Still Blonde ... Runs Deep

by Jamie Pachino <>

It started innocently enough.
My mother put hydrogen peroxide on my naturally dirty blonde hair at the Maryland shore when I was three. By junior high I had perfected a secret concoction of salt water, lemon juice and sugar that I would apply in specific rituals through the summer.
By 16, I had discovered Sun-In.
By 18 I had to admit it.
I had a problem.
I had a habit.
Blonder. More blonde. Most blonde.
I should have sought help then.
But with each shade paler I felt lighter, freer, flirtier.
People treated me differently.
And by that time I was already performing in musical theatre.
Blonde! they exclaimed. Stay blonde! In fact -- Go Blonder! said more than a few.
By 24 I was nearly platinum, a sun-kissed, traffic-stopping shade of bright golden haze on the meadow, going to the beauty shop at least once a month for touch ups. Past my shoulders, my salon visits were all day affairs.
I didn't care.
Blonde, I lusted. Ultimate blonde -- my mantra.
Of course, it didn't occur to me at the time that the only shows I could get cast in were musicals. That men tended to over-explain car things. Or that nearly every relationship I had started with sex, and never quite moved to intimacy.
I was striking they said. Sexy. Unforgettable.
Then they left.

I continued, undaunted.
I relished whistles on the street, dressed myself in cherry red, and favored high heels. I took a job as a receptionist, flirted with vice presidents, and had an affair with a married man in accounting.
The transformation was nearly complete.

Okay, I kept a journal.
Nobody knew. So I was preternaturally fascinated with German philosophers and could quote them at will.
No one could guess.
I wrote short stories that actually got published.
I never told a soul.
I kept every appointment at the hairdresser.

The culmination of my über-blondeness was on a seven week tour of Europe with Diana, the beautiful smoky-eyed brunette I had grown up with. Together we tore through seven countries, crossing channels and breaking hearts. Especially in Italy, where my hair alone served as an introduction to every race-car driver or waiter I could ever want to meet.

And yet, as I came home with two dozen rolls of film and a truckload of memories, something didn't feel right. I looked at the pictures.
French perfumiers. Greek bartenders. Scottish poets. All seemed right with the world. But then I caught one in particular. My hair looked ... brassy. ... obvious. My skin seemed ... sallow. Something was wrong. I looked like ... a blonde wannabe. No.
It must have been the light.

Then it occurred to me.
I was writing too much!
I had begun a play in secret and I was concentrating too hard! My hair was confused. Did I want to be a blonde, or didn't I?
I put away the books and went to rehearsal. Back to back musicals.
Performing in one, rehearsing the other.

Two months later it happened.
I got cast as a wife. Not a girlfriend, not a mistress, not a saucy maid. A wife. In a straight play!
What was happening to me?
Okay, sure. I was a classically trained actress. Okay, right. I had done Shakespeare. But Jesus hadn't anyone heard of TYPECASTING?
I had to face it.
I was having a hair identity crisis.

I consulted specialists -- other actresses.
Well, they said, in an all night session, if you dye it back to -- what was your original hair color?
My God, I thought, I have no idea.
Let's say you dye it light brown with a few highlights, you could go the commercial route. Young Mom, Hertz Rent-a-Car lady ...
Or! said Patrice, the Italian -- you could go like a dark chestnutty brown. Get color contacts.
Play --
the girl next door
the virgin
the ethnic.
You'd look Jewish. Could you play Jewish?
Oh God, I thought. I AM Jewish. What the hell was going on?

I consulted magazines. I tried to pick out my hair on other women. Did I look like that, I wondered, looking at the natural blondes in the Revlon ads? Or did I look like the horrible roots and bad highlighting gracing the Dep hair gel ads?

I ripped out pages, tacking them on walls, surrounding myself with women. As many shades as I could find, from Cleopatra black to Jean Harlow white, trying to decipher the personality of the models, simply by the color of their hair.

Did I trust the brunettes more? Yes! I did.
Did I think the blondes were sexier? Yes! I did that too!
I had to face it. I was a color-ist.
I judged people by the color of their hair.
Therapy was needed. Color therapy.

Julie, I cried, racing to the hairdresser's. You must help me! My inside and my outside don't match! I have no idea who I am.
What do you want? she asked.
DYE MY HAIR! I screamed, all out of proportion.
No, she said ... What. Do. You. Want?
I looked at her terrified.
She nodded. It was time to decide.

You see -- I had so liked being so completely blonde on the outside and so -- brunette on the inside. The blonde who could discuss Nietzsche and Byzantine History, the brunette who might dance Fosse and sing Gershwin. That was drama. Couldn't I be that?
No, Julie said solemnly. Choose.
But I liked the idea that men approached me thinking I was altogether different. I liked the looks on their faces when they figured it out. Okay they got confused, but that wasn't really my problem, was it?
Listen, said Julie. That's all over now.
Isn't it ... ? Can't I ... ?
No, she said. Pick.
And walked away.

I sat in that chair a long time.

People really do take you at your hair color. Casting directors say they're open minded and impartial, but -- well ... really. Men say they like smart women, but -- not in their blondes, not when you get right down to it. Okay maybe I had something to do with it. Maybe I played blonder with certain men. Maybe I giggled a little at certain auditions. Maybe I had some complicity in the whole affair. After all, I was the one with the hydrogen peroxide bottle. Wasn't I?

And yet. Here it was. My D-Day.

I ran through my magazines in my head and tried to decide: blonde ... brunette, blonde ... brunette ... I pictured each casting director I knew: wife ... mistress, wife ... mistress ... I weighed. I considered. I pondered. I delved. I thought long and hard.
And dyed it red.

And now NO ONE knows what to make of me.
But my fiancé likes it a lot. He thinks of me as one complete person, inside and out. I'm a produced playwright now. A published author.
On the other hand, I recently started thinking about a few blond highlights.
Just for the summer ...

© Jamie Pachino 1996

Jamie Pachino is an award winning playwright and screenwriter with national and international credits. Her short pieces have been published throughout the country, and she used to be a natural blonde. No really.

Copyright 2000 Moxie Magazine All Rights Reserved