Being Blonde

WORDS AND VISUAL BY ALYSSA GENGOS / @ALYSZSA

Everyone in my family has brown hair. My Mexican and Greek heritage blessed me with thick, frizzy, curly, dark hair. Don't get me wrong, there are times I love it. (Let's just say the 'big eyebrows' trend is one for which I am thankful.) Nevertheless, as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a blonde.


Every winter break since I was five years-old, my parents have driven my brother and me to the mountains. They taught us how to ski when we were just little kids, almost indistinguishable under layers and layers of fleece, plastic, and waterproof fabric. When I was ten, I decided I wanted to learn how to snowboard because I thought it would make me look cooler. My mom didn't trust my dad's teaching skills, since he hadn't snowboarded since the 80s. So, I got an instructor for the day. The instructors were Californians who spent their summers skateboarding and surfing or Australians who wanted to exploit their summer-break hemisphere-flip. There was a general look among them: blonde, blue-eyed, and beautiful.
      When it came time to eat lunch with my instructor, I took off my helmet and goggles, and she looked at me in shock. "I thought you were blonde," she said. "I thought you would have blue eyes." 
      My first reaction was to go on offense. Did I act like a Malibu Barbie? Did I talk too much like a valley girl? Was I just playing into the 'dumb blonde' stereotype because I was really, really horrible at snowboarding and kept falling on my ass?
      Ever since that occurrence, I wanted to know what it would be like to actually have blonde hair. "Blondes have more fun," the golden-haired girls at my school would tease. "Dumb blonde" turned into "hot blonde," and I couldn't help but be jealous. Living in Los Angeles definitely played up this feature as desirable. How was I supposed to compete?

My mom promised me I could dye my hair after my eighth grade graduation because she didn't want it to look bad in the photos. The second my grandparents left the house after our celebratory brunch, I got out my L'Oreal boxed bleach and went at it. I was too scared to go full-on blonde (I thought my hair would fall out), so I went for a bold ombré look instead. Once I had washed all the bleach out and dried my hair, I felt a strange satisfaction. For the first time in my life, I looked down at my shoulders and didn't see brown. In retrospect, I'm a little embarrassed about how happy this lack of pigment made me.
      A couple months after that DIY dye job, I realized the bleach had badly damaged my naturally dark hair, so I chopped it all off. Throughout high school, I actually dyed my hair darker brown a couple of times after summer, since the sunlight would give me all kinds of weird highlights, and I preferred one uniform shade of brown instead. I went to the optometrist a couple of months ago and he asked me if I was a natural blonde because the pigment in my eyes, although brown, is sparse. I was almost offended that he thought I dyed my hair brown. I'm not blonde. I will probably never be blonde, and that's okay.

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