Being blonde: The rubber stamp of identities

This morning a guy in a ball cap with a towel over his shoulder walk-shouted to me at the gym I joined five seconds ago, "Oh, hi again!"

"Oh hi!" I called back.

My sister-in-law, who shames me by looking like Kelly Kapowski with a six-pack: Do you know him?

Me: Of course not.

This scenario of randos saying hello happens to me all the time. A total stranger will just walk up and say "hi," or "don't I know you?" or "I think we met at a party?" Unless that party happened between 2002-2005, the heyday of my singlehood in Chicago when I never left a ten-block radius in Lincoln Park, the answer is probably no. Why then do people think I am their sister's friend from college or the lady who spritzed them at the mall?

Because I am a generic blonde.

Oh, and before we go any further, this is a story about the life of a blonde lady. I'll be complaining about how wealthy I am and how large my breasts are, so if you were hoping for a story about the Mexican egg crisis, you might want to get out of here.

Let me just get it out that I'm not a traffic-stopper. I'm not an Amazon blonde of the Barbie variety. I'm German-bodied and mom-faced. My blonde hair isn't so much a hair color as a head-shaped sign that says, "I am a blonde lady. Maybe that blonde lady you knew from that one time, I think Steve's friend's wife?".

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I used to delude myself that maybe these friendly strangers saw me on TV (shameless plug of my demo reel) but that stuff hasn't been running lately. The last time I was on television was September when there was a production problem during a live segment of Politics Tonight, rendering me a disembodied voice over B-roll. I'm sure it was on in about 10 households in Chicago who just like having noise in the house during dinner. That would never make a stranger say "hi again!" at a suburban gym.

It turns out, I'm the living, breathing every woman. I'm just that person who could be anyone - the receptionist at your dentist's office, the lady who sold you a couch, your aunt's other niece who lives in Colorado. Half the reason I'm good at doing local television commercials is no one is going to remember me from the last one. I could sell cars today and insurance tomorrow. I'm a human white table cloth to any festive affair.

Usually life as a generic blonde is easy, if you like saying hi to people, which I do. I stopped talking people out of thinking we went to camp together when I saw all the disappointed faces. Unless I have some weird brain disorder where I merely think I was working 12-hour days and planning my wedding in 2007 and I was following Hootie. So I say hello. I'm extra popular at nursing homes.

With the rubber stamp across my face that may as well be a computer-generated amalgamation of what the midwestern, American woman looks like comes a few drawbacks. One, I get into a lot of time-consuming conversations with strangers. And two, I can just as easily be that person you don't like - the bitch temp who took your job, the woman you imagine your college boyfriend married, the foe who lives in your head criticizing your parenting, or the object of society's adoration you'd like to take down a peg or two.

One of the odd things about my debacle with the Men's Rights activists last year when they took issue with an innocuous post I removed within 24 hours of offending them, is bizarrely how many of them stuck around, how many of them reached out to me to complain and lament and to spill their guts. It was like I was some kind of friend to some of them, in a weird way. People emailed me stories of being molested by caregivers and raged at me as though I was their long-ago tormenter, true faces of whom were blurred by years and replaced with my generic profile pic.

Tina Fey, a woman who got me laughing and thinking and smiling during the first half of Bossypants, punched me in the gut in the second half. "You could put a blonde wig on a water heater and some dude would try to fuck it." Yeah, it's a great feeling. I guess if you put arty glasses on a water heater everyone will think it's "the smart girl" and not body snark it. But she has a point and I live it every day.

Stereotypes about blondes:

1. Blondes are dumb. Not true, nor do I experience this. People generally ask me for directions and no one has yet drawn a picture to illustrate their thoughts to me*. I don't really think people actually assume blondes are stupid, so it's weird to me that this is even a stereotype. Maybe it's a stereotype of a stereotype. Oooh, deep thoughts by a blonde. Light your cigarettes.

2. Privileged. I'm not sure how the rich blonde lady stereotype got started considering 4 out 5 of the richest ladies in the world are gray. Maybe back in their glory years they were blondeshell pistols, but I'm trying to squint and see it with this lady:

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3. Trashy. Now we're cooking with gas! Quick, what color is every porn star's hair? Every white stripper? Every tattooed 20-year-old who poses on her dad's auto eBay listings? BLONDE. Being taken seriously as a Philosophy major or as a grad student weren't the natural transitions one would expect of a lady with waist-length porn hair. People in academia thought my looks were better suited for bartending or the object of a pity fuck negotiation.

I could change my hair color. In fact, I've been a brunette and a redhead, but blonde hair feels like me. It's who I am. I'm a little sunny and little slutty. Hey, maybe I am the everywoman after all. Wait, did I sell you a diaper bag on Craig's List last year?

 

*Except that time my friend Nate drew a graph to explain the Godfather trilogy

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Jenna Karvunidis has a Facebook page!

 

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