Hulton Archive/BIPS Hulton Archive/BIPS
By Amy Phillips Penn

Is it true blondes have more fun?” “Does she or doesn’t she; only her hairdresser knows for sure,” “If I’ve only one life, let me live it as a blonde,” rang out Clairol ads from the 60’s on.

I love being a blonde, blonde jokes be damned. There’s a reason that no one makes brunette jokes. Brunettes are not categorized, advertised, or summer-ized as being fun or funny.

In the 60’s we experimented with just about everything except Bunsen burners: hair color, yellow Yardley slickers (lipsticks), minis, maxis, eyelashes that defined “false,” false amplifications elsewhere, and our mother’s makeup, which look dated, even for them.

I was a towhead in this lifetime, but in too short a time, blonde curls gave away to bad-ass boring brown. After getting caught smoking cigarettes in the bathroom, then again reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover, it was time to go all out. Think bleach.

On one of my favorite girls nights in, then simply dubbed a sleepover, my friend Mariel and I poured peroxide over our hair. Nothing happened. We went on to summer blonde, spraying “Sun In” and freshly squeezed lemon juice. I remember the lemon juice, because I had generously fed it to my hair one afternoon in Rome. Instead of rinsing it right out, I left it on during an entire performance of Aida in the Roman coliseum. Tears were wiping away my blush, and I was no blonder for the ware. Even the camel looked like he pitied me. It was time to let the pros have a go.

My classmates who were struck with “blonde ambition” had their hair streaked, which has evolved into the more luminous term highlighted. Streaks, back when, meant sitting under meticulously wrapped tin foil for hours. The result was not really blonde, it was more of a silvery grey, which only made teenagers look older, not blonder. If you didn’t have the patience for sitting in Martian mode for half a day, you could opt for a plastic cap, with a crochet needle indelicately pulling strands out to meet the bleach.

There is an assumed generosity among most women that you can share the goods, from hairdressers to Botox.

My mother and I were walking on Madison Avenue when we saw her friend Nell. Nell looked beautiful. And Nell had ever looked beautiful before. “It’s her hair,” I said to my mother.”That’s the best blonde job that I’ve ever seen. I wonder who does her color?”

My mother approached Nell, and after all the “how’re the children?” kind of exchanges, my mother politely asked Nell where she had gotten her hair color done.

“Oh, it’s natural,” responded the newbie blonde. “I just came back from Bermuda.”

Flashback. I was at the pool in my grandmother’s Palm Beach complex, when a woman sat down nearby. She had on this temptress of a turquoise tube bikini. “What a fabulous suit. May I ask where you found it?” I asked. “In New York,” she replied and turned her head away.

Blondes connote humor (think Goldie Hawn). They also garnish envy.

Q: Why are there so many blonde jokes?

A: Because while the blondes are out with all the men, the brunettes and redheads have nothing better to do on Friday and Saturday nights.

I was a redhead for a week. It was one of the longest weeks of my life — that’s how much I hated it. Red fades reluctantly.

Don’t try these at home: Anything that turns your head into a kaleidoscope.

My aunt went swimming after she’d had her hair lightened, and it morphed into an aquatic green.

I have had two pros turn my hair into pink and white stripes.

Even if I followed the directions on the back of a box, I know I’d be a scary sight. Who knows what evil lurks, when peroxide meets amateurs?

Being blonde can spell disaster, in a Dan Quayle-esque dictionary, somewhere before “potatoe.”


“She was what we used to call a suicide blonde – dyed by her own hand.” — Saul Bellow


Invest wisely.

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