I’m not quite sure where the “dumb blonde” stereotype originates from, but I’m here to tell you that it is certainly no joke. People can be extremely short-sighted when it comes to hair color, and in a world where racism and other types of prejudice are still extremely prevalent, it comes as no surprise that a prejudice about blonde hair is also present.
It wasn’t until I got a little older that I started noticing others treating me differently, almost like less of an equal. Thinking back, the majority of my friends always had dark hair, while mine was always very light. Even though I always did fairly well in school, sometimes better than my friends, my intelligence was never acknowledged or appreciated. In high school, if I ever did better on a paper or test than my friend, she would get mad and assume it was because the teacher liked me more than her, or accuse me of flirting with the teacher if it was a male. I knew that hair color was a big part of this, because what other reason could there be? People don’t ever look at a girl with light blonde hair and blue eyes and think, “She must be on her way to higher education!” People always classify girls with brunette hair as boring or perhaps more dull, and the blonde girls as the partiers with not a serious thought in their head. That description has never been one that applied to me personally, but then I started thinking that it may as well, since nobody took me seriously anyway. I always felt like other girls had sullied the name of blondes and ruined any chance I had of proving myself different.
Having blonde hair, people not only take you less seriously, but they don’t take your word seriously either. There have been many instances where, no matter what my level of expertise on any given issue was, nobody ever wanted to listen. What makes this even more upsetting is when it’s people who are close to you. When I was with my old boyfriend and hanging out with him and his friends, random topics would come up and, not only would my opinions not be asked of, but when I offered them they were either laughed at or ignored all together. I would say something and they would say, “Don’t listen to Nicole, she’s a dumb blonde and doesn’t understand ‘men’ issues.” Yes, those words really came out of their mouths. A tired cliché had become an everyday occurrence in my life. These kinds of things transpired into other relationships too, such as ones in my family. Members of my family, my father in particular, sort of cast me aside as a worthless female. I once heard him tell my mom, “Well, maybe she’ll marry a nice guy and have a few kids, at least.” I felt like a girl in 18th England, holding no place of value and worth nothing to the family. Was the greatest future I could possibly hope for marrying someone and reproducing? If my own family sees nothing more in me, maybe there really is nothing to see.
These different treatments are bad, but what could be even worse is another. This treatment would occur throughout school, often from my teachers, often from others. I think when people would look at me, especially when I was younger, they saw a sweet, blonde haired, blue-eyed girl. They saw innocence that could be mistook for vulnerability and naiveté. I could practically see them mentally comparing me to Goldilocks in their head. Another thing I’ve learned that people love to compare blonde hair to is straw. At times I was tempted to start singing “If I only had a brain,” just to fulfill the image others were sure to have in their heads. For the few that did break past the stereotype and get to know what’s under all the straw, I found that they were surprised to find that, yes, there really is a brain under there. Aren’t I lucky? Who would have thought that someone could be blessed with not just a head of spun gold, but a fully functioning brain as well? As soon as they had this revelation, things like “You don’t say things that a typical blonde would say!” would come out of their mouths. I often would want to come back with “Really? Well, what do ‘typical blondes’ normally say?” But I would simply nod my empty head along with them and say, “No, I guess I don’t.” Sometimes, though, it was easier to actually say things I thought blonde girls should be saying. I would laugh at stupid things and talk like a valley girl, simply because I think it put others more at ease. Some people just aren’t comfortable with an intelligent girl who has hair like Paris Hilton.
Taking all of these things into account, my self-esteem was never soaring; at least, not in the way I would have liked. When I finally decided to dye my hair dark, it was something of a test. I would break away from this awful stereotype that had been haunting me for my entire life, once and for all. I remember standing in the shower, rinsing the dye out, and watching the excess mess of brown wash down the drain. I saw all of the insults, the annoying assumptions and the doubts I had been contending with for so long wash down with it. Once my hair was dry, I looked in the mirror and saw a different person. This person would no longer allow these comments from others to affect her, and would no longer allow a hair color to hold her back from anything. It didn’t take long to discover that my test had succeeded. Others no longer doubted my word and I no longer received regular comments that made me cringe. But then as time went on I started to think: was this test for others or was it really for myself? Were people actually treating me differently, or were the fumes from the dye clouding my perception? I’m not sure if others’ treatment of me really did change, but I do know that mine did. Maybe the whole thing was just an illusion of mine, and I projected the whole thing on myself. Maybe someday I’ll go back to being blonde, and things will remain just as they are now. No ridiculous comments and no annoying insults that make me want to pull out my head full of straw.