of shine. If you always wanted to be a "natural" blonde, here's how to go about it.

7.9 oz costs $18.55.

You can literally smell the LUSH shop before you see it as you walk down Newbury Street. Inside the store, the air is thickly perfumed by the candy flavored products that line the shelves. The LUSH sales-staff tend to be bubbly and outgoing and usually intent on working a sales pitch for at least one or two "featured" products as they say hello/check you out. I tend to find the entire experience of shopping there overwhelming, and try to duck in and out as quickly as possible to avoid olfactory overload. The products are worth every venture, which is why I keep coming shopping there, and when I discovered the Marilyn, I felt intrigued by its promise.

The sales girl who checked me out extolled the virtues of the product, which surprised me because she was a dark brunette. She gave me a quick run-down of how to use the stuff, instructing me to:

  • Leave it in my hair for at least 20 minutes, preferably longer.
  • Try slathering it on and sleeping with it in, to maximize effectiveness, or
  • To apply it then blow-dry the hair, thereby activating the color-enhancing properties even more.
The notes on the website further instructed me to use a ton of the product per use -- "literally soaking the hair". They recommend that women with shorter cuts use 1/4 to 1/2 of the tub each use, and women with longer hair use 1/2 - an entire tub. And the stuff ain't cheap; I so I opt to use a quarter container.

The Marilyn has a gloopy consistency and smells like honey, lavender, chamomile, and, is also vaguely reminiscent of paste -- in a good way. I slather it on, throw a shower cap on my head, and tuck into bed. Nighty-night!

When I wake up in the morning and washed it Marilyn out, my hair feels soft, silky, and totally conditioned. I style it as usual (wrap it in rollers and let it dry for like a zillion years) and at the end of the entire, long process, my hair is bouncy, curly, and super vibrant. I can't say for sure that I think my hair looks any blonder, but the texture is luscious.

Perhaps the blonde-enhancing aspect of the cream is an aggregate thing? Like, maybe if I use it more frequently, it will be more effective? I will report back more once I've tried it again.

Stay tuned for Part II, where I test out the blow-dry method and determine, for once and for all, if the Marilyn makes it into the cadre of expensive products upon which I utterly depend.

Monday, September 22, 2008

stoner Sunday

Table 60 is acting funny. They kept giggling while I was trying to take their drink order. Or maybe it's me. It's hard to tell. I was pretty exuberant when I initially approached the table to greet them, but there's no one else in my section and I'm bored! I have nothing else to do but dote on them. So dote I will.

I return to the table with their sangria and as I pour it into two glasses, ask: "Do you guys have any questions about the menu?"

"No," the girl says. "I don't think so." Across the table, the guy is snickering under his breath. She glares at him. Then she giggles, too.

"Cool! Are you guys ready to order, then?"

"No," the guy says. Now the girl is giggling under her breath. He just looks at her blankly, then looks up at me and says: "I need to tell you something. We're really stoned right now."

"Fabulous," I say. "What better way to spend a Sunday."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

are you a jackie or a marilyn?

This question has been on my mind ever since this episode of Mad Men ran a few weeks ago (click through and watch the clip and know why this show is so amazing.)

The part of the clip that keeps running through my mind is Don's pitch, when he says, "Jacqueline Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe. Women have feelings about these women because men do. Because we want both, they want to be both. It's about how they want to be seen by us: their husbands, their boyfriends, their friends' husbands."

As a women going about the business of her life in this postmodern, post-Women's Movement era, I bristle at that statement: "I'm sorry, I dress, primp, and coif for me, not for men."

Or do I? My most recent hair color & style choice is decidedly in imitation of you know who. And I completely identified with Blonde Correspondent Tolly M.'s mixed feelings about being oversexualized as a blonde, and undersexualized (but taken seriously) as a brunette. And this makes me feel feminist guilt.

Amy Klein said it well in her recent "Modern Love" piece for the New York Times magazine, describing her slight disappointment when, after several years of harassment, her cyberstalker finally left her alone:

"When you are young and pretty, nothing outrages you more than unwanted, persistent attention. You want to be taken seriously. But as you get older, and people start to ignore your looks and actually do begin to take you seriously as a professional, you feel like yesterday's news."

Then again, I'm the kind of girl who always wants what I haven't got.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

BLONDE DISPATCHES: Undercover Brunette

by Tolly Moseley

Ever since I was sixteen, I've been an artificial blonde. I blame Loreal Frost and Design. The pretty girl on the box of Champagne H85. The easy pull-through cap with a new time-saving formula. The tools, the potion you get to mix up, the erotic thrill of reversing your hair color destiny via the magic of science. What girl wouldn't fall for this stuff?

The first time I highlighted my hair, I remember my mom shaking the bleach powder into the plastic tub, releasing chemical-laded ammonia fumes. I felt so ballsy. I was about to do something unapologetically fake to my body. Sure, it was a far cry from a tattoo or even a piercing - but it still gave me a rush. The Sunday before, I had gone to church, where we probably talked about our bodies being temples. Now my virgin, mousy hair awaited a thick layer of 100% non-God given bleach. I had never been so excited about giving this temple a renovation.

The first time I bleached my hair, I lied about it. A girl on dance team asked me if I had gotten highlights, and I told her: "I was in the sun all day last weekend - you know, my hair just does this sometimes!" It was an out-and-out untruth. I don't think she believed me.

The gazillionth time I bleached my hair, my boyfriend, now husband, asked: "Are you a natural blonde?" I laughed and said, "this is not nature, my friend - this is art." And that's exactly how I, and I imagine many women, feel: like an artist of one's own appearance.

So it's with great pleasure that I go about day-to-day, wearing my blondeness. Hello, traffic light! Hello, Fran in sales! For whatever reason, being a blonde usually makes me feel perky. I am quite certain this has its roots in culturally stereotypical and decidedly unfeminist lines of thinking. But I also know that I look a lot better as a blonde, and that shot of self-confidence I got at sixteen as a newly-minted towhead still hasn't worn off.

For all of the reasons above, friends and family were quite surprised when I decided to go brunette. Promptly after my wedding.

"But you make such a good blonde?"

"Are you mourning your single life?"

"Does your husband secretly prefer brunettes?"

The truth was, I had been blonde for about a decade - not counting one inconsequential encounter with a box of hot pink dye I picked up at Sally Beauty Supply in college - and thought it was time to challenge myself. Why "challenge?" That's a good question. I guess I operated under the assumption that anyone could go blonde...but not everyone could do dark. It seemed like an adventure.

When my stylist unwrapped the towel from my fresh, inky tresses, I knew I had made a mistake.

"Um...I love it!" I stammered. This was a disaster.

The first thing I wanted to do when I got dark hair - a rich, chocolate brown with red highlights, a beautiful combination whose only problem was the un-beautiful girl it graced - was slap on as much eye makeup as I could. So I came home, rubbed charcoal shadow on my lids and penciled black liner on my eyes, with nude lips for effect. My husband and I went on a date that night. I think he was scared.

The second thing I wanted to do was go get a tan. This too was an impulse I can't explain. As a blonde, it seemed that the only people I ever ran into at the tanning place were…other blondes. I guess I thought that brunettes had either a) naturally olive skin that looked sort of tan no matter what they did, or b) porcelain complexions kept delicate and snowy so as to heighten the drama with their contrasting locks. But I was, unfortunately, no Dita Von Teese. I marched my brunette self straight into a spray-on booth, and emerged Eva Mendes. A shorter, more-awkward looking Eva Mendes.

Here's something I didn't expect: brunette hair made me feel like I had a huge head. As a blonde, if one's hair is mussy and not quite “fixed," which would have been me every single day prior to de-blonding, it’s easy to get away with. But as a brunette, all of those out-of-place hairs stand out in stark contrast against the rest of the world. So although it was completely not my personality, I felt compelled during those first few brunette weeks to make a daily ‘do out of my raven locks, which styling tools and expensive products I had to ration my grocery shopping money on. Why? I couldn't very well walk around with this huge head full of crazy brown hair, could I?

Another thing: I learned that one's "blonde wardrobe" doesn't immediately transition to a "brunette wardrobe." At least, it didn't for me. I virtually buried my pink items, which all struck me as horribly Elle Woods, and bought several jewel-toned tops that looked at once grown-up and sophisticated. Was brunette hair aging me? I couldn't tell.

Eventually, with practice and purple blouses and inexplicably large sunglasses, I started embracing the brunette thing. I felt like a spy on my own life. I'd go to the gym, and people wouldn't recognize me. I visited my in-laws, and they stuttered a little. It was all so very strange, this dark hair! I have never been one to intimidate, and all of a sudden, I did. Are blondes more approachable? Are blonde jokes still echoing in our cultural consciousness? This was in the height of Jessica Simpson madness, and everywhere I looked, I saw her blonde hair, her huge heels, her whole Texas (specifically, Dallas) package grinning at me from the cover of an Us Weekly. I've always had a soft spot for Jess, but I also congratulated myself for temporarily excusing myself from the blonde ranks until her flaxen domination blew over.

I have one confession from this time period. It's true that as a brunette, I didn't get checked out as much. I hated it, then I loved it. How lovely not to be sexualized. How freeing and bold I felt, not using my feminine wiles as a crutch for almost every male/female interaction. Not to say that the world isn't delirious with sexy brunettes (Penelope Cruz, we are looking in your direction). And not to say, also, that I was even entirely conscious of all the giggling, the blondie silliness, before. "Man, could I act like a blonde sometimes!" I'd think, catching myself in a moment of flirty blondeness, which felt forced and weird now. 'Brunette' was a second skin I didn't quite own, and further, something about it made me hyper-aware of how many more people took me seriously, which was sad but also interesting. So I didn't try to impress the would-be flirters.

When I heard the siren song of blondness some six months later, I didn't resist: On my 26th birthday, I skipped back to my blonde "roots." I did it myself, with a humble Loreal Frost and Design pull-through cap kit. I remember meeting my parents for dinner that night, and my mom telling me, "honey, it's good to see you again!"

Mom's right, I'm more "me" as a blonde. But inside, there's a brooding brunette who realizes she is a sociocultural archetype, a "bad girl" invented by Hollywood tropes, rubbing her hands together fiendishly and waiting for our next adventure. She's telling me to go red this fall. In a couple of months, I shall be a fiery vixen a la Joan Holloway on "Mad Men." The inner brunette/redhead can be quite convincing, when she wants to be.

Tolly Moseley is a book publicist and writer based in Austin, TX. To read more about the trouble she's causing deep in the heart of Texas, visit

Sunday, September 14, 2008

entering my last year of my twenties

I spent the week really looking forward to my birthday (yesterday.) The Mathematician and I were planning to go to Newport, the site of our first date, and sort of recreate it by going to all the places we went that day. Then his gout flared up, so we made a back-up plan to get facials, massage, a pedicure and later dinner at Uni. When I woke up the weather was beautiful, a perfect day to celebrate a birthday. Maybe I'd find time to buy myself a little birthday treat while we were on Newbury Street for our spa day.

I awoke at 9 a.m. and scurried off to yoga. I was feeling a little off, but assumed this was owing to the fact that I got bombed at Eastern Standard the day before while researching our assignment for the Weekly Dig's upcoming 5-Drink Minimum issue. Not so. About 5 minutes into class with my favorite teacher I started to feel weird and out of sorts, and the first time we transitioned from forward bend to tadasana I really almost fainted. I spent the entire half the class in child's pose or lying on my back on the floor. When I got home the Mathematician felt my forehead and I burning up with a fever. [NOTE: Hot yoga and fever do not mix.]

I napped for a few hours and still went to the spa, which was fabulous. We canceled dinner and spent the evening watching Entourage and eating pizza and cupcakes and lots of Advil.

Some people say that every two hours of your birthday represent how the subsequent months of your year will be spent. If that's true, I'll be spending months 1 - 5 sleeping off a hangover, month 6 feeling like I'm about to pass out in yoga, month 7 alternating between sleep and eating saltines in bed, month 8-9 getting pampered, months 10-12 watching HBO shows on the couch and eating pizza and cupcakes, with a few mini naps here and there.

A very unceremonious start to the last year of my twenties. But I still had a really nice time with the Mathematician.

Monday, September 08, 2008

BLONDE DISPATCHES: Are You a True Blonde?

by Leese Elder

If I got a dime each time someone asked me that question, I think I would be rich by now. This irritating question came in many forms but, I think the one that bothered me the most is when someone asked, “do the curtains match the drapes?” Can you get any more intrusive? I mean who cares anyway? You never hear someone going around asking “are you a natural brunette?”

I have been a blonde since birth. God seemed to bless me with a head full of platinum white curls that attracted much unwanted attention growing up. In elementary it seemed like a curse, more than a blessing. I was so blonde that a kid actually had the nerve to point and, say, “she’s an albino!” Needless to say, I was pretty self conscious about it. But, my mother would always say, “Do you know how much women spend on their hair to be that color?” I would say, “How much?” “I would be glad to take the cash!”

Throughout junior high and, high school, my hair took over my image. I was the blonde bombshell with a chest to match. Everyone insisted that I bleached my hair. I still didn’t like the unwanted attention; I was shy to say the least. But, I started to notice that I turned heads that I did not necessarily want to turn. “Proxy Locks and, electric hips,” is what one of my boyfriend’s moms nicknamed me. I even went to some great lengths at the salon to foil some brown into my hair. I didn’t turn out like I thought it would. I looked like I had a grey wig on!

Being blonde throughout my adolescence was a heavy burden for me to carry. But, now that I have embraced it, I wouldn’t have it any other way. So, when people ask me that redundant question, “Are you a true blonde or not?” I reluctantly turn and say, “The curtains match the drapes.”

By, Leese Elder

To read more about Leese's blonde adventures, check out

Introducing...Blonde Correspondents

Lately I've been scheming up ways to make UNDERCOVER BLONDE more interactive, and I'm thrilled to be launching a new feature today, BLONDE DISPATCHES.

BLONDE DISPATCHES will be guest posts written by other women on blondeness, tackling this tenet of the American female beauty myth from various angles. (In other words, writers wanted! And you don't need to be blonde. I'm interested in hearing thoughts on the topic from all sides.) I'm excited to be engaging new voices in this project and hope it will trigger dialogue (albeit cyber) about beauty ideals, self-image, stereotyping, and, in broader strokes, what its like to be a woman in America today.

What follows is a the premiere post from our very first blonde correspondent, Leese.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

traveling is great because...

...sometimes you end up meeting really interesting people when you least expect it. Like today, when I sat next to an almost famous Christian rock musician on the airplane who is 32 years old and has never had a cocktail.

Need I say this is about as far out of the box as it gets for me?

When I told my new friend about my deep personal relationship with cocktails, specifically endangered ones, he politely asked my advice on what he should try as, you know, his first cocktail ever. I have been delightedly puzzling over the answer since.

I can only imagine how strange our conversation must have sounded to the surrounding passengers: me going on and on about my book projects, one on blondeness and the other about cocktails; he telling me about life on the road as a Christian rock musician and his new baby. And both of us extolling the virtues of sustainable agriculture and locavore eating. I have to say, it was pretty rad.

What did you do this Saturday?

My as yet non-reactive biological clock

A child several seats away won't stop sqwaking. And screeching. It's
really irritating. The parents don't seem to notice. I guess it's
probably a little different when it's your own.

For now, it's an effective reminder that it's time to take my birth
control pill.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

the search for the BEST blonde products: MARILYN by Lush

Happy September, everybody!

I have a few new features in store for you all this month, in honor of the new season. Today I'd like to introduce the first: my quest for the BEST blonde products on the market. (Blonde product publicists, take note!)

I'm way too chicken to attempt coloring my hair on my own without Jason's expert hands, so unless I can find a blonde correspondent to brave the home hair care aisle and report back, you won't find data on home coloring products here.

You will find data on my experiences with products that claim they will make your blondeness blonder, such as Marilyn hair treatment, by LUSH, which my fellow LUPEC member, Fancy Brandy turned me on to. I'll use it for the month and report back periodically with results.

Here's what the LUSH company website says about the product:

Marilyn Hair Treatment Hair Moisturizer
Moisturizing treatment to soften and brighten blonde hair

Chamomile, lemon and saffron brighten blonde hair. Use it regularly and get fairer hair. Linseed mucilage results in softer tresses and fresh, organic lemon juice adds a ton of shine. If you always wanted to be a "natural" blonde, here's how to go about it.

7.9 oz costs $18.55.

Alright, LUSH. I can tell you right now that I am highly skeptical that this little hair mask thing will actually make me a "natural blonde." Only a proper genetic pairing can do that. That said, if Marilyn can keep my hair nice and bright blonde, and can keep that weird brassiness that starts to set in after a few weeks at bay, I'm game. Clever marketing technique, by the way. I'll buy anything labeled Marilyn, hair product, dress, purse, what have you.

Check back for updates! And if anyone out there in blog land has actually tried the stuff, please leave a comment about your experiences below.

Monday, September 01, 2008

on waiting on children in restaurants

Saturday night, 8 p.m. My section has as many children in it as it does adults and it has since we opened. What ever happened to date night? A window into what I'm dealing with:

Upon approaching table 47 to take their drink order:

"I'll have a Nantucket Mule," says the khaki-clad Father figure. "She'll have a sangria," he gestures to his wife, "and they'll you have milk?"
"CHOCOLATE milk?" his son blurts out before I can answer. He and his sister stare up at me expectantly, as though there are only chocolate cows where they come from and the thought of a night without chocolate milk with dinner is just irritating.
"No, we don't," I answer. "I mean, we have this spicy chocolate sauce that we use on the churros, which I could add to some cold milk. But its pretty spicy..." I warn. Table 52 demanded to have all spicy things obviated from their kids' food; I assume 47 will feel the same.
"No, that's okay..." the father says.
"I WANT to TRY IT!" the little boy screams.
Well, now we know who's in charge.

When I deliver their drink, the Dad asks, "Do you have anything KID-friendly?"

I direct him to the kobe beef burgers. "They're perfect for little kids."

At table 48:

Taking a drink order is difficult since the little five year old asshole won't stop screaming and hitting his mother as she navigates the menu. They order all of their meats cooked well done and flag me down to hold me to task when their burgers take while.

" you know where the kobe burgers are? It's taking a long time," the mom says. She's a total MILF and she and her guest are both dressed to the nines. Their "child" (I suspect he may be some obnoxious terrorist robot in the guise of a five year old boy) is swatting at her face and hair with his filthy, sauce covered fingers. Their outfits will be ruined by the end of dinner.
"I'll check on them for you. It usually takes a little while longer to cook the meat well done," I say.
"Thanks. It's just that he's getting tired..." she says, gesturing to her child. Her sense of urgency is palpable.
The burgers arrive not a minute too soon. And within minutes the MILF is flagging me over.
"He needs ketchup," she says.
Yes, of course, the ultimate garnish.

Kobe beef is the new baby food which should DEFINITELY try with ketchup, bedtime is the new last call, and Toro is the new romper room on Saturday night.