by Debi Hall

We were summoned. I hated those phone calls. Mother would announce that we were going over to my grandparent's house to visit with some relatives. And the demand always came in the middle of a game of kick the can or olly olly oxen free. On that Saturday, I was outside when Grammar called, and I knew that it meant that I had to take off my favorite corduroy overalls and put on the black and white checked taffeta dress and stiff petticoats that I hated!

Mother yanked a comb through my hair and gave finger-pointed warnings about off limits topics. "Debra, don't you dare ask about anyone's age, the liver spots on their hands, why they smell like pond water or why their arms jiggle," she threatened as she strapped my feet in the uncomfortable black patent leather Mary Janes. This must be somebody important, I thought. As we drove across town, I pulled at the hem of the dress and tried to remove my socks wondering who we had to visit with this week.

It was my grandfather's cousins Grover and Maude come up to Wichita Falls from Humble, Texas. I have fuzzy memories of this house call, but I do remember one thing that he said to me, a core message that I have pondered to this day. After preliminary discussions of who had died recently in their hometown, Cousin Grover invaded my private air space, leaned his freckled head and cigarette stained breath in my face and said "Well, hello there little blondie. My goodness that shore enough is some white hair. You know, missy, blondes have more fun!" Leaning in beside him with her huge breasts testing the buttons of a see through seersucker print housedress, Maude chimed in with a reprise of "That's right little toe head, gentlemen prefer blondes!"

One of my first core personal esteem messages. I was the preferred of the species because my hair was blonde. No other reason, just the color of my hair. I was 6 and unable to deconstruct the message...I just took the information in as good news. Yea. I'm the in crowd and I didn't have to do anything to deserve it. I looked at my mother (who was a brunette) looking for confirmation that I was more special than anyone else because I was blonde. Oops, that would mean that I was preferable to my own mother. The look I got back from Mama spoke volumes about just who was the fancied one in this family. Still, the message was there. and I think it may have saved my life. Many members of my family had always been quick to point out that I was a tomboy, headstrong, willful, determined, stubborn and contrary. Their opinion of me was enough to send me reeling off the face of this earth. But Grover's conviction that blondes have more fun was the fuel I needed to keep going.

Well.....Cousin Grover and Aunt Maude were wrong. I have been the wallflower countless times, and I have never had anyone say "Hey, you're a blonde, you're cool."

Being a preferred blonde did work a few times, however. In fourth grade, the fair haired petite lead in Pirates of Penzance got sick and I got the part because I was blonde and could carry a tune. The experience was a horror. At eleven years old, I was already 5'6", and my leading man was just pushing 5 feet tall. I hid so far up under my bonnet that the fact that I was blonde was irrelevant. I might as well have been aborigine for all anyone could see of my face. Next to him, I looked like a colossal leviathan in an oversized cardboard bonnet with two horrified eyes peeking out beneath the brim. When we stood side by side, holding hands and declaring our characters' love for one another with the line "Oh Bliss, Oh Rapture," the entire audience burst into hysterical laughter.

And it is true that, as Aunt Maude said, many gentlemen do prefer blondes. My first, overwhelming experience of this favor occurred when we took our family trip to Mexico. Strolling through the marketplace, a chorus of 'Hey Blondie, quiero ilvante a mi casa y hacer lindos bebes contigo.' permeated the sound wave frequency like lightening bolts. Not one of those eager gentlemen shouted "Hey Brunette." Clearly I was superior. And what a plethora of sombrero adorned potential suitors they were! But, in countries near and afar, from Texas to Yugoslavia I couldn't help but notice that the gentlemen who clearly preferred me were holding shovels, hammers or trinkets to sell. This fact messed with Cousin Grover's theory which had implied some sort of Prince Charming reward for flaxen hair.

It worked against me once too! When I was 17 I spent 3 months in Hawaii as a resident. Living outside the tourist area in the residential district, I was despised because I was blonde. I was forced to sit in the back of the bus and refused admittance into certain stores. That humbling experience changed my perception of where my place in this world is. Being on the receiving end of racial prejudice simply because my skin and hair color were that of a Howlie made me appreciate my humanity. While sitting alone and hated in the back of the bus, I was clearly not having more fun!

When my mother was 41 years old, she, along with the rest of Texas, decided to become a natural blonde. Frosting was in and chemicals ran amuck throughout the land as brunettes, redheads, gray ones and black haired ones decided that blondes indeed had a decided edge. I was incensed at best and irritated to the extreme. My resentment against these imposters caused such a blur that I was 40 years old before I knew what the expression "does the carpet match the drapes" meant. And to this day you can't swing a dead cat in the great state of Texas and not hit a bleached out blonde...some with pitch black eyebrows! Sadly, there are only a handful of discriminating men who bother to check out the authenticity of anyone purporting to be a natural blonde. I've researched this. My male friends concur that it's the size of the cup, not the color of the pelt that matters...if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

And thus have I concluded that the sound moral fiber of our nation which has, for generations, perpetuated the notion that blondes have social prominence over other hair tress toned individuals is irrational. I have empirical evidence which suggests that blondes, real or imagined, are in no better social shape to deal with men than brunettes, redheads, gray headed matriarchs or blue haired bombshells. We are all subject to the whimsy of the male rooster who struts with ever-changing predilection, declaring in one breath to be a leg man and after a stroll around the hen house deciding he is more inclined to big breasted chicks. Fickle are the men who are supposed to prefer the fair haired maiden. Regardless of stature or regional heritage, men don't seem to base their penchant for sexy companionship on hair color...rather male preference seems to rely upon the availability of eager na´ve nymphomaniacle female volunteers more than prepackaged coiffured beauty from a box.