A vanity picture post in which Natalia goes back to her roots

Blond roots, to be precise. I was born a platinum blonde, grew darker over the years, and have recently been dyeing my hair something called “mahogany brown” (with occasional forays into “auburn sunset”). Now I’ve decided that it’s time to reclaim my blonde ambition.

I like this picture because the computer screen is reflected in my glasses, so that instead of being an Ordinary Dork, I am an Ordinary Dork with Geordie La Forge Pretensions.

As you can tell, I streaked my hair instead of going for a uniform colour. It’s less high-maintenance when the roots start to come in. Roots can be as trendy as anything, but I don’t carry them off very well. Streaked hair also shows off texture, especially if you have some layers going. My hair is naturally streaked, with some strands being very dark, most a medium light brown to dark blond, and a few very blond ones, and I really like enhancing that quality of it.

Also, I like this picture because I’m wearing glasses. I am trying to reclaim glasses. This is because I’m always embarrassed by them. They make me feel as though they obscure me, which is one of the reasons why I prefer contacts. Being teased mercilessly in school probably didn’t help that. I once read, in a Konstantin Paustovsky autobiography, no less, that Slavs respond negatively to glasses because we still associate them with privilege and snobbery. He wrote this over half a century ago, but Ukraine of the early 1990’s wasn’t much different in this regard.

Of course, American schoolchildren make fun of kids and glasses all the time as well, except that there is a stronger “nerd” aspect to it. I don’t think it’s really a class thing. Or not…? What do you think?

And do you think that being blond automatically makes a woman seem less intelligent? A lot of my friends have reported that dyeing their hair blond meant that people treated them differently. I’ve personally never noticed anything like that in my daily life as a blonde, but I could merely be oblivious. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.

The same Konstantin Paustovsky autobiography features a scene in which a train station attendant bemoans the invention of the telegraph: “Before, people knew nothing, and they were happy. Now you have the telegraph, saying that Bat’ka Makhno [a famous rebel leader during the civil war] is about to ride in and blow us all to hell.”

OK, that isn’t the actual translation, but it’s pretty close. My books are still a continent and an ocean away from me. And yes, I do feel like that train station attendant rather frequently.

20 thoughts on “A vanity picture post in which Natalia goes back to her roots

  1. People are definitely treated differently based on appearance… I think there’s as much of a stigma attached to being blond as there is to being even slightly overweigh, or even large. I’m a tad over six feet tall and usually 240lbs so there have been a few occasions in my life where my opinion has been dismissed by people. From what I remember it was a very odd feeling…

    Glasses also stigmatize people as ‘different’… and school children are naturally fascist so anything remotely “different” in the schoolyard gets picked up on and used. Glasses don’t matter so much anymore now that Geek Culture is mostly dominant. Which, of course, will eventually make it okay for Geordie to be on the bridge.

  2. I think that glasses carry more cultural baggage in Russia than in the U.S. For example, I don’t think I’ve ever heard one adult attempt to insult another adult with the epithet “four-eyes” in the U.S., yet in Russia, my glasses-wearing boyfriend has been called “ochkarik” (by a stranger who got pissed off when we vocally objected to him nearly running us over in a pedestrian crosswalk).

  3. I’d like to weigh in on the issues of glasses and blondes, and then ask Natalia a question.

    On glasses: I’m severely nearsighted and wear glasses. I didn’t notice any discrimination for or against wearers of glasses until I lived for 15 years in an Appalachian county in north Georgia (USA). There, over time, I noticed that, among the self-described “natives” (all rural working-class folks), none of the boys or men wore glasses, except for senior citizens. The “native” girls and women, so far as I could tell, felt no hesitation in wearing glasses (except possibly for cosmetic reasons). I also noticed that in both retailers’ advertising and in locally-produced editorial cartoons, male middle-class “foreigners” (newly-arrived suburbanites) were often designated as such by wearing glasses (and sometimes suits) to distinguish them from the working-class “natives.” But in that Appalachian county, so far as I could tell, working-class men never wore glasses and were never portrayed as wearing glasses. I don’t know if, in that county, glasses were perceived exactly as snobbish, but I think that they were perceived as the mark of deskworkers, who might possibly have been perceived as privileged (or wimpy?). This was nothing more than my personal impression, but I lived there for 15 years, and that impression was consistent. It might be that in the rural South in the U.S., glasses on men (but not women) are perceived as either wimpy or privileged (or both), but in rural areas here, on balance, I think it’s mostly class prejudice. I grew up in a middle-class environment, including a middle-class public school system, on the rim of northern Appalachia between 1960 and 1972, and at that time, kids with glasses were not discriminated against, so far as I could tell.

    On blondes: Here in the Atlanta area, so-called “dumb blondes” are the subject of stupid misogynistic jokes, but I don’t know whether that arises purely from male insecurity or whether blondes actually are perceived as less intelligent. When I worked as an office temporary worker in Atlanta in the 1980s and early 1990s, I noticed that blond women were favored as receptionists but not as anything else, and I especially noticed that in a markedly male-chauvinist office where all the older women obviously dyed their hair, the receptionist dyed her hair blond, but the other older women in the office dyed their hair in dark colors (at that time I labeled hair on older women “dyed” if it was completely monotone and absolutely without variation). I’m not certain why the other women dyed their hair in darker colors; maybe they thought they would be perceived as more authoritative as brunettes than as blondes. But today, Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and now a political operative for John McCain, dyes her hair blond, so perhaps any prejudice against blondes has changed. Hillary Clinton, of course, dyes her hair blond. But Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, dyes her hair brunette, and, except for Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican from Texas, I can’t think of any other woman in the U.S. Congress who dyes her hair blond. But I haven’t been following it in detail — those are just my impressions.

    Now for the question for Natalia: I’ve been following Natalia’s blog (here) since August 2007, and, month after month, she repeatedly shows concern about how she personally is perceived by others, both in real life and online. Natalia has complained about being insulted as a Ukrainian (which I now realize is an actually-existing prejudice), as an American when in Kiev, and I think implicitly both as a ‘beautiful woman’ who is supposedly stupid (Natalia is in fact good-looking) and as a conspicuous consumer (‘Prada bags’ — Natalia has admitted her attraction to high-end consumer products). I think also, in a post several days ago, Natalia was implying that some people thought her blog was “shallow.”

    My question is this: Do you, Natalia, really believe that people in real life and online have a low opinion of you as a person? As I have read your blog since August 2007, you do seem to show concern that too many people disapprove of you and underestimate your intelligence. Do you really believe that? I know that my own comments here are sometimes quarrelsome and obnoxious, but that’s because I’m showing poor judgment and lack of self-awareness, not because I disapprove of you or under-rate your intelligence. I actually think highly of you and your intelligence, and I assume that most other people do as well.

    If you think my question is clueless, well, then, it’s probably clueless. But you do seem to show a lot of concern that people disapprove of you, and if you do actually believe that, I wonder if it reveals a certain amount of unjustified self-doubt on your part. Sometimes, if we doubt ourselves too much, we project our own self-disapproval onto the minds of others, and we might even read occasional criticism by others as evidence of nearly-universal disapproval because we doubt ourselves so much already.

    If Lal is reading this, she’ll say I’m offering unwanted and unneeded therapy, and she’ll probably be right. But you do seem to believe that large numbers of folks actively disapprove of you as a person, and I wonder if you’re simply projecting your own unjustified self-doubt.

    If you need to respond sarcastically to this, please feel free. I’m sure I deserve it 🙂

  4. Gabriel, of course, looking “large” (and not even being necessarily overweight) brings with it a stigma. Many people will think that you are unintelligent. Race figures into this as well – a white person probably has a better chance of getting a pass. And I think it’s much worse than being blonde (though God help the blonde with the big boobs – so many people will think that a woman like that is an idiot from the get-go).

    Joy, “ochkarik”? Wow, what an original and clever insult. Sounds like it came from a man-child with mommy issues. I hope you laughed loudly and mercilessly at him, and kept walking.

    James, you actually bring up an interesting point. The short answer would be: cyber-stalking. The full extent of it is something that I rarely talk about on this blog. The truth is, if I published every single nasty piece of hate-mail (in multiple languages!) and every single nasty comment that I have gotten, the defensive tone of this blog might start to make more sense.

    On the other hand though, I expect negative judgment from people. And if I can laugh at myself, the negative judgment of others has less of an impact. I think it’s true for a lot of people.

  5. Just one guys’ opinion on the question of glasses, they’re like any other accessory in that the right frames can really compliment a face. My wife has always been shy about her own glasses and I think they look great on her.

    As for the blond thing, the “dumb blond” is a cliche but to really fit the cliche it takes more than blond hair.

  6. I stopped wearing glasses when I was about 17 because I was getting in so many fights; I had to replace 4 or 5 pairs of glasses my senior year of high school, which was mostly covered by my HMO, but still. Then out of a combination of being active and vain I went a decade just doing contacts. Now I’m back to glasses since I realized I don’t get in a lot of fistfights these days and I like not having to fumble around in the morning sticking plastic disks in my eyes to see who’s knocking on my door. They make me look like a chubby young Elvis Costello, and I can live with that.

  7. Elvis Costello is pretty sweet, so I can see why you’d go for that. 😉

    And I totally agree in regards to style. The Italian frames I have now I absolutely adore, but I think I might eventually invest in something like Chanel. They make such beautiful ones. With sparkle. I do like me some sparkle.

  8. I wouldn’t wear my glasses regularly for years after I got them because I hated how I thought they’d make me look. Now that I do wear them, and practically everyone I know has said they suit me I still can’t get past the idea that I look better without them on (because girls who wear glasses simply can’t be pretty). Which is rubbish, and I’m still working on getting past it.
    So I guess I’m trying to reclaim glasses for myself too.

  9. We did laugh pretty hard. I’m not sure about mommy issues. I would say actually that this guy was a typical insecure nouveau riche Russian. You probably know the type. Fifteen years ago he was squished on the bus with everyone else, living in an overcrowded Soviet flat, wearing shapeless, tasteless clothes. Now he can afford a fancy silver SUV, has undoubtedly evro-remonted his flat, and wears expensive, puzo-hugging tasteless clothes, and he resents it when the little people point out that he’s being a jerk, because it reminds him that little people exist, and not so long ago, he was one of them.

  10. I like the hair with the streaks. Looks good.

    I look even more eeeevil in glasses. it’s odd. I don’t need glasses, but I wear sunglasses a lot and bought some light tinted ones just to see what I looked like in them. It might have been the suit I had on with them, but I looked like the evil government agent in a bad movie. 🙂

  11. “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.” – Having observed men (and women) for all of my life, I am tempted to say that this is untrue (it could be that glasses just bring out a certain, I dunno, fetish? Especially now that contacts and eye surgery are so popular?). But I still feel weird wearing them. So I’m glad you’re also reclaiming them, Aishwarya.

    I would say actually that this guy was a typical insecure nouveau riche Russian.

    OMG. Those usually come with severe mommy issues (which influences them never being able to grow up). I bet you anything that he has a crabby Mama somewhere, who wants to go to Cyprus now, dammit. She was probably calling him on his mobile when he nearly ran you over. Any grown man who calls another grown man an “ochkarik” is really still a child.

    I think that evil government agent is a look that’s perfect for you, Ren. I’m leaning more toward evil nymphomaniac librarian, personally. Haw haw. 😉

    Hi Danial!

  12. haha Sorry for the leghumping. It was meant to mock the desperate losers who see a female and immediately start obsessing over it.

    Thank God you’re not a niqabi lol

  13. Well, thank the good stars there aren’t any desperate losers on this thread (my moderation queue does look interesting sometimes). And no, niqab isn’t my thing.

  14. I’m not a fan of niqab but I think that’s a gross generalization that doesn’t really hold water. I don’t care whether a woman wears niqab or a bikini, or a man wears thobe&kufi or a speedo. Singling out people based on what they wear (unless it’s something like a swastika armband or crocs) puts a lot of great people on the wrong side of imaginary lines.

  15. I don’t really want to bring the Eteraz debate on here, Danial, but I’m just going to say this:

    When I was flying to Dubai once, I sat next to a niqabi on the plane. She was coming back from vacation. From what I understood, she really liked to take trips to historic sites without her family but with her friends, to take pictures of ruins and stuff, and she was only comfortable doing that in her niqab.

    It’s a totally different ideology from mine, it’s alien to me, but automatically badmouthing niqabis is like automatically badmouthing me for being a bikini-wearer. I have a friend who’s married to a niqabi, and it’s alien to him as well, and no, he doesn’t like the fact that his wife wears it, but it comes down to her right to do so, and he respects it.

    We saw some really ugly statements on that thread on Eteraz’s blog, and no, I didn’t appreciate hearing how women in niqab are all honourable, and women like me are bitches and ho’s.

    So I’m not going to sink to that level.

  16. I guess theoretically I could meet someone wearing a swazi and crocs, but I would hope such a debased individual simply doesn’t exist. I’m headed to SoCal soon though and if such a person is prowling our streets, I think Imperial Beach would be a likely place to see them. I once saw a guy there wearing an Eazy-E style Compton hat with a bunch of white power ink on his shirtless torso, so I guess anything’s possible.

    I didn’t realize that these comments originated at Ali’s blog, though it makes much more sense than them spontaneously popping up. I still read it, because he’s a fuckin great writer/thinker, but I’ve deliberately avoided commenting or even reading his comment section ever since it becomes more like a debate forum than anything else. I’ll leave it at that.

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